Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!
Exploring their thoughts on healthy habits:
- Focusing on the steps to the outcome instead of the outcome
- The challenge and benefit of routines
- How to identify your own anchor habits
- Effects of all or nothing thinking
- Extending grace to you and your loved one impacts your ability to stay healthy in your caring season
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
Rayna Neises: Welcome to a Season of Caring Podcast where there’s Hope for living, loving, and caring with NO Regrets. This is Rayna Neises your host and today I have Ally Neises co-hosting with me and we’re going to talk more about healthy habits, from our interview with Ginger Hill.
Healthy habits, such great content, Ginger shared with us on how to make those daily decisions over and over and over again. Sometimes that is the hardest part, I think.
Aly Neises: I think so too. And I think even like the word healthy kind of makes my skin crawl just a little bit, especially when we’re talking about making healthy habits and caregiving and making a conscientious decision to do something healthy for ourselves daily, it’s easier or to do it like once a week or heck once a year, but every day, multiple times a day. That seems impossible sometimes.
Rayna Neises: Definitely, and that’s what I loved about what Ginger said, it feels like this huge giant thing that’s not doable, but by looking at it as this one habit, right now, this one healthy choice , I can do that. I can make one healthy choice and I might make three unhealthy choices, but the good news is I can still make a new healthy choice each time I’m making a choice, and I love that.
Aly Neises: I do to, and I liked how she talked about, associating behaviors, looking at the behavior instead of the outcome . It’s a much easier pill to swallow when you’re talking about reading for 20 minutes a day versus I’m going to read two books in three weeks. When you’re taking care of somebody that seems next to impossible.
So if we’re talking about little behaviors, little changes we make every day, and focus on the behavior instead of the outcome, then we’re more able to achieve that outcome, which I love.
Rayna Neises: Huge, it really does shift how it feels, realizing that that one behavior can give us the outcome that we want. And we know where we’re going by making the right behavior choices, but we don’t have to focus on, Oh, when I get to be the size or whenever I’m not in a caregiving season again, then I’ll take care of it. But you can actually feel like, Oh, I can make this one behavior here.
I also love when Ginger talked about the fact that caregiving routines are really hard and they’re so helpful with habits because a routine is where we take out the choice and we just do it. Cause that’s just what we always do.
But in caregiving, there are so few routines that can stay true each and every day that does make making healthy habits, I think more difficult because we can’t rely on the routine as much.
Aly Neises: Yeah, and I think that’s the biggest up hill battle that a caregiver has to take especially when you’re an adult and you live a normal life. You have routines that you do every day without even thinking about it. But now you have this other person and this whole situation that you have to kind of take care of and deal with, and their routine is going to be changed as well with every day and as the season goes on.
It’s very important to think about how to make those routines as easy as possible as well. Like she said, like calling and making yourself a hair appointment when you make an appointment for your mom, that’s a big thing deal that gets pushed to the back burner.
Rayna Neises: Just linking those things together and thinking about what needs to be done and then being able to go ahead and take the step to do it. Again, staying in routine as much as possible and realizing crisis is going to happen. You have to flux to that, but allowing the routine to be the healthy habits that it needs to be in order for you to make it longterm through the journey.
Aly Neises: Yeah. I love how she talks about anchoring those habits linking them together. And I love that she calls it an anchor. but I had a question and probably some of our listeners also have is like, how do I even identify the anchor? What’s a good thing to anchor to so that you can make it part of your routine so it becomes a habit. Do you have a suggestion?
Rayna Neises: Great question. Yeah, so a couple of things came to mind, but I would say we know research is telling us that an attitude of gratitude can totally change our perspective, and as caregivers it can be thick and heavy and hard to really see things to be thankful for.
But developing that attitude of gratitude and taking the time every day to look for those things that we can be grateful for really can change our mindsets. And so one of the things that came to mind was an anchor activity would be we brush our teeth, we brush our teeth every day, hopefully more than once a day, right?
And so while we’re brushing our teeth, there’s not a whole lot of other things we can do, but we could think of two or three things we’re grateful for while we’re brushing our teeth. And so brushing our teeth is our anchor activity. Adding gratitude into our lives is the new habit that we’re trying to create. So each time you pick up that toothbrush. You stop and think about what things you can be thankful for at the end of the day or the beginning of the day, being grateful for a good night’s sleep or any of those other kinds of things that we can think of. That would be an anchor activity.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but a lot of people are. So a perfect anchor activity would be when you go and get that first cup of coffee in the morning, if there’s another behavior that you want to do, whether it’s. Be, taking time two, read or to plan out your day, set priorities for the day, which can help your day go smoother.
Lunch even is an anchor. If you’re working a job where you have a routine and your lunches at a certain time every day, then that’s a great anchor to say, I’m going to walk 10 minutes at the end of my lunch break, or I’m going to walk 10 minutes before I have lunch. And so you can anchor that new behavior to something you do daily.
Aly Neises: I love that. I love the suggestions you gave and I think it’s something great to think about and I would think too, our listeners need to understand. in this season of caregiving it’s difficult, to come up with even things that you are grateful for, so it doesn’t have to be something like, I’m grateful today that mom is here. It can be simple. I’m grateful today that I have my toothbrush in my hand, or. I got two extra minutes of time to myself, or I liked the color I’m wearing today, whatever. I mean, it doesn’t have to be anything big. I think those small things are going to make the world of difference for our listeners.
Rayna Neises: [00:06:45] That gratitude piece really can change the way you interpret things in the world. The more you see the good in the world, the more you see it. Your brain is always looking for what you’ve trained it to look for. So if you start noticing the good things.
The more good things you will see and you learn to be more grateful for things like just the fact that the sun is out today, or I have a little dog and she comes in and wags it all. You know? So just being grateful that she’s there and that I have her to, to lift my spirits. So those little things definitely.
Aly Neises: I also love how Ginger talks about how we as a society, and I’m 100% guilty of this, how we have that all or nothing thinking Oh, I messed up my diet so I might as well have the three cookies. Oh, I should have worked out and I don’t have time for 30 minutes, so I’m not even do 10. 100% that is me. And I think, she hits the nail on the head when she talks about, do what you can until you can do what you want. I think that’s such a great perspective on just doing these little things. Until you can achieve what you really want, where you really want to be as a caregiver, where you really want to be with this relationship as a person, whatever that means.
You have some experience with some of that. I know. When you’re in that season of caregiving, I’m sure that was very hard. Do you have any suggestions on how to even attain some of that?
Rayna Neises: I think, again, like you said, do what you can while you can, and that’s, it’s so important just to think of the little things that you can do. about three years into caregiving, I just realized that my weight was increasing with all the convenient foods and all the things that I was doing that were just on the run all the time.
And so I thought, you know, I really need to do something different. Making a choice to take one meal and change that meal to a protein shake was the one thing that felt doable. I knew I wasn’t going to starve all day if I just had a protein shake for breakfast. Making that one change started to give me success that then let me open the door and say, okay, I can do the protein shake for breakfast.
What if I try just doing the protein shake for lunch or doing a protein bar for lunch so that I’m getting good food instead of driving through whenever I’m on my way to see dad. Just that one thing, it was the first step and with that success, then I thought, Oh, I think I can do a little bit more.
And I know I found the same thing to be true even with exercising. If it’s not 30 minutes, there’s no point in doing it. Well, that’s not true. We need to move no matter what. And so just finding those things that you can do for a short period of time really can make a big impact.
And what I found is doing the little thing then makes you realize, I think I could do a little more, or I can squeeze in, five more minutes. And then feeling like, okay, well I could squeeze in five more minutes. And so keep adding that on. And then you do end up finding yourself really doing what you wanted to do.
It’s a great tip and it definitely makes a big difference when you take that first step because the momentum of moving something takes a lot more than continuing to move once you’ve started.
Aly Neises: Yeah, and I think it’s important for listeners to understand too, like we’re not necessarily saying you have to do these in big chunks of time either. It can be five minutes here and two minutes there. Five more minutes. that’s okay. Just as long as you’re taking those steps and making some progress, you’re going to feel better as a whole.
You’re going to be able to endure it this season and endure the hardships that are going to come and it’s going to be easier to even endure the bad days. cause they’ll definitely be good days again. It’s a rollercoaster for a while and you just have to kind of ride the ups and downs and find the positive things in the bad days too.
Rayna Neises: For sure. It’s a long ride. And I think one of the hardest things is we don’t know how long the ride is, with caring. And so it’s a matter of just doing the best you can, as long as you can. And you’ll find that the better you implement these healthy habits, the more you will be able to maintain that long ride and the ups and the downs. These little habits will, really give you what you need to be able to, to be your best in that situation. And that’s really all you can ask is to do your best each day. Whenever you’ve blown it and not had a good day, it’s just starting again the very next minute and doing the best that you can in that moment.
And that really can have a huge impact on the person that you’re caring for, as well as how you’re feeling about the job that you’re doing in caring for them.
Aly Neises: I agree. I think overall Ginger talks about creating good habits, but she also talks about just, I felt like some of the message was just extending some grace to yourself where you may not have these habits yet. You may not even think about these things, but if you can kind of give yourself grace and give you some time to start creating those things, I think you’re going to have much more ability to totally walk your family members all the way home. We’ve talked about this multiple times. That’s the end goal is that we’re walking mom and dad or whoever to home. So I think it’s important for us to understand that that is the outcome that we want. We just have to make those behaviors to get to the outcome.
Rayna Neises: Such a great point, Allie grace to ourselves, to the person we’re caring for it can be challenging, but the more that we learn to extend grace to ourselves, the more the journey is doable and it is so important to be able to feel like you can make it all the way to the end of the journey of walking them home, but then also to walk back into your life and have that life still.
And I think that’s what those small daily habits do, is help you to still feel like your important and for you to maintain relationships. as I traveled to care for my dad. My husband and I talked on the phone every night. It might’ve been for five minutes some nights, or it was an hour because we had a lot to talk about but every night.
We touched base with, I love you, you know, and how’s your day? So that little daily habit, maintain that relationship and kept that relationship strong so that even though it was a four and a half year period of not being together all the time, that relationship was still there to walk back to and, have him walk beside me through the grief that came after losing my dad.
Aly Neises: Yeah. I think it’s important.
Rayna Neises: One of the things Ginger mentioned that goes really well with grace that you mentioned extending grace to yourself is that realistic expectations. this is true in every area of our life, but definitely as a caregiver, being realistic with what’s the situation is that you’re living in right now can be so hard.
Aly Neises: You’re exactly right, especially when you’re a thick of it, trying to understand what our realistic expectation is and what you can actually achieve. I am an overachiever. I will admit I am one that is 100% my worst critic. So if I make a list at the beginning of the day and I haven’t achieved those things, I feel like I failed.
And that’s not appropriate when I’m taking care of somebody else, let alone taking care of myself so I can take care of somebody else. The biggest thing, how do you even identify what a realistic expectation is? Do you have any tips or tricks?
Rayna Neises: One of the things that I find works really well for me is if I not meeting, my expectation is stepping back and saying, why not. Have, I tried to cram too much into the day. Have I missed the goal? You know, caring for my dad. One of the funniest things was trying to get out the door to an appointment. I mean, you could get out the door any other time without a problem, but it was like he knew when there was a deadline. And one of the things that I did with him on Saturdays is I would frequently take him to a chair massage, having that massage really helped to relax his muscles and just kind of get some of the toxicity out of his system and he loved it.
But for some reason it’d be like, dad, are you ready to go? Sure. And then he wouldn’t go. You know, it was like, he’s still sitting in the chair and I’m like, we need to go see Marcy. Come on, let’s, let’s go dad. And he’d be like, sure. And sit in the chair. And I was like, okay, so what do I need to do differently to make this Saturday work?
Because I would get so frustrated I didn’t want to be late. I learned to start leaving earlier and to actually, if we were too early, just stop and get a yogurt at McDonald’s or do something fun for a little while before we made it to the appointment that had a set time and if we didn’t get out the door when I was planning to get out the door, we still made it to the appointment on time.
Changing that expectation, is part of what I had to do each and every time I found the frustration, rise up in me of trying to meet an expectation that wasn’t realistic for my dad.
Now, Ginger I thought it was really interesting one of her example was understanding that she couldn’t control how her dad responded to her, and that was so important because we can’t, we can’t control the people in our lives.
We can’t control our siblings, we can’t control our parents. Just having an expectation around how they’re going to receive what we’re doing is typically unrealistic because we don’t know how they’re going to respond. She was counting having a realistic expectation for herself, was identifying that she can’t control how her dad receives what’s happening in his life. And that’s, that is also key for being able to make it through this journey longterm. Because when we are trying to assume that other people are going to be thankful for what we’re doing, grateful the sacrifices we’re making, we’re probably setting ourselves up to be disappointed.
Aly Neises: I think you’re exactly right. Sometimes the biggest expectation I have for others is that sense of gratitude, that sense of saying thank you. That’s, it makes us feel good when people acknowledge that we are helping them in some way. So. I’ve learned in my own life that one of the things I have to adjust is that I’m disappointed.
People aren’t that way, you know? So I have to adjust my own expectations. People aren’t going to give that to me, and that’s okay. Okay. It doesn’t mean that they’re not grateful or there not seeing what I’m seeing . It’s just they’ve got their own stuff going on too. So I think going back to extending grace, extending grace to ourselves and extending grace to others. Maybe dad’s just having a bad day, or maybe I expected too much out of him for today. And that’s okay.
When you start to kind of think about the things that you do want to achievement a day is prioritizing what are the things that absolutely have to get done today?
Dad for sure needs to get his meds twice a day. Dad for sure needs a bath today. Those are things that have to happen no matter what. I want to be able to read 20 minutes today, probably lower on the priority list. I want to try and make it happen, and I might only get it to happen five minutes here and two minutes there or whatever.
But focusing again on our behaviors and not necessarily the whole outcome and an extending grace to each other. I think it’s probably the best options we can have for who were caregiving for and for ourselves.
Rayna Neises: It doesn’t have to be 100% every day and oftentimes as a caregiver, we overlook the things that we’re doing on a daily basis for those people we’re caring for and forget to put those on the list of accomplishments. So the fact that we did get up and showered and breakfast served and had some laughs along the way are all things that we’re checking boxes that we probably didn’t have on the list.
And so again, that’s where extending grace to realize that just because it’s on the list doesn’t mean it has to be done. That the priority is actually the person and the relationship with that person that we’re caring for and having them have a good day. Anytime I knew that, I put dad down and he’d had a good day and I could kiss him goodnight and tell him I loved him. Then I could check it off. This has been a good day because that was an opportunity to really focus on him and make his day a good day. Grace is so important with that gratitude, putting those two together can really help us with our perspective, make that journey all the way home.
So thanks, Aly for those great ideas and digging a little deeper into healthy habits and how they can help us in this journey.
Just to remind you that this podcast is intended to encourage family caregivers. If you have medical, legal, or financial questions, be sure to consult your local professionals.
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