Self Care

Some Mornings are Grey

Posted in Self Care on December 8th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 3 Comments

This time of year there just seem to be more grey mornings. It can make for difficult days.

Bright sun just seems to make such a difference in how we feel, and how we are able to deal with our aches and pains — physical and emotional. Grey mornings seem to accentuate the aches, the pains, the emotions. Light makes such a big difference.

I’m working to add more light to my life, especially on grey mornings.  Sometimes it’s as easy as flicking on a few light switches. Other times it means choosing to look at light, such as the photo below. And sometimes it’s choosing to turn on an emotional light.

Hope you’re seeing the light today — and not the grey fog currently enveloping Houston.

High Blue Sky (© 2009 Jim Hughes)

High Blue Sky (© 2009 Jim Hughes)

What’s happening these days…

Posted in Personal, Self Care on November 28th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 5 Comments
Light and Leaves

Light and Leaves

I haven’t posted on Difficult Seasons for a while.  It wasn’t something that was planned.  Rather it was something that just happened. Once it started, it continued.

I have been posting a lot of photos to my personal blog, and in truth, have been spending a lot more time working on my photography.  It’s part of my self care effort.  It helps me see. I find myself looking at things more closely, studying the light, looking for the beauty. I love the challenge of learning the skills. But even more, I enjoy the creative process of trying to capture an image, working to get it just right in the camera, and then fine-tuning it in Lightroom.

I’ve also continued to post frequently to Twitter and facebook.  Twitter keeps me connected to a fairly large group of folks, most of whom I’ve never met in person, but many of whom I’ve developed friendships with.  It also provides me a window into several of my interests (including photography), as well as exposure to a broader world than I encounter in my normal daily walk. Facebook is similar, except nearly all of the people I’m connected to are people that I’ve met face-to-face, including a large number from my church family.  I intentionally limit my facebook friends to people I know — it’s a more intimate forum than Twitter for me.  It allows us to keep up with what’s happening in each others’ lives and keep more connected than we otherwise could.

To be honest, though, I just haven’t felt like writing. There’s been a lot going on that would have provided material for this blog. I’ve attended four funerals for my friends’ parents or spouses, and there are stories that go with each. I have several good friends who are struggling against long odds with cancer, and there are lessons in how they are dealing with this part of life. My visits with patients at M.D. Anderson provides plenty to share. I just haven’t wanted to process all of this through writing.

But I think that’s changing. For the past week or so, I’ve felt the pull to begin again — as much for me as for those who drop by and read.

Maybe there are seasons to write, and seasons to be silent?

Self Care: Turning it Over

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Personal, Self Care on October 19th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

I’m just a work in progress.

Sometimes I forget that.  I get busy dealing with situations, trying to help others, and don’t work on Jim, or more accurately,  allow God to work on Jim.

That’s been happening lately.  What brings it to consciousness is usually a combination of emotional and physical symptoms: feeling tired, struggling to get things done, feeling overwhelmed, wanting to pull the sheets over my head, looking for things to keep my mind occupied.

When this alarm goes off and I become conscious of what’s going on, I know pretty quickly what the problem is and what I have to do to reverse course.

I have to very intentionally turn control of all of the things that are weighing me down over to God. It’s not that I haven’t prayed often about all of the situations and all of the people, or that I don’t have faith that God will provide exactly what’s needed. It’s just that I have unconsciously retained a portion of the responsibility for the outcome.  I haven’t completely given these things to God, robbing myself of the peace that comes from doing so.  And of the joy of watching how He works and allows me to participate.

So today I began the day intentionally by doing just that — naming names, and listing situations, verbalizing my trust in Him to provide and lead. And I feel more peaceful, more able to respond to His urges for these situations and these people.

I’m adding “Turn Over Control” to my daily calendar.  I need daily explicit recognition that I am not in control, but that the One I serve is.

Perspective Is a Big Deal When Dealing With Fear

Posted in cancer, Caregiving, Illness, Self Care on July 20th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

Perspective is a big deal, no matter what we’re dealing with in our lives.

Tweet About WSJ Article

Tweet About WSJ Article

For example, we can have cancer, and our perspective may be, “I’m dying of cancer.”

Or, we can choose to have a different perspective:  “I’m living with cancer until I pass.”

This example is from an article in today’s Wall Street Journal discussing a program for helping cancer patients deal with their illness.  While it’s dealing with cancer patients being able to find meaning for their lives in the face of their illness, it has a lot of value for those of us facing other challenges.  I highly recommend that you read it.

With cancer, nearly everyone’s biggest fear is dying.  But it’s usually unspoken, unsurfaced even.  Once it’s surfaced, the fear can be dealt with.  One can choose to adopt a perspective that gives life meaning and purpose, that takes control away from the fear.

But this principle is much more widely applicable.

Any chronic illness — heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and any of so many others — generates fears.  What if I have another heart attack?  What if I have to live in a wheel chair?  What if I …?

Your fear may not be from a medical condition, but from a situational condition.  What if I lose my lose the ability to live at the standard of living I’ve become used to?  What if I lose my job?  What if I …?

So what fears are you, or those you love, living with that haven’t been dealt with?

How could you, or could they, benefit from a change of perspective?

Worth some thought!

Working on Self Care: Tolerations

Posted in Caregiving, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Personal, Self Care on June 13th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 3 Comments

This week started with a migraine headache on Sunday morning.

We were driving to church, and about half way there, the aura began.  So we made an unplanned stop to buy some Advil, the medicine that works best for me.  I took some, and we went on to church, then a meeting with our family caregiving support group, and then to lunch with Dad and Sara.  The migraine wasn’t gone, but it was dulled.

It bounced back on Monday, and again on Tuesday.  Not bad for a migraine, like they used to be when I was younger.  But migraines anyway.

I’ve always accepted migraines as a message — one that says I’m not doing a good job taking care of myself.  I already knew that before this week’s warning messages.  I’ve been writing about and working on self care for a few weeks now.  But it takes some time and effort to turn things around.  And other things don’t wait for that to occur before they happen — like my Dad’s cancer diagnosis last week.

So this week, I’ve redoubled my efforts at self care.  And I’m getting some support from my friend Jon Swanson, who’s writing about his approach to the same issues.

Having worked as a life coach, I know the elements of self care well.  Practicing them is often more difficult.

Self care starts with getting rid of Tolerations, those things that we are putting up with, but which bug us, bother us, upset us, worry us, and so forth.  Most people can write a list of 25 tolerations in less than 5 minutes, which is quite telling in itself.

So Monday I made a short list of tolerations that also had a urgency component, and started working on them.  Between my headache and generally bad attitude, it was sort of like slogging through knee-high mud.  But I kept at it and made some progress.  Tuesday I picked back up where I had left off, and made some more progress.  And Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday and today — more of the same.

I’d made enough progress by Wednesday that the headaches went away, and, my attitude about things was much improved.  I was feeling good about some of the things I had gotten handled, hopeful that I could handle what was to come.  We capped the week by cleaning and reorganizing the garage.  The car even fits again.

Getting rid of tolerations — many of which involve clutter and disorganization — is a big piece of self care.  It’s amazing how much more peaceful we feel when things are in order, when things are where they’re supposed to be, when the stuff we don’t need has been disposed of.

It’s taking care of stuff like cleaning the garage.  And cleaning out our closet, getting rid of the stuff we no longer wear, organizing the things we do wear.  And cleaning out my office, filing the piles into folders so that they can be easily retrieved, throwing out what is no longer needed, getting rid of things that I might find a use for some day.  And the list goes on.

Why does working on tolerations help?

  1. We’re working on things we have some control over, and we can see progress.
  2. We’re simplifying and organizing the things that otherwise bother us every day.
  3. We’re spending time and effort taking care of ourselves.

There’ll be progress reports as I keep working on it.