Why not welcome the spring into your caregiving life!
Newly blooming flowers and the warm spring sunlight can be a signal to step outdoors, breathe in the Earth’s changes, and simply appreciate the glories of nature.
For both caregivers and their loved ones, taking the time to revel in nature is sometimes forgotten, and it’s easy to understand why. There are medicines to take, doctors appointment to attend, and a seemingly never-ending number of tasks to accomplish.
And yet making time for nature is one of the most healing activities we can do. It’s also one of the cheapest and easiest. We literally just have to open a door or peer out a window to get refreshed.
Simply being in nature—even in a wheelchair in your backyard or a local park—is healing on multiple levels. Enjoying nature has been shown to reduce pain, lessen stress and anxiety, and decrease blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and even the production of stress hormones.
And it simply feels good. Looking at the beauty of a flower or feeling the warmth of the sun can increase one’s feelings of happiness, which consequently decreases feelings of depression.
So what can you do as a caregiver to bring more springtime into your life and simultaneously more spring into your step?
1) Open the Door
Just open the door and go outside for a moment. Bring your loved one too so that you can both take in the sights and smells of life renewing. It can be a short trip to your mailbox or a longer walk around the block. Maybe a venture to the local park or even just opening the window and breathing the outside air for a moment. Whatever you choose, take the time to revel in all that is new and life-affirming about the outside world.
2) Bring the Outside In
Treat yourself to a new plant or some freshly cut flowers, and set them on your dining table or a special location on your desk. Open a window so that the sounds of birds or chattering squirrels can be heard even indoors. Then take time to enjoy the newness. Laugh at the antics of your backyard squirrels. Smell the flowers and marvel at their magical beauty.
3) Renew with Spring Cleaning
Sometimes, stuff can pile up indoors, and the spring can inspire our desire for a cleaner, more joyful space. So take a little time to clear out the old so your space feels newer and more welcoming. You don’t have to spend days. Just take 15 minutes when you can to lighten up an area or throw away some junk mail. Even just a few minutes can make a little more space for beauty in your life.
4) Plan A Respite
Think about a small trip that might recharge you. The trip can be as simple as a drive through a beautiful local area with stops to take in the views or a longer venture to somewhere that you would enjoy even overnight or longer. Maybe you would be refreshed by a walk or hike in a local wilderness area either solo or with a friend. Take some time to think of a trip to the outdoors that would sincerely inspire or refresh you, and then make it happen. If you believe you can do it, you will find a way.
The Kathi Koll Foundation sometimes has the opportunity to make a special excursion come true for a caregiver. For example, the foundation once helped a woman who had not had respite in eight years of caregiving. The foundation funded adult daycare for her spouse and arranged for her to achieve her dream of photographing raptors at a local arboretum.
4) Check Out Apps on Your Mobile Phone
Some apps provide a way to store medical records and trigger medical alerts. Type in Medical Emergency ID in your App Store search engine, and you’ll see several choices—both free or for a small fee. Some also provide specialized services. For example, ICE Angel will alert your loved ones in case of an emergency and also provide them with needed medical information, while MedicalMe alerts the people in your vicinity that you’re suffering from a medical emergency and lists on-screen health notices that can be read without unlocking your phone.
Your vacation should be a vacation, not a medical emergency, so be prepared. My friend suggested, “Be a little bit of a hypochondriac, especially once you pass 55 and are about to leave town. That little pain, mole, thingy that’s getting worse is telling you something. Listen and act. And when it’s nothing, be happy.” -Kathi Koll