November is Caregivers Month! 2 Gifts Caregivers Really Need

Wow, it’s November and it’s National Family Caregivers Month. I was watching CBS News this morning, and they were showing suicide statistics. During this pandemic, caregivers have the second-highest suicide rate.  

Caregiver Survival GuideI remember being here last year with my book “Caregivers Survival Guide, How to Eliminate Stress in 30 Minutes and Other Useful Tools.”

I don’t know how a whole year has passed. It hasn’t helped that this year has been a time warp of events that have pretty much made no sense. What has made this year incredibly challenging for caregivers is the pandemic. As the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 increases, the challenges increase. 

To caregivers, I want to acknowledge you for opening yourself up to one of the most potent experiences this life will offer. Every caregiver must navigate the diversity of emotions and energy caregiving takes. Here are two things you can do to help anyone who is a caregiver. 

Caregiving is filled with love, joy, exhilaration, beauty, pain, and sorrow. This creates a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s the emotional rollercoaster that caregivers need help processing. 

If you are a friend of a caregiver, one of the best gifts you can give them is time…time to listen and talk with them. Just like new mothers sometimes need a break from baby talk and cherish the ability to have a normal grown-up chat, caregivers need that break, too. If you can be a friend who allows a caregiver to unload some of the pain of caregiving, you would be genuine gold. Being that friend can mean the difference between surviving another day when the s**t got really real or having a breakdown. 

I have a great friend who is that true gold friend. I would be upset and she would listen to me and sympathize because even though you love people, it doesn’t mean it will always be sunflowers and roses. A normal relationship will have conflicts. Caregiving can be more surreal than other relationships. What I noticed happened for caregivers is that there will be one story of frustration playing out repeatedly. 

You’ll hear the same story not because they can’t get over it. You’ll hear it repeatedly because caregivers are in the middle of a crisis with other people who are also in the middle of a crisis. It’s not the best time to think they will go through an in-depth self-discovery. It would be best if you were amazed that they are not self-medicating, screaming at the top of their lungs, and checking out.

Caregivers need someone to tell their story. Talking is one of the critical ways people process and release stress. A 1988 study found talking about your problems and sharing negative emotions in a safe environment was profoundly healing. This type of interaction not only reduced stress, but it also strengthened the immune system and reduced physical and emotional suffering (Pennebaker, Kiecolt-Glaser, & Glaser, 1988).

To be a person with whom a caregiver can share their worst moments and most difficult emotions in a safe, non-judgmental way is one of the biggest blessings you can give a caregiver. Everyone living in a caregiving situation will have a story they need to share with others. Even though they have negative stories about people they love, realize they still love that person and are in a challenging situation. Maybe the whole point of service to another is to be vulnerable.

But there is even a bigger blessing you can give a caregiver. For caregivers who have their loved one at home and are experiencing 24×7 caregiving, the opportunity to have two to three hours for themselves is a golden gift. Caregiving has no time for yourself.  

There was a 2009 report which found caregivers commonly experience social isolation. Due to the unique time requirements of caregiving, caregivers often lacked social contact. Caregivers found they had to sacrifice their leisure pursuits and hobbies to take care of the person they loved. Caregivers may be in a situation where they have to sacrifice their future earning potential by reducing their employment. (Brodaty, Donkin, 2009) 

You remember raising the kids and how you felt you had no time for yourself. There was a difference with that. With each day, the kids gained more independence. One day they went to school, and you had the day to yourself. One day, they went to college. 

Each day, they became more and more their person. With caregiving, it goes in reverse. Each day they become more and more dependant, and each day you can lose more and more of the person you once knew. 

Before caregiving, you spent your time taking care of yourself. During caregiving, more and more of your time is taking care of someone else.  

So, the second-best gift you can give a caregiver is a bit of time for themselves. Offering to help watch their loved one even though the offer doesn’t always work out can be a windfall for the caregiver. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because the caregiver is in a situation where the age of their loved one makes it more challenging to have a third party watching them. Their loved one may find unfamiliar faces scarier and scarier, or their behavior may have become problematic due to social norms becoming more optional as you age. Offering to sit and visit with their loved one while the caregiver is in the house still gives a great break.

To be willing to give your time to a caregiver to listen to their stories or help out for a couple of hours is two of the most precious things you can provide a caregiver. It’s great to have a month that helps bring awareness to the growing responsibility and growing population of caregivers.  

Pennebaker, J. W., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Glaser, R. (1988). Disclosure of traumas and immune function: Health implications for psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56(2), 239–245.

 Brodaty, H., & Donkin, M. (2009). Family caregivers of people with dementia. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience11(2), 217–228.

Wondering What the New Normal Is? I Think I’ve Figured It Out.

How are you handling the pandemic? We are four short months into social distancing and isolation. Some of us are coming to a new realization. The pandemic is going to go on for a while.

It’s bringing about a new type of mental health that feels more like resilence. I’m still walking the one foot in front of the other mode and just pushing on. But, I’m also seeing I may be doing this one foot in front of the other thing for a long time.

Unlike a hurricane or tornado, you can’t see this natural disaster, and it doesn’t have a timeline. If you sat down and looked into the future to figure out when this will be over, you don’t know. These two things, the lack of a tangible, visible force, and the uncertain timelines make this disaster unique.

Your daily life has changed. It’s not about wondering what the new normal is going to be. I use to sit and think this will be kind of over, and there will be some things that will have to change in my life, but we’ll all work together and figure out what the new normal is.

I just started realizing that it is not going to happen. A leader is not going to be allowed to rise and unify us at this time. A leader is not going to help us find this “new normal” that was the social media hype a couple of weeks ago. I just started realizing that we are on our own.

We will have to be our own grassroots effort of the new normal for ourselves and the world. And the new normal is this. It is precisely what we are experiencing.

I haven’t been to a war-torn nation. Yet, I’m thinking they have some pretty good ideas on how they survive and thrive in chaos. Here are some of my thoughts.

You can only do that hardcore push of one foot in front of the other for a limited time. A few months, maybe a year, and you start to show signs of breaking.

Two years ago, my role as a caregiver for my mother and support for my sister came to an end. My caregiver role was very challenging, with no breaks. The stress for my husband and I was crushing, and by the time it was over, I had run myself so thin with worry, trying to accomplish 4x’s more than I could, sinking in fear knowing they would pass any day, and every other emotion you can imagine there was nothing left.

I wrote a book on my journey and how I handled the emotional stress, the surprise emotions I didn’t know were coming, the letdowns, and every other emotion that comes in tidal waves for caregivers. You can find my book on Amazon. The book shares Taoist perspectives that helped me find balance amid chaos.

Afterward, this pandemic thing happened, and it brought back all the emotions I experienced as a caregiver. For those of you in a caregiver role today, my heart goes out to you. In a situation already overwhelming, this can tip you over the edge.

I’m going to share a couple of things I’m doing to help me stay on track and cope.

First, you have to give time to yourself for your spirituality. Stress is a formidable foe. Stress puts so much pressure on you, and you spend time pushing back. It gets too exhausting to push back, and all you want to do is curl up in a ball and try to forget; or, keep pushing yourself to stay distracted.

When you start to experience this, don’t give up. This is the time you need to take a few minutes and focus on your spirituality. Whatever your spirituality is, get it and focus on it.

This morning I was doing great until I read the news and did social media. I know that every day is going to step up the crazy. I know that each day is going to bring something more unbelievable than the day before. I know that each day will threaten my safety and security, and these threats will challenge my position on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The things that happened this morning were just so surprising. They dropped me right back down to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy.

I started distracting myself. I started working on insurance and other things in the office, and the anxiety started creeping up. Then I stopped. I realized it didn’t matter. Everything was going to still be here in a half-hour. I put everything down and went and did my spirituality for a half hour.

It got me back in balance just before my first client came in for the day. It got me back in balance just in time because every one of my clients is having similar thoughts.

So, give time to your spirituality. The stress is going to continue to ramp up over the next few months. Don’t let it own your life. Don’t let it dictate who you are going to be. The best way you can do that is by spending time with your spirituality once a day. Maybe you want to spend five minutes reading verses or doing deep breathing. It can be longer. Just do it every day.

The next thing that has helped me and the world is a random act of kindness. Say hi to the people you meet on the street or in the stores. Wave to people. Help someone with their groceries. Support local businesses.

Thirdly, practice being accepting of others. It’s hard to see other points of view right now. I was reading an article on the medieval plague of the 1300s. They talked about how people handled the situation. There were two camps. Some people quarantined in small family groups, and some people went on the pursuit of pleasure and satisfaction of their desires.

This duality of response has always existed. In Chinese medicine, it is the energetics of yin and yang. These two polarities are needed to create life and movement in the world. They state that everything starts in the dao, and to materialize, energy is required to create life. The opposition of yin and yang, the pulling force of these two opposites, creates the energy that establishes life.

Try to realize different views are typical. They have always been here. In general, democracy is based on the importance of different opinions. When I read the article on the medieval plague, it hit home for me. What we are experiencing is not new.

It would just be nice if we weren’t at opposites. There is so much more pressure and force when in strong opposition. It would be nice if we could find some middle ground to help diffuse some of the intensity today.

The last thing I want to share is my intentions. Each morning I am stating one intention for the day. Just one thought based on mindfulness or Taoism that could help me create a better day for myself. If one hits home for me, I may make it my intention for multiple days.

Today, I remind myself to be grateful. I look around my life and identify why I am thankful. I only meant to identify three things. But I thought I would take one minute and identify reasons I am grateful.

This is part of the last part of learning to live the new normal. Our lives had become so rich and full, that the simple things in life were lost. They weren’t good enough. I’ve watched people think they need a 3,000 or 4,000-foot house, the latest car, the new technology, clothes, and any other thing their heart may desire. I’ve watched them forget about their children and their spouse. In a matter of four short months, all of that was taken away from us. Over the next four months, more will be taken away.

Did you ever hear the statement, “No use crying over spilled milk?” I did growing up. Every time I whined for some material thing that I had lost, I would hear this statement. I think the new normal has ideas of simplicity. The new normal is reawakening our attachment to our families and our community. The new normal is being grateful you and your family are alive. The new normal is forgetting about impressing neighbors and friends with new stuff. The new normal is wiping up the spilled milk and deciding if you can find joy in the simple things in life.

Today, I intend to remind myself to be grateful.

I am grateful that I live in a small town that has low transmission of COVID-19.
I am grateful no one I know has been scarred or lost their life to COVID-19.
I am grateful my husband and I are healthy.
I am grateful I can run my business have strong support from my clients.
I am grateful this morning was a beautiful morning.
I am very grateful I have health insurance.
I am grateful that I can find places to walk in nature where I don’t run into other people.
I am grateful I have the internet.
I am grateful the small business owners I know are still solvent.
I am grateful all my clients are healthy.
I am grateful that I have a spiritual practice that helps me see the light in times of darkness.

Why 2020 the Year of the Metal Rat is Rife With Unusual Chaos

I’ve been spending time listening to motivational and spiritual leaders to help keep my focus in a positive direction. But, I also use Chinese medical theory to help gain guidance through difficult times.

Chinese Medicine studies the energetics of an object to gain an understanding of how things will progress. The theory has a predictive quality, which has left me puzzling about the strange situation we find ourselves in today.

This blog is about the esoteric part of Chinese medicine theory. It explores the mysticism and oracles of this ancient medicine as it applies today. I’ve been thinking a lot about the year 2020, and if you’re interested in the journey, come along.

I had just finished writing a blog on the kidney channel, and it’s element water, “Five Great Reasons Why Water Should be the Most Popular Person Right Now.” It started with the kidney channel and the best of the kidney channel. That had me thinking about 2020 being the year of the Rat and element of Metal.

In Chinese Zodiac, there are 12 animals. Each animal represents a year. Each year is attached to one of the five elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, or Metal. The year 2020 is the Metal Rat.

In the Chinese Zodiac, each animal has an element called a fixed element. The Rat is a water element. The Chinese Zodiac description of 2020 is the water rat is now sitting in the energetics of Metal.

The element and the animal seem to have a weighty impact on the energetics today. The energetics of Water is about profound change. Water is the energy that restores itself right before a rebirth. In Chinese Medicine theory, Water energy was referred to as the “sleeping” energy or the “dormant” energy that happens before renewal. Water’s renewal would be something as gentle as a seed waiting to germinate or sleep to restore our strength.

It was never described with words like “night terrors” or portrayed as the forceful destruction of a tsunami. Nor was it identified as a hurricane smashing into shore, toppling dikes, and destroying homes. Yet, these are ways Water brings about change.

Water has more symbolism in Chinese Medicine and represents death or an ending to things. I wonder about Water representing endings. In ancient China, Astronomy was a critical science that included a predictive element.

Endings are supported through several aspects of Chinese Astronomy. Precession is the wobble of the earth’s rotation as it travels around the sun. This is the rotational wobble like a spinning top. It takes about 26,000 years for the planet to complete a circuit of precession, and the halfway point was believed to mark a significant change in the world. The last time precession changed, the earth experienced the end of an ice age and massive melting of ice caps. Within the next 10-20 years, precession will have made it to the midway point, marking the end of something and the start of something different.

As precession moves towards its midpoint, the thought was precession would give more intense or focused energy to events happening. The Chinese Zodiac has a 60-year cycle. The current period is at the halfway mark. Both precession and the 60-year cycle are ending around the same time.

But what does Metal bring to the party? The energetics of the year is Metal. In Five Element Theory, Metal is the mother of Water. The energetics suggest that Water is strongly supported this year. Water will be able to do whatever expression Water wants to take because it will have a robust support system. This is the same with kids. Kids that have secure family support systems tend to do better in school and have a better sense of self. Water has that strong family support right now.

This also means there is not much out there that is going to put limits on Water’s expression. With two critical zodiac cycles rotating towards their end, the energetics are heightened. Right now, Water wants to be super chaotic, demanding to wallow in its creature comforts and be accommodated.

The other energetics supporting Water is the Rat and Metal. The Rat is Water, which means the Rat is whatever expression Water wants to be and would be extremely accepting of their behavior. Even if the Rat was uncomfortable with the action, their tendency is to not make waves. And like the doting parent, Metal nurtures Water.

With two cycles coming to a close, it would suggest at the end of this, there is going to be a profound and lasting change. Yet, from all my study of history, no significant change ever ended as it started. The change will be something other than any of us have imagined at this point.

The energetics of the Metal Rat support different qualities in people. According to Chinese Zodiac, these qualities may be more prominent this year.

Every animal and every element has a negative side. The selfish nature in both the Rat and Water makes their relationship almost symbiotic. The Rat is greedy, and Water loves to be comfortable. The Rat with a cautious nature would be prone to being sneaky and manipulative to get what they want. They would be indifferent to their actions, not giving a thought to hurting others if it gets what they want. Water with a desire for comfort will prefer to lay around all day. Cleaning house, working, sharing the load would be uncomfortable and unpleasant. When these two get together and go really sideways, you get the slovenly, resentful, malicious Rat slithering through the alleyways stirring up hate and discontent for their own amusement. They would be prone to addictions and have poor social skills with very few friends. They would be inclined to bullying while hiding behind people or institutions.

Yet, on the other side of this are all the real strengths of the Rat and Water. The Water and the Rat are the most adaptable and accepting of the elements and the animals. The Rat is cautious and frugal and highly intelligent. The Rat with a cautious nature and limited social skills is prone to waiting out the storm just as Water is prone to being the storm. But, Water has a duality. Not only can they be the storm, but they can be the eye of the storm. This is part of Water’s adaptability, and the Rat acknowledges and understands this is the nature of Water. This person would be diligent and highly adaptable, adjusting to the strength and velocity of the wind. They tend to be quiet and keep to themselves accepting that sometimes it rains a lot. If this person had better social skills and was prone to talking, they could also bring balance and calm to the storm. But this isn’t their strength. Being cautious and discreet, they prefer to say nothing and to weather the blast from the comfort of their own home.

All of this suggests the year is going to be rife with chaos. The energetics of the year support chaos with the Rat indulging Water and Metal playing the doting parent to the spoiled child. The behaviors from people that are being most encouraged by the energy of the Zodiac today are tumultuous. Bullying, especially bullying in a situation that allows anonymity will see strong expression this year. These behaviors have little to oppose them. Those that could oppose them will prefer to not say anything.

Next year will be the Metal Ox. We’ll be experiencing Earth within Yin with the Metal environment. The Ox is prone to stability and is conservative in the sense that Confucius was conservative. Confucious found value in morality, labor, family. Earth is the most significant element to place constraints on Water. The energetics of Metal can help dilute the conservative energy of the Ox while continuing to support aspects of Water. Overall, the year should have more stability. The risk is the Ox, with a preference for consistency and dislike of change, may continue the chaos of Water if the Metal element can’t temper the Ox’s desire of business as usual. Or Water could continue it’s rebellious nature under the Ox, but find support difficult to capture.

How Your 5 Senses can Elevate the Energetics of Your Meditation Space

Years ago, I was on a cruise ship vacation in Athens, Greece. My travel companion and I decided to visit a monastery. I had never been to one before but was insatiably curious due to the information of Mount Athos. As the cruise ship circled Mount Athos on it’s way to Athens, the history of Mount Athos and, how it held the oldest monasteries and textbooks, and the restriction against women on the isle was broadcast over the ships speaker.

I was hooked, and when we landed in Athens for a couple days, one day was put aside to visit Petraki Monastery just outside of Athens. Finding a taxi to take us there was the easy part. Finding one to take us back wasn’t so easy.

What struck me and still resonants with me today was the energetics of the monastery. The minute we stepped through the gate and onto the grounds, it was like we had walked through an invisible veil. The overwhelming sense of peace and comfort that washed over me was so grounding. Centuries of cloistered meditation by the monks had imbued the grounds with a mist of tranquility that enveloped you.

It’s the same sensation I get when I walk into an old-growth forest. Even if the trees are only 100 to 200 years old, their essence encases the land in this sense of comforting peace. 

It was that energetics that I wanted to repeat in my own personal meditation space, and I knew it was going to take more than interior design.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE “5 Senses In Meditation” worksheet to kickstart your meditation practice.

Through your five senses, you can expand the energetics of your space to take on the atmosphere of some of your most beloved and cherished spaces. Start by identifying places where you found your greatest peace and use your senses to replicate that moment in time.

My two spaces where I found and find my greatest peace was this monastery and the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

If you use your essence to create your meditation space, your internal dialogue and emotions will quickly heighten the energetics of the area and move you to a great mediation in a shorter amount of time.

  1. Smell. I can remember the sandalwood smell inside the Byzantine Monastery. It was light perfume drifting through the chapel. The closest fragrance I’ve found is an incense called SuperHit. Even when I do not feel like meditating, I can burn this incense and immediately start to relax. But what happens when I can’t find SuperHit? The other scent was of the wild giants of the Pacific Northwest: cedar, Doug fir, redwood, and pine. My friend turned me on to Doterra Oils years ago, and I haven’t turned back. The clarity and brilliance of their scents are truly rewarding. I order spruce, fir, juniper, and few others, touch them up with rosemary, ground them with sandalwood, and put them in a diffuser.  
  2. Touch. Each of us has textures that give us pleasure. These are the fabrics you want to use to sit on or as a blanket to cover up. But touch is more than just the tactile sensation, it also encompasses our body movements and mechanics. Finding out what is most comfortable to you and incorporate that position in your space to liberate your mind from body discomfort.
  3. Hearing. I don’t know why the sounds of nature, the wind whooshing through the trees, streams tumbling over rocks, birds chattering, raccoons scurrying, the hum of bees is so relaxing to me. When I walk through the forest, I like to stop and listen to all the sounds saturating the air around me. If I’m having trouble relaxing and focusing, I play music with these sounds and just stop and listen until I’m quiet enough to meditate on my own.
  4. Sight. For me, both the monastery and forest were imbued in rich dark browns and lush greens. They both felt like a small cocoon where I could disappear and hide from the world for a short time. I brought these colors into my space through pillow selections, paint, fabrics, and decorations from nature.
  5. Taste. You might think taste has no place in your internal dialogue of comfort, but for me, it does. I grew up in a tea-drinking family. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you could always find tea. Gunpowder tea that came in a tin and was boiled in a teapot. I still purchase twisted teas and seep them in my small, black, cast iron teapot. Meditation is all about me and giving myself complete self-care for a few minutes. I add to this one luxury. The taste of the tea reminds me of the safety and security I had growing up and gives respect to my family of origin who no longer are with me.

Meditation can bring the inside out and the outside in. To find your true identity, start to bring the inside out. What you practice, the mind will follow.

To learn more about meditation and Daoism theory check out my article at on Chuang Tze. OR, check out the 7 part series on my Youtube Vlog on the 6 Healing Breaths in Ancient Daoism. OR, check out some of the theory on the Kidney channel.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE “5 Senses In Meditation” worksheet to kickstart your meditation practice.