Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stress Relief from Music

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer. 
It sings because it has a song."

pic from:

Last Friday was a particularly hard day. I got a chance to hear from my foster daughter's own lips about her childhood. It was almost more than I could handle but I put on my mommy spirit to stay strong and supportive so that my girl could express all her emotions. Then I had to go straight to work. :( By the time I got to a special church event that night, my nerves were shot because they'd been bottled too long. As people encouraged me with hugs and sweet words, all I could really do was cry. Then Sunday, I let myself get too stressed when three different conflicts popped up. So by Monday, I woke up with a sore throat, sneezing, and a tooth that is really sensitive. Today my voice is almost completely gone. Is it allergies? A common cold? Sinus infection? I don't know but somehow I suspect that STRESS is negatively affecting my immune system.

Reflecting on all this started me thinking today about music. Recently, my daughter and I downloaded Disney music from several different movies. We've been singing along with them every chance we get and it has been bonding for us to be in the car belting out lyrics to each other of, "you ain't never had a friend like me" [Aladdin] and "Hakuna Matata" [Lion King].

Even today, I'm listening to music and it's helping so much. Probably nothing new to anyone but music can be an amazing tool. I've always believed that people who walk around humming and singing carry a lot of joy in their hearts. Something I truly appreciate about my girl is how much she sings and laughs. She's had to deal with a ton of loss in her short life but I strongly believe she lives with more joy and laughter than most people. 

So, just in case you need a pick-me-up too, besides clicking on the links for the Aladdin & Lion King songs above, here are a few I've been listening to today. And yes, my music style is diverse, some are older and some are silly but they do have me bobbing bob my head:

Radioactive (cover) 
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Twist & Shout
Power of Love 
Cups (When I'm Gone) 


Three Birds 
Hound Dog 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Single Foster-to-Adopt Mom: Carving out "me time"

Life seems to be moving too fast to blog much lately! As you may have read from previous posts, as a new single mom I'm really trying to be better about taking care of myself. Below are some ideas that I've been implementing lately in my own self-care practices:

  1. Using my shower time. Guilt free...take some extra time to relax, pray, mediate, pamper myself.
  2. Meal help - During a very stressful week, taking someone up on their offer to bring over a meal. (thanks Pree!!!!)
  3. Be creative - Zentangles and simple pencil drawings on black paper have been my mental break to help me file away the day and unwind. , I copied the idea of the drawing above from a pin I saw on pinterest that linked to this site.
  4. Use your kids bedtime routine- If your child is older, take advantage of their time getting ready for bed (while they shower & brush their teeth etc...) to get some alone time
  5. Find a low maintenance hobby - The advantage is that it's low cost. It also helps to take your mind of the day's stress and places it into the moment. Examples: taking care of a few plants/your backyard, juggling, do a word search or jumble puzzle each night...
  6. Exercise. Sometimes I jump on the treadmill in the living room while my teen watches a cartoon on tv. 
  7. Imitate your pet. I've made the decision when I see one of my cats stretch, I'll stretch my body too. It sounds funny but it's a great reminder because cats are excellent at "self-care" and relaxation. 
  8. Ask for a hug. I've found I really need hugs more than I get. I read this article that said it's good to have 8 hugs at day!! EIGHT! I need to start asking for more hugs. LOL. I get a few from my teen and some on Wed/Sundays when I see people at church but otherwise am very thirsty for them :)
  9. Use a chair massage/heating pad. My body is holding onto stress a bunch. Right now, I can't afford regular massages but I splurged a few years ago to buy one of those simple massagers that plug in and you place in a chair. It's been a great investment. Also, my heating pad helps on days I'm exhausted and my muscles are tight. It's easy to sit and listen to my kid'o tell me all about her day. I can even have it on at the dinner table.
  10. Play online educational games. Sometimes the mental break I need isn't just resting but working on a different type of "problem." So I have been using sites like lumosity and funtotype so my mind can take on a simple but different types of challenges. 
If you have any special tips you use, please let me know. :) 

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Escape! Why we NEED self-care.

Last week was tough and I was reminded of the valuable lesson in self-care. It's essential! 

Yeah, yeah, I'm not sharing anything you've not heard or read before but... there is a difference between the knowledge of something and the practice of something. 

I had the knowledge of self-care...I thought I was practicing it but when I had an emotional crash last Monday night, my body said, "Nope, you are not listening!" and basically my adoption specialist agreed. My daughter went into a respite home for 4 days. Yup, and I had a hard time with was really the worse I've seen my pride in a while...ugly pride. I specifically remember saying to my specialist, "bio parents don't get respite." And while this is doesn't mean I shouldn't take the opportunity God has given me. As a foster mom, the state provides respite to myself and my daughter. A humble woman should take it, especially when she's standing there crying in the bathroom at her wits end while on the phone with her specialist.

A few days after our conversation, after I had some sleep, a clearer mind and a quiet house, I decided to jump in the Prius, drive to a local park, pop the hatchback and jump in the back to do some inspirational reading and writing while looking out over the park.

After the first hour my mind kicked in and said, "You have stuff you NEED to do! Why are you just sitting here?" I started feeling anxious and prayed. During my prayer I realized my busy mind was fighting the "stress detox" and self care I was doing. Being busy can be an addiction of sorts and if we have an addictive personality it's easy to trade one addiction for another even as we grow in our relationship with God. These may be less scary addictions than drugs/alcohol like addiction to a certain sport, to coffee, to gaming, and the like but we still use them ultimately to do what all addictions do...numb. I've found that especially during stressful times, I need to be going to God to meet my needs. 

Because I've learned to recognize my tendency in this, I forced myself to stay...two more that I could calm my restless spirit, get some much needed peace from God and some perspective. 

So, why do we need self-care? Because truly, to take care of others, we must take care of ourselves. 

Click here to read some examples of typical self-care areas people lack in when they are caregivers. This article is specifically for those who are healing from trauma but it works well for caregivers too! A great little resource and reminder. :)

As I was looking online for encouragement and reminders for self care, especially as a foster-to-adopt parent, I came across this statement: "When a foster or adopted child has special needs, parents must juggle appointments with mental health therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, allergists, and asthma specialists. They must attend IEP meetings, keep in touch with the school principal and their child’s teacher, check in with the social worker, and establish a schedule for personal care attendants (PCAs). Ongoing appointments and emergencies keep parents so busy that attending to their own feelings and needs may be put on hold.

Self-care, however, is crucial for foster and adoptive parents. The physical and emotional toll of caring for traumatized children can be overwhelming. Children can project hurt onto parents and, at the same time, blame parents for feelings of loss and despair. Parents must understand both the complexities of foster care and adoption, and their child’s unique needs. With that knowledge and an ongoing commitment to self-care, parents can more easily remain effective and balanced." article link - here

So for me, this statement hit so close to home that my eyes started watering - "Ongoing appointments and emergencies keep parents so busy that attending to their own feelings and needs may be put on hold." My daughter arrived 2 months ago and life has been a whirlwind of trying to get to know her & building a bond, getting her in school, day camp, church camp, there have been medical appointments with 5/6 different doctors plus meetings with my agency and CPS, completing daily and monthly paperwork, and somehow trying to fit in time for her to hang out with teens her own age! 

So the question, "When can I take some time for me?" just wasn't a true priority. As I'm reflecting on self care, I realize that on top of all the activity above, I had started skipping lunches at work, have been eating less balanced meals, usually get only 6/7 hrs per night of sleep, have only exercised 3 times in the last two months, am not blogging and deeply expressing my feelings/emotions and just surviving off of shorter times with God and zendoodles for a creative outlet. My poor self care decisions must change. So I'll be praying about having a better plan to help me daily with self care...oh, and here's the new book I just downloaded to inspire me. 

Shield: A Framework of Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families [Kindle Edition] 

For those readers who are Christians, check out this article about self care as well! It provides some thoughts to chew on and consider. I really like the "What's my job?" and "Hearing God" paragraphs! : Codependency and Self-Care by Don Smith

I'm very hopeful that I can grow in this area and do better at self-care too. Anyway, that's a little update from my world. Take care of yourself too, my friend!

The Blessing of Escape - written during my time at the park
"It's too easy to judge myself and my experiences. The fact is I needed a bit of an adventure and escape. So with a backpack full of the books that most encourage and inspire me, I took off in the Prius to a local park. I sit here, resting with the hatchback open, listening to too many cars rush by and a non-working windmill whaling like an ancient dinosaur. Still the breeze is nice as it electrifies the misty rain and, when there is a break in the traffic, I can hear Mother Nature's crickets, birds, rustling leaves and well sadly, that  is just about it - ha - but my spirit, mind, & body needs some nature and change of scenery right now. I need to notice small details and vast openness. I need to be reminded of life outside of my own. I need rest but was feeling closed in at the house! I need to watch the hawk circle. I need to see summer in bloom on a rainy day. After all the rain is God's encouragement to me today. How do I take this home with me? Having the windows open wasn't enough. It takes more time, little heart and mind, purge. Stop your rushing. Stop your judging."