It’s spring in Iowa – at last! I probably shouldn’t say that too loud as we have had snowstorms in April. But we went from single digits to bikini weather in one month before dipping into more seasonal temps. I took advantage of the springtime weather to take my bike on a spin. It was great to hear the birds singing, the wind in the trees, and breathe in the aroma of growing things and BBQ grills. I needed that time to sweep the cobwebs out of my brain and circulate fresh air through my body.
You see, my elderly mother was ill and it was good to take a break from the sick room/hospital, good for my physical, mental, and emotional health. Physically it was good to move around after sitting for so long. Mentally it was a refreshing break, a chance to dwell on more positive things. Emotionally it brought back fond memories. My parents and I used to bike so this is a pleasant reminder of those happy times. The aroma of grills and growing things reminds me of summer camp and a song we used to sing: “Look up to the skies and open up your eyes and let your troubles fade away. Dream those dreams today and melt your cares away and open up your heart and sing. Live your life for every day, the old one’s gone, so don’t let this one slip away.”
When you (or someone you know) are going through a difficult time with illness in the family, you often hear people say, “You have to take care of yourself, too.” That time away from the crisis is important, but I know how difficult that can be to attain. Sometimes the crisis just won’t let up and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be anyone else to step in. Sometimes when you finally have a few moments, they are spent doing tasks that eat up precious time that could be spent taking a breather instead. Having been in this position, I have a few suggestions based on what has helped me to get more therapeutic time during a family crisis:
1) Ask others to spread word for you. When you make the phone call to Aunt Millie or your good friend Jake to inform them of the situation, ask them to call others. This allows you to focus less on the stress at hand and use down time to recoup yourself.
2) Use CaringBridge, or a similar site. This is a place where you can create a site for your loved one and keep others up to date. You invite who you want to receive this information. The beauty of this is you can just send one email to tell everyone what the doctor said today or what progress has been made. You can even do this quietly while your loved one rests in the same room.
3) “What can I do to help?” Whether you are asking or being asked, think of what things might be helpful to someone in that situation. Have a list of things ready that you feel comfortable doing or asking others to do.
a.Cards, notes, visits are always nice. b. Offers to do chores or help around the home, such as babysitting, mowing, pick up groceries, laundry, making phone calls. Sometimes something simple like bringing pens and notepaper is welcome or healthy snack food, such as nuts and fruit.
c. Gift cards for gasoline, especially if there is a lot of driving involved, or for restaurants and food stores.
d. takethemameal.com is a website that can be useful for people to sign up to take meals to people and can be a time saver. Home-cooked meals feed the soul as well as the body.
e. Massage also gives a good mental break. There are two specific times that massage felt especially wonderful to me, mentally and emotionally. Once after a two-week stretch of turmoil I booked an hour massage for myself and when asked what I wanted the therapist to do, I replied, “Take the world off my shoulders!” She knew just what to do! Another time I spent several weeks in the hospital with family and discovered a chair massage service there (aptly named “Oasis” and conveniently located near a coffee shop!). Those few minutes refreshed me enough to keep me going.
We will all face a crisis someday or know someone who is. Hopefully these tips will help you be encouraged and encourage others.