It’s that time of year again, when we get to make ourselves crazy over holiday expectations and familial stress. I came across these tips for holidays that are to be shared. So, how do you stay calm, sane and steady, in the face of demands piling on as the holidays draw nigh?? READ ON...
RN, BScN, RTTP, Reiki II
From Belleruth Naparstek
1. Take Care of Your Body
Try to do all those things you know are good for your physical well being: get regular exercise; take it easy on the caffeine, sugar and alcohol; get enough sleep – use imagery and a good mask to keep out light, for heaven’s sake; eat healthy food – you know this stuff. This is the baseline of stress reduction.
2. Track Your Physical Comfort
Take time to check in and see how your body is feeling. Once you notice, you can make small corrections to relieve discomfort before it takes over. Breathe into tight places; stretch and move when your back or neck feels stiff and use your Sombra on achy muscles; look out the window when your eyes are straining at the computer screen; massage your neck and press the acupoints when a headache is lurking. But you have to notice what’s amiss before you can fix it.
3. Learn to Relax at Will
Develop a regular practice to ground and relax you. If possible, start and end the day with guided imagery or even playing it while doing something else. Even five minutes, twice a day, will give you some protective ballast against the day’s stresses. And if you can’t manage this daily, do it whenever you can.
4. Take a Mini-break When You’re Getting Crazed
When you find yourself starting to lose it, or butting up against your own rigidity or circular thinking, take a quick break. Step away. Go outside for a walk, do some guided imagery, snuggle your favorite toddler, play some music, shake out those ya-yas, call a loving friend or do a couple of yoga stretches. Five minutes of conscious AWOL can clear your mind and give you back your perspective, flexibility, common sense and even your sense of humor.
5. Dose Your Day with Humor
Humor, by its nature, provides instant distance, balance and perspective, if even for a moment. As long as it’s not aimed at mocking others, it allows us to step back and take everything, including ourselves, less seriously. So practice the art of finding the ludicrous, paradoxical and nonsensical in daily events. Laughing itself is priceless. A good belly laugh changes biochemistry and clears out emotional gunk like little else.
6. Be Realistic & Know Your Limits
It’s a wonderful thing to know what you can and cannot do. Wrestle your perfectionism to the ground and don’t let idealized expectations press you into doing more than you can realistically manage. Say no. Set limits. Work smart. This is especially important around holiday time, when trying too hard to do too much creates the exact opposite of the holiday feeling you’re striving for, and you morph into the cranky, resentful, martyred, overworked nightmare you swore you’d never be.
7. Manage Your Time
A corollary is to try not to over-commit. If you do, make a list and prioritize. (Just getting these things out of your head and onto a piece of paper can reduce some stress.) If the list is out of control, look it over and assess what has to go – and then cancel, with apologies. Then tackle things you can finish, one at a time if at all possible. Work mindfully at it, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with getting it done. Procrastination can be a terrible stressor – we’re always aware of what we should be doing while we’re not doing it, and it’s a real joy-killer and energy-sapper. Do a piece of it and check that sucker off!
8. When Scheduling, Give Yourself Room To Breathe
If you find yourself scheduling yourself with back to back meetings, consider the possibility that you’re an adrenaline junkie, running from appointment to appointment to feed your addiction. Leave time between things, to catch your breath, reflect on what’s next, acquaint yourself with a calmer class of neurohormones that return you to equilibrium. Once you get out of the habit of racing, you won’t be so eager to go back to it, I promise.
9. Throw Something Out Every Day
Useless clutter is another low level, subliminal stress-producer. And we all know how quickly a clean surface can attract overwhelming piles of stuff. If you commit to throwing out one or two things a day, it really helps. And if you’re one of those people who need to see your papers spread around you as you work (I am), just contain the surface area you allot to this!
10. Keep Asking Yourself If You’d Rather be Right or Happy
A lot of stress is generated – for ourselves and others – by our need to be right, show we’re right, prove we’re right. And really, so what if we establish we’re right? We cleanse our psychic pallet and de-gunk our day by letting go of an issue and moving on. Mind you, this is not the same as being a chump. It’s about taking care of ourselves, and therein lies right relationship, clear focus and, yes, happiness.
11. Don’t Be Proud – Get Support When the Chips are Down
Sometimes talking things out with someone you trust will allow you to safely acknowledge your feelings, let off some steam, get you away from circular thinking and rearrange your mislaid perspective. Sometimes friends even have helpful advice to give. Sometimes they actually stop us from doing something really dumb.
12. Practice Staying in the Moment
By mindfully going about your day, putting your awareness into what you are doing at the moment, you will be using even mundane, everyday activities as the focus of meditation, and simple as it sounds, you will regain peace and balance. Yes, peeling potatoes can be a route to spiritual attainment and inner peace!
13. Notice Little Moments of Beauty and Sweetness
This sounds hokey but it works. Notice beauty around you and take a moment to breathe it in … same with a smile, a gracious act, a loving gesture. Practicing gratitude for these lovely bits and pieces of daily life is a potent way to de-stress, and it’s contagious, too.
Foot soldiers in AIDS fight; African hospices ease pain, chip away at stigma Donors begin to realize value of palliative care
The Toronto Star
Sun 18 Jul 2004
Byline: Reed Lindsay
Source: Special to the Star
The white pickup truck rattles to a halt at a round mud and thatch hut cemented with cow dung.
Princess Cele, a stout woman wearing sunglasses, a dark blue beret and a mint green uniform adorned with epaulets, motions her head to a mound of dirt outside the hut.
"She's dead," says Cele, who is making her daily rounds as a nurse for South Coast Hospice.
A young woman confirms that indeed her 34-year-old cousin died three days ago. A baby now sleeps on the thin, worn mattress where the cousin spent her final days.
In these winter months, when the temperature drops at night and the wind blows dust over the steep, grassy hills that rise above the sugarcane plantations and beach resorts of South Africa's Indian Ocean coastline, the death toll mounts.
Pneumonia and tuberculosis often deal the final blow, but only after HIV/AIDS has ravaged the body's immune system.
Ten minutes' drive away, down a rutted dirt road that cuts through Elim's expanse of ridge-top huts, Cele visits a second patient.
Sizakele Ntuli, a gaunt woman with large eyes and a beatific face, grimaces in pain as she struggles to sit up in bed in her small, dimly lit room. Her throat burns from oral thrush and her body aches. She has lost nearly all feeling in her feet and cannot stand on her own.
Ntuli says she felt fine two weeks ago, but the disease appears to be advancing rapidly.
"The numbness in the feet shows that her immune system is going down," says Cele, sighing deeply. "Until now, she's been up and moving about. But today, I can see that she's sick. It looks like she's getting worse."
Cele massages Ntuli's feet with a topical analgesic and replenishes her supply of vitamins, painkillers and antibiotics.
Like most people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, Ntuli cannot afford antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), which could prolong her life and keep her healthy. Without the ARVs, Cele limits herself to mitigating Ntuli's pain and making her feel more comfortable as her body wastes away.
According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, an estimated 2.3 million people died from HIV/AIDS last year in sub-Saharan Africa - many of them malnourished, under-medicated and in unremitting pain.
In South Africa, more than 400,000 infected people are likely to die this year.
But increasingly, people with HIV/AIDS are suffering less and facing their deaths with a degree of dignity, helped by a burgeoning network of grassroots hospices and community caregivers operating with threadbare resources and little or no government support.
While some experts argue that the only long-term solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is the prevention of future infections or the discovery of a vaccine, health-care professionals in sub-Saharan Africa's poor rural areas and slums are trying to answer the more starkly immediate question of what to do about the dying.
"With 7,000 people a day dying from AIDS in Africa, and under horrible circumstances for most people, it's an intolerable holocaust," says Peter Sarver, of the New York-based Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa. "There is a critical mass of people who decided to face this head on."
In sub-Saharan Africa - where UNAIDS says 28.5 million people (or 71 per cent of the world's total) are living with HIV/AIDS - most hospitals have neither the resources nor the expertise to care for dying AIDS patients. Hospices and the volunteers with whom they work are often the only source of support for those who are dying.
In the last decade, dozens of hospices have formed to provide what is called palliative care - helping people cope with pain and with the trauma of facing death.
Nowhere has the hospice movement been stronger than in South Africa, where an estimated 5.3 million people were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2002, more people than in any other nation in the world.
Ten years of democracy in South Africa have resulted in little economic improvement in places like Elim, where there is no industry and only meagre subsistence farming. Just as they did under apartheid, many men leave their families to work odd jobs in cities or as migrant labourers.
The prevalence of migrant labour combined with crushing poverty has created ripe conditions for spreading HIV/AIDS.
At South Coast Hospice, Cele and three other nurses look after some 800 patients, twice as many as the hospice cared for three years ago. As patients succumb to the disease - on average they last eight months under the hospice's care before they die - they are quickly replaced by an ever-growing number of new ones.
South Coast is based in KwaZulu-Natal province, considered the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.
A 2002 survey of antenatal clinics in KwaZulu-Natal showed 36.5 per cent of pregnant women to be HIV-positive, the highest of any South African province.
In order to handle its growing caseload with a limited staff, South Coast has teamed with family members and volunteers who often provide day-to-day care for the sick in their homes with guidance from a hospice nurse.
Like most hospices in sub-Saharan Africa, South Coast has only a handful of back-up beds, so it concentrates on visiting patients in their homes. Most patients live far from the hospice and the nearest hospital, and cannot afford the bus fare or are too weak to travel.
Many decide to die at home, in order to be close to loved ones and in familiar settings, or because the family cannot afford to transport the corpse back home for burial.
Thousands more in the area are in need of the hospice's services, but they do not seek help due to denial or fear. Those who contact the hospice usually do so only in the later stages of the illness, after their pain has become unbearable.
"There are so many out there, but they don't want to see the hospice truck coming to their homes because everybody knows it is associated with HIV/AIDS," says Thandi, a resident of Elim who began volunteering at South Coast and now is paid a small salary to work full-time as a caregiver and assistant to Cele.
HIV/AIDS continues to carry a potent stigma in Africa, where strict taboos on talking about sexual promiscuity and death are common, and those living with the condition are often ostracized.
Thandi tested HIV-positive last year. She is in good health and is taking ARVs, which the hospice provides gratis for those HIV-positive employees willing to declare their status.
Thandi says she was infected by her husband, who returned home from his job at a mine near Johannesburg when he became sick three years ago.
He had refused to be tested, and it was not until last month that he admitted that he had known his status years ago, but had said nothing, fearing his wife would abandon him.
She has not told her patients that she is HIV-positive. Nor has she told her two sons, ages 20 and 17, although she says she often speaks to them about HIV/AIDS and the importance of abstinence or safe sex.
Little by little, hospices like South Coast have begun chipping away at the stigma, organizing support groups and using palliative care as a beachhead to initiate broader discussions about HIV/AIDS and sex.
"Almost 100 per cent of our patients have divulged their status, and that means breaking the silence, and reducing the stigma and bringing HIV into the open," says Kath Defilippi, CEO of the South Coast Hospice.
"Palliative care is very strongly linked with prevention of HIV .... We have a number of young people who almost on their death bed will tell their friends, their peers, to stop this risky lifestyle, saying 'I'm here because I slept around.' This can be much more powerful than any media campaign."
Until recently, donations to palliative care have been sporadic at best, as money from abroad has instead gravitated toward prevention campaigns, the search for a vaccine or helping AIDS orphans.
"Donors have only just begun realizing that palliative care is an absolutely crucial element in the fight against HIV/AIDS," says Mary Callaway, associate director for the Open Society Institute's International Palliative Care Initiative, which began funding hospices in South Africa in 2002.
"They also are realizing that a little money goes a long way. Palliative care is cheap and these hospices are already out there caring for people largely through volunteer work and on shoestring budgets."