Archive for the ‘Stress Management’ Category

Communicating without Aggravating

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

My 90 year old dad called at 5:30 p.m.Wednesday night saying “Bob (my husband), Marion (his 89 year old wife) isn’t good. She wants Joan. Get her up here now!”

On July 28th they moved into a new Supportive Living Facility in a town about 50 minutes from our home. The staff don’t know them like the place they had been in for the past 18 months so they needed an advocate.

As soon as we arrived I knew Mom had an UTI (Urinary Track Infection) and needed an antibiotic. UTIs hit the elderly really hard and mom becomes confused and exhibits signs of a mini-stroke. She is also legally blind so staff have to be told so doesn’t fall if they get her to walk or stand up.

There was no way we were getting an antibiotic without a doctor’s order and they hadn’t seen a doctor yet so the only alternative was to call the ambulance and take her to the hospital  about 4 minutes away.

I focused on one message. “I’m sure she has an UTI. She needs an antibiotic and it will take her about 3 -5 days to get feeling better. ” The staff at the care facility didn’t know me, nor trust me and were following the rules.

My brother was able to find out what antibiotic worked and texted me the name while I sat with mom in Emergency. I kept repeating my key message and kept emotion out of it. Inside I wanted to scream, “Get her an antibiotic NOW!” It is so difficult to watch mom suffer and know what needs to be done.

I also had to keep in mind that the staff (supportive living, ambulance and hospital) were following the rules, were doing their best and specific procedures had to be followed. I kept all emotion out of my voice and just kept with the same message.

“No, often she doesn’t run a temperature with this, yes she becomes very confused, she vomits and moans. This tells me she has an UTI.”

One hour later, after a urine test, she was diagnosed with an UTI and an antibiotic started. My brother had arrived and the doctor told us she would be admitted to the hospital. My brother went over to see dad and my husband, who was with my dad at the Supportive Living Facility, came over and we headed home. We got back at midnight. Mentally exhausted.

Once my brother got dad settled down, he headed to the hospital until mom was in a room at about 1:30 a.m. He was mentally exhausted.

What happens to the elderly who don’t have family caregivers? The medical staff are great, and when they don’t know the history of their patients, and that patient is incoherent,  they must follow specific procedures, which aren’t always the best.

My brother and I share the caregiving and many days we are worn out. Mostly mentally, watching the parents we love and respect, struggling. At 61 and 66 we get tired too! We have supportive spouses and have each other.  My parents are able to pay for extra help when they need it. Many seniors are not.

The staff at the supportive living facility are super. They are stretched to the limit with responsibilities and since the place is brand new they are on a steep learning curve.

More staff is needed. The loads on the existing staff is huge, as it was in the last place my parents were. The staff we see are caring, professional and want to help, it’s just that they are expected to do too much for too many.

My parents have each other and family to check in. I feel for the clients that do not.


#43 House Selling and Cleaning

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

So I’ve never been a neat person. I like clean but as far as things on the counter, beds unmade,  clothes unfolded, that’s okay with me. I have always had better things to do. I know it’s all in our priorities, and mine were never on an immaculate house.

Well now we are selling our home, have it staged and it must be show-home ready in one hour, I’m finding that there are some quick tricks to keeping it tidy. No more eat something and put it away later. “Do it now” is my motto.  Before my poor husband is out of bed I’m making it and punching the pillows to make them plump and eye-catching.

“No, don’t sit on the bed!!!” I scream. “It will wrinkle.” “What you want another shower?” “Okay you did run the marathon this morning and are a little stiff, but don’t leave water marks and heaven help you if you forget to squeegie off the tiles .” I think he wonders where his wife went.

I’m hoping these new habits stay with me in a little less intense way when we get to our new home. I do like the look of the house when I come in. I certainly use my time differently now. No baking – it’s way too messy -  again my husband isn’t happy, but more time for shining and polishing. I even ironed the drapes!!! Besides we didn’t need the calories in those brownies or cookies.

I’m doing things differently and it is rather interesting how detail-oriented I can be, when I have to be. No more chat, I’ve got to run and shine up the bathrooms!!!

#42 Communication Self Talk Personal Motto

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

When things go wrong, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Is it “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this?” Or “Why me?” We all have a personal motto, just that most of us haven’t said it aloud. Does it serve you or sabotage you? It might be something hanging on your fridge or it might be in your daytimer or even your screen saver.

Your self-talk can hurt or harm you if you continue to keep it negative. Switch it around with something like “This too shall pass.” Or my personal favorite “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”

Whether it is a cranky boss, miserable co-worker, aging parent, difficult child or spouse or nasty neighbor, what you say in your head will dictate the kind of day you have. Have some fun and ask others what their motto is. Post it where you see it and reframe your days.

Keep your self-talk postive. Would you say the nasty things you say toyourself to others? Of course not. Be kind to yourself.


#41The Sandwich Generation – Egg Salad Squashed!

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Caregiving for aging parents, babysitting grandchildren, getting a house we’ve lived in for over 36 years ready to sell and buying a condo apartment had me feeling rather squashed last week. I understood I was a prime candidate for a sandwich generation photo option.

I loved every minute of each adventure it’s just that as I age I’m not quite as resilient as I used to be. Add in a few unexpected mini crisis and there are not enough hours in the day to complete needed tasks.

The question became, how to pick and choose and still feel good.  When I was honest with myself, I could elimnate some of the things like make my bed, cook from scratch and vacuum. So I  made a list, checked it twice and priorotized.  I stopped using drastic words like horrible, worst, never and I began to reframe my self-talk. It wasn’t the worst day of my life, it was an amazing day where I could see two of our grandchildren plus my parents all in one day. Once this was done I smiled, counted my blessings and carried on.

The grandchildren were a much needed tonic as little arms squeezed me tight, I had a great visit with my parents when I dropped off the medicine that was needed immediately and you know what? Our house is still here, needing a little tender loving cleaning care. It will happen…. When I’m ready.

So I poured myself another cup of coffee, sat down and admired the snow capped Rockies and the magpies chatting in our mature trees. This was a good day. A busy day and very good.

#40 Stress Buster – Learn from Babe Ruth

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I’ve always found the month of October to be a time when things change. Perhaps it is the feeling that cold weather will be arriving soon, first colds     hit us and it becomes a time to think about what next? As I went for a walk with a friend today we were chatting about changing jobs and she said “instead of looking at leaving it’s important to look ahead to what is next.”

I loved that. And remembered that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs. Did you know that he also struck out 1330 times – a record unapproached by any    other baseball player in the history of baseball.

Next time you are looking back, stop yourself and look ahead. Life will become much easier.  You’ll hit more home runs and your strike outs will be forgotten!

#39 Reframe, Change How You Think, Confront Problems

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Sometimes we wonder why we are doing so many things. Does anyone notice or care? Often this happens as we become more and more tired.

Has anything I’ve done today made life better for another human being? These are questions we might ask ourselves as we are trying to fall alseep.

Falling asleep? Who can do that easily with so many  ‘little nasty voices’ circulating in your brain. It’s time to reframe those thoughts. How can you make an idea or thought into a postive instead of a negative?

It’s takes mental elbow grease to change how you think. As soon as you hear a negative thought coming into your head, stop and ask yourself “Is this true?” Often we exaggerate. Then state what is true and do it in a positive manner.

“I’m so tired because I did all the work to make that presentation happen” might become “Isn’t it lucky I could do the work to make that presentation so successful.” or “Why does the boss always ask me to do the crappy jobs?” might become “The boss must really trust my ability to ask me to get these things done.”

Instead of fretting about what is happening, if you can do something about it make a plan. If you can not do anything, let it go.Think about a balloon filled with helium and release it into a clear blue sky. Don’t let it clutter your brain and poison your thougths.

If you are making a plan, think it through, run it by a trusted colleague, practise what you are going to say out loud and when you are confident, talk to the person. Be thoughtful as you plan. Keep your thoughts to two or three key points. NO MORE! Keep it brief or they will give you grief!!!

No one is mind reader. So if you are unhappy, you must let the person know. If you present your thoughts in a non-confrontational, honest, caring and short way, the person will listen and try to understand. Try it today!



# 38 Lower Expectations Forgive Yourself

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Are we as kind to ourselves as we are to our friends? That’s often a question I ask. If we aren’t kind to ourselves how can we expect others to be kind? Can we forgive ourselves for our mistakes? We all make them. Can we sometimes complete taks that aren’t perfect? Remember that good enough is often good enough.

Too often we set our personal expectations so high that not even Superwoman or Superman could meet our goals. Whether it is for our relationships with others, or the work we do, it’s time to consider just what we are asking of ourselves.

  • Is it realistic?
  • Will it matter in five days, five months or five years if “it” is not quite perfect?

These two simple questions, will give you a gauge to assist you to set realistic personal goals that are specific, attainable, measurable and have a time limit. Whether you are at work, caring for aging parents, children we must stop and care for ourselves. You are worth it!


#37 Stressed, Tired and Unhappy At Work?

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.”

Mary O’Connor, Romance Writer

I love quotes that make me laugh. That’s exactly what the one above did for me and then… it gave me a slap upside the head. Why are so many people SO busy and SO stressed and SO tired?  And why are other people, who are just as busy, happy and content?

I wonder if some aren’t like the mosquito, sucking all the blood out of others by negative attitudes and never looking within, for answers or help. If we keep pointing at others and pointing out how they are upsetting us, we will never stop and take an honest look at ourselves.

Do most of your sentences start with ‘but’?  Get rid of that word. Catch yourself and substitute the word ‘and’.  If ‘but’ is in your self-talk you might be using it to make excuses for your own behaviour.. ‘But he never listens to my ideas’. “But I was hurt at my last job, that’s why I won’t try again.”

How do you speak to yourself? Are you looking for trouble before it happens? Are you blaming the past? Are you setting yourself up for failure? If we keep enough negative words circling in our heads we become like the mosquito. People see us coming and they wish they could reach for the spray.

If you find yourself making sweeping negative comments, stop and ask yourself, ‘Is this true’, ‘what is true’. Those two phrases will help you reframe your thinking. Often we use phrases like ‘he ALWAYS’, or ‘she NEVER’, when in fact if you ask yourself ‘what is true’ the situation is far less earth-shattering.

When dealing with difficult people, we are told to ask questions for clarification. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Why do you say that?’ Perhaps it’s time to point your finger back at yourself and ask yourself those same questions.

Learn to listen to yourself and think about what messages you are sending before you start to judge others. Ask yourself, ‘are you a bee or a mosquito’?

Joan Craven’s bookGot It! 21 Communication Tips for Busy People is available on Amazon and as a Kindle.


#35 Summer Berry Picking- Happiness in Eye of Beholder

Monday, August 6th, 2012

My friend and I had a wonderful afternoon picking saskatoon berries. We both were raised on  farms so it was nostalgic to chat about the times we picked when we were growing up. With purple stained fingers and happy hearts we brought our treasures home. I have two pies cooling on my counter and the rest of the berries are in the freezer where I hope I can resist them until winter hits.

My husband asked how we could stand the heat and I thought about it and said ” I didn’t even notice.” When you do things that are fun, time and physical conditions are often forgotten.  It was a moment for me to consider what it is I love to do and then actually make plans to incorporate at least one of those activities into my daily routine. I’m going to try.

What do you do, just for you? I’m curious.

#34 Got It! Lower the Bar on Expectations for Family Caregiving

Friday, June 1st, 2012

When I wrote my book Got It! I put in a chapter titled Lower the Bar about lowering expectations of ourselves. So often we expect so much  of ourselves we are constantly disappointed because we have not achieved our goals.

I have decided it’s time to lower the bar with regard to our expectations of our aging parents. When we do, our life will become easier.

As I thought about my own parents and my husbands parents (who are now deceased) I decided that part of the issue we “children” have when we interact with our parents is we are not lowering the bar in our expectations of them.  They were our caregivers and were selfless and always available.

Now they often need our support. The relationship changes. For children, most of us in our 50s and 60s, it becomes a time when we sometimes  feel helpless and hopeless.

We don’t want to take away their dignity and yet in some cases we must make difficult and unpopular decisions. We don’t want to see them struggle and yet sometimes they must. We don’t want to see them slowing down, and yet that is a natural part of aging. Sometimes our parents say and do things that embarrass us.

I say it’s time we lower the bar with regard to our expectations. When I think about the way I felt at 40 and now as I near 60, I’ve slowed down.  Add 20 or 30 years and I expect I’ll be checking my door lock three or four times, repeating stories and digging through my pruse, for what seems likes hours, to find the correct change.

When at a restaurant I will most likely say something inappropriate in a loud voice and take my time choosing from the menu.  My kids might say I do it now! So, as a caregiver, we have to lower our expectations.

Yes our relationship changes, yes things take more time, yes we wish things were different – I know my parents wish things were different now too! So now  I give myself a stern talking to and say good enough is good enough.

We will do one errand instead of three. We can take our time at a restaurant and when I look around I see that no one else seems upset that there is loud talk or the odd comment that seems a little off. It’s obviously my issue.

So instead of expecting things to get better or go back to the way they were, I am enjoying this governor that helps me slow down too. I am learning lessons on how I want to be when I reach 80 or 90.

Once we switch our expectations to be real ,and lower the bar,  life is much less stressful.

I take time to enjoy my time with my parents and can smile at the “new” experiences I’m having. Instead of taking on volunteer work, I consider the time I spend with them my volunteer commitment.  What a lucky person I am to have such a great volunteer job. It makes it easier to say no the requests I get to help out somewhere.

I often ask myself, will it matter in 5 minutes, 5 weeks or 5 months and if it does not, I build a bridge and get over it.

What a gift I’ve been given to be able to spend this time with my parents who cared so well for me all these past years. I’m thankful for each new experience.