Month: July 2022

What is your stress sweet spot?

Why do we need some stress in our lives? We need stress in our lives to get things done and to keep us safe. With too little stress, we get bored. With too much stress, we have anxiety and porer health. 

If you went to your vacation happy place and stayed, what would happen? I can imagine your minds going into overdrive with all of the thoughts, smiles, and dreams. Come back to reality and let’s think this through.

July 27, 2022

Vacation Time and Break Time

We all enjoy a break. We all enjoy getting away. Decompression time, rest time, fun time, and alone time are all necessary for us. That one or two weeks at a time for us not to worry or deal with the day-to-day issues is awesome. I know that I think about staying on vacation forever. If I did what could happen? I could lose my job. I couldn’t afford to live year-round at the same spot where I vacation. Well, hell. What would I do in three or four months? Be bored because I didn’t have anything to do? Probably. Everybody else has to work and I don’t have anyone to play with. I am pretty good by myself, but I do want people around sometimes.

If I lived there full-time, it wouldn’t be special anymore. It would eventually, be the same old same old. A bored Pat, is not a good Pat. What about you?

Good Stress

We need some good stress. It motivates us to do something. Use your stress for good. Think about athletes. They have goals, training, and resting. They are pushing their bodies to do more than what is normal. Bigger, better, stronger, and faster are their goals.

Good stress vs bad stress. Yes, there is such a thing. Good stress is usually short-term, excites you and motivates you. You feel excited and your heart rate increases, but there is no fear or threat. Even with acute stress the body needs time to get rid of all the cortisol & other hormones to calm down. If your body does not have some down time to deal with the acute stress, it becomes as bad as bad stress.

Good stress:

    • It feels doable.

    • We know the stress is only temporary.

When good stress  becomes bad:

    1. It feels like all the time and you see no end in sight.

    1. You can’t control it.

    1. It takes up all of your time.

    1. You don’t see the long-term benefit.

    1. It comes into direct conflict with one of your life values or priorities.

Bad Stress Will Wear You Out

 Bad stress or distress wears you out. You do feel fear. You do feel like a threat is near. You may feel confused. You cannot concentrate very well. Some anxiety pops up. Bad stress can be short-term, but it can also be long-term. The long-term or chronic type of stress is the one that leads to negative health consequences.

Bad stress:

    • It no longer feels doable.

    • The stress is not temporary.

Could your stress be harmful?

You make mistakes on things that are routine for you.

You are spending a lot of time & energy on little things.

You feel stuck or paralyzed.

You don’t ask for help and you begin to isolate yourself

You are not eating well.

You are not working out or exercising.

You are not sleeping very well.


Is it possible to turn bad stress into something good?

    1. Look for the potential benefits or positives in the situation.

    1. Recognize and use your strengths to their full potential.

    1. Identify the resources that you have at hand.

    1. Collaborate with others.

    1. Learn something new.

    1. Have a positive perspective.

    1. Sometimes, you just have to be positive.

When things feel out of control or awful, do what is best for your own mind and body. When you do these types of things, you allow your brain and mind to destress so that you can handle the issues better.

    1. Good and restful sleep.

    1. Eat for nutritional health.

    1. Do something physical.

    1. Meet with your social support system.

    1. Quiet your inner critic.

Athletes often redirect stress into anticipation, excitement, and motivation, rather than allowing themselves to get into anxiety and fear of the situations. We can do this in our everyday lives, too. The sweet spot is where you are using the stress for good. You will never get rid of all stress nor should you. You can lessen it and you can navigate it!


How your attitude affects your problem solving skills

When you are frustrated, upset, or angry, you cannot problem-solve very well.

Guess what part of your brain is hijacking your normally calm, cool and collected self? The friggin’ amygdala is at it again. Fight, flight, freeze or fawn stuff. Those are the only options that we see when our amygdala is activated.

July 20, 2022

Friggin’ Amygdala and the Problem-solving Process

We know that the amygdala hijacks our abilities to make good decisions and lowers our ability to problem-solve because we cannot think about our true options. What about our attitudes? I am having a little trouble explaining attitude, so bear with me here. We each have assessments or judgments about “attitude object” We use words to describe what we like or do not like. Examples include, Like, prefer, love, do not like, hate, can’t stand, etc. We make these statements in relation to ourselves. “I like _____.” “I hate ____.” Attitudes are really evaluations that we make based on what is important to us. Our experiences are different and so our attitudes may be different too.

Attitudes are shaped by feelings and emotions. And another tidbit, emotion is sometimes the driving force behind our attitudes and behaviors.

There will be some things that you feel very strongly about. There will also be things that you don’t feel strongly about.

Structure of Attitudes

Attitude’s structure can be described in terms of three components.

    • Affective component: this involves a person’s feelings/emotions about the attitude object. For example: “I am scared of spiders”.

    • Behavioral (or conative) component: the way the attitude we have influences on how we act or behave. For example: “I will avoid spiders and scream if I see one”.

    • Cognitive component: this involves a person’s belief/knowledge about an attitude object. For example: “I believe spiders are dangerous”.

This model is known as the ABC model of attitudes.

Does a negative attitude affect problem-solving skills?

A negative attitude towards a problem makes it worse. When you think negatively, it only magnifies and deepens the emotional weight of “said problem.” You not only see the problem as a problem, you see it as an enemy or an attack on you. You can become overwhelmed and paralyzed. You know what comes next, don’t you? The downward spiral. Which makes the attitude and the problem much worse?

I like the Fish! Philosophy and want to share a little with you.

The FISH Philosophy to help problem solve

The FISH! Philosophy doesn’t promote “correct” or “approved” attitudes over others. Every situation is unique. But it is important to mindfully Choose Your Attitude. You may not control what happens to you, but you do get to decide how you respond to it.

Making a conscious choice isn’t easy, especially when a situation hijacks your emotions and drives you to react the same way you have hundreds of times before. It takes practice to take control of your response, instead of letting it control you.

Here are four tips to help you take charge and Choose Your Attitude:

1. Be aware of your inner voice
External events may trigger your feelings, but only after they go through an internal filter called your inner voice. Your inner voice starts talking to you as soon as you wake up, issuing opinions about everything you see, hear, touch, smell and feel.

Your inner voice is rarely a neutral observer. It judges each experience through the likes and dislikes you have accumulated over a lifetime. It looks for evidence that you are right and the other person is wrong. It exaggerates how bad the situation is or imagines how it might go off track. Sometimes it puts other people down. Often it puts you down, questioning your talents and capabilities.

If you want to choose your attitude, not just react, you must challenge your inner voice. Catch it in the moment, then take a step back. Instead of just accepting what it is telling you, observe it as a neutral onlooker.

Just becoming aware that it is a voice, and what it is saying is one of several possible interpretations, helps you decide how much to believe it—and the best way to respond. 

2. What’s your goal?
To mindfully choose how you respond to what life throws at you, you need a plan. Decide who you want to “be” today. Keep your goal top of mind. Select a few words that describe your intentions, such as “patient”, “open” or “helpful”. Focus on living those qualities.

Moment-to-moment awareness is key. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What is my attitude now? Is it helping me to be as effective as I can be? Is it helping the people who depend on me?”

Think ahead: What people or situations are likely to test your attitude today? What might push your buttons? Rehearse how you will respond. Reaffirm your goal and stay focused on the response that helps you achieve it.

Consider the long-term consequences of your reactions. Say a member of your team makes a bad mistake or you have a disagreement with them. Is the momentary satisfaction of tearing into them worth damaging your relationship? Disagreements and problems come and go, but your relationships are not so easily replaced.

3. Adopt a “growth” attitude
Your attitudes are shaped by how you see others—and by how you see yourself.

People with a “fixed” attitude see their abilities as set and established. They know what they’re good at and view what they’re not good at as talents they don’t have the capacity to improve (“I could never learn that!” or “I wasn’t born with a brain for that!”).

People with a fixed mindset see tasks requiring them to step outside their comfort zones as threats. Confident in what they already excel at, they fear mistakes that might threaten their identity. They only pay attention to feedback and information that confirms their beliefs.

People with a growth mindset believe they can always improve their skills. It doesn’t mean you can do anything, like play in the NBA or be an opera star. It means you never know what more is possible for you and do not limit yourself before you try. It means seeing mistakes as a chance to learn and stretch yourself.

Studies show people with growth attitudes are more engaged and empowered. They handle change more successfully. They’re more flexible and open to seeing new solutions. In workplaces that support a growth attitude, people collaborate more and feel safe to try new approaches.

4. Challenge your assumptions
It’s natural to assume the worst about other people’s motives and capabilities, especially if we don’t agree or connect positively with them. Believing they offer little of value to us, we usually try to avoid them—which doesn’t do much for team collaboration and camaraderie.

If you have a coworker or employee you think has a bad attitude or lack of motivation, move past your assumptions. Reach out. Find out why—not with accusations but with caring questions. You may learn they are dealing with a trying situation at home or work stresses you didn’t know about. Knowing this will help you respond to them more productively.

Treat them with a little kindness and encouragement and you may see a different side of them. Learn their perspective. Find out what they do well and seek their input. People tend to respond to you based on how you treat them. If not, you have chosen an attitude you can be proud of.

Back to problem-solving.

If you don’t see a problem as a disaster, you are more likely to be calm and think about your options. Are you open to looking at the problem as an opportunity? We like opportunities. Our brains like opportunities. Our brains like to brainstorm. Finding any and all possible solutions to our dilemma. Now, not everything thing will be a winner, but the whittling down comes a little later in the process.

Improve problem-solving skills

Would you like to be a more effective problem-solver? Then invite positivity into your environment. Positive attitudes increase creativity and problem-solving skills. A positive attitude also increases productivity.

    • Some ways to create a positive attitude:

    • Write down three things you are grateful for each day (not the same 3 things, either)

    • Take breaks during your day

    • Tell a few jokes, or watch a funny animal video

    • Think about the ways to have a great morning and do them

    • Don’t spread gossip, don’t listen to gossip

    • Look forward to something outside of work

    • Practice meditation, walk, work-out

    • Have some “you time”- unwind, destress, play

    • Listen to music, watch a funny TV show, read an uplifting or funny book

    • Hang-out with positive people

    • Be open to possibilities

    • Stop the “stinking thinking”

    • Sit with your feelings and acknowledge them

    • Recharge your batteries

    • Stop complaining

    • Assume responsibility, choose your response

    • Laugh


Caregivers: Do You Know Your Limitations?

“A man’s got to know his limitations,” Dirty Harry in Magnum Force

I really like that quote. We all need to know our limitations or the scope of our knowledge base. I get it, most of us push past our limitations before we realize what we are doing. Can we get better at finding our limitations before we blow past them? Let’s explore a little and see…

Do you know your limitations or do you just keep on pushing? You know when you keep pushing your limits, the stress piles up or you leave collateral damage in your wake.

July 13, 2022

As a caregiver or helper, you are tasked with many different challenges every day and some will push you past your limits. Most of us know our limitations. However, we do not always heed the warning signs that we are getting close to them. A few folks do not know their limits and get into trouble before they realize, “Oops, I messed up.”

Other words for limitations include – Constraint, Control, Obstruction, Impediment, or Qualification

Realizing and Recognizing Your Limits Can Actually Benefit You

What if realizing and accepting your limits could benefit you? What if knowing your limits and your boundaries allow you to take care of yourself in body, mind, and spirit? Learning what to give and share as well as knowing what you need from your relationships Boundaries are important too.

Knowing your limits can help you to assess the areas that you can improve on. Knowing your limits also allows you to use your strengths. Another way to look at knowing your limits is to prevent burnout and decrease your stress.

Definitaion of Stress

When I think about stress, I always remember the line – “Stress: the confusion created when one’s mind overrides the body’s desire to choke the living shit out of some asshole who desperately needs it.” It always makes me smile.

I get it. We can learn new skills when we hit our limitations. Usually, that is true. It is not always true though. There are times when we have hit our limitations and we need to stop. Accepting our limitations is not the same thing as accepting failure. That is probably the crux of everything anyway, the fear of failure.

You may have all the information, but do you know how to apply that information?

No matter how well we manage our time, we only have 24 hours in a day to get things done. We are limited by what we can and cannot control. We do not have endless abilities or endless knowledge about everything. We are good at what we do. We are experts at our jobs. But, that does not translate into expertise at everything. For example, I am good at what I do with research, finding solutions, and preparing plans of action with guidance and support. Now, I have a plumbing problem at home. I am smart and I can figure a lot of things out. I can research info online and handle it. WRONG! I can have all of the information in the world, but if I don’t know how to apply that information, I am stuck, frustrated, and angry. Guess who might bear the brunt of my frustration and anger? Yep, family and friends.

Knowing and being able to do it or handle it are two different things. Find the expert you need. Save yourself a lot of stress, frustration, and anger. Stop beating your head against the wall.

Which of these responses do you recognize in your own life when dealing with frustration?

    • Anger – an angry person often reacts without thinking

    • Giving up – you quit everything and you no longer care about the goal (this is not the same thing as deciding to give up on an unreachable goal)

    • Loss of confidence – you might take a hit to your self-esteem too by giving up

    • Stress – too much stress breaks our bodies down (irritability, anger, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, depression, low back pain, stomach pains, migraines, ulcers, etc.)

    • Depression – continued stress or anxiety that causes brain chemical changes

    • Abuse and misuse – drugs, alcohol, food, shopping

    • Anxiety, Fear, Sadness, Guilt, or Shame are other responses to frustration.

I know that we have chased a few rabbits today. A lot of things are interconnected. I want you to know your limitations. I want you to prevent excess stress and burnout. Continued stress leads to burnout. You will begin to feel empty and numb. You don’t just numb the negative feelings; you numb the good ones too. Your “get up and go” has “got up and went.” You no longer have the motivation you once had. You are tired. Sometimes, you feel hopeless or stuck.

If you have thought or said, “I know that it will never get better,” you could very well be at the burnout stage.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

    • Feeling anxious

    • Feeling irritable

    • Feeling stressed

    • Feeling resentment

    • You are neglecting your own health

    • You are missing out on important events

    • You are not eating properly

    • You are not exercising

    • Your finances are taking a hit

    • You feel lonely

    • Increased alcohol consumption

    • Overreacting

    • Impatience

Setting limits will actually help you to achieve your goals. Limit your goals to 4 or 5 per year. You cannot do everything. Pick ones that mean the most to you and focus on them. Limit your tasks to 3 per day. Only do the important and necessary things. Place a time limit on your tasks. Focus on the task at hand. Stop adding stuff to your schedule and start crossing off the things that are not a priority.


Caregivers: Do you have the skills, knowledge and expertise to be a good family caregiver?

You think you can. You said you will. But, do you have the knowledge and expertise to do it safely?

Most of the time we don’t think about all the consequences before we jump in and do what we do. Maybe it isn’t really consequences, but more the techniques and training you will need for certain tasks.  Unfortunately, some caregiving tasks are not on-the-job training. They can be dangerous to your loved one and to you if not done properly.

July 6, 2022

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Find your strengths and your “not-so-good-ats” (weaknesses). Find your helpers. Have them figure out their strengths and “not-so-good-ats” too. You will have to honestly assess your abilities, your capabilities, and your training needs.

You know that there are some things that you can do, things that you can take care of and things that others will need to handle. Knowing is always better. It helps you to make a plan, make a schedule and prepare for the future.

Sure, you can fly by the seat of your pants and find yourself in a constant state of managing by crises. Talk about exhausting, frustrating and maddening, this will do it. Planning for what you can plan for makes everyone feel more safe, secure and settled. When the unexpected arises, you can handle it easier and with less stress.

Some tasks that caregivers do, provide and handle.

    • Buy groceries, cook, clean house, do laundry, provide transportation

    • Help the care receiver get dressed, take a shower, take medicine

    • Transfer someone out of bed/chair, help with physical therapy, perform medical interventions—injections, feeding tubes, wound treatment, breathing treatments

    • Arrange medical appointments, drive to the doctor, sit in during appointments, monitor medications

    • Talk with doctors, nurses, care managers, and others to understand what needs to be done

    • Spend time handling crises and arranging for assistance—especially for someone who cannot be left alone

    • Handle finances and other legal matters

    • Be a companion

    • Be a (usually) unpaid aide, on call 24/7

    • Be some emotional support

    • Be backup care and extra care when needed

    • Take care of lawn maintenance, outside house maintenance

    • Help with wheelchair usage

    • Help with oxygen usage

    • Help with CPAP machine usage

    • Help them walk with a belt to decrease fall risks

    • Help turn them and move them in bed

    • Help with hearing aid insertion and removal

    • Help with false teeth

    • Bathe them (maintaining modesty and dignity)

    • Change sheets with them in the bed

    • Pay bills

    • Housekeeping

    • Laundry

    • Help/Monitoring physical therapy exercises at home

    • Checking blood sugar (how and when)

    • Checking blood pressure

    • Checking weight

    • Handle a crisis or an emergency

    • And much more

As you can see, some of these things you can do and handle. Others may take some training. I know that there are online training courses and probably some in-person training places in some areas. You will need to search in your area for what is available.

Online Trainings Available

Tennessee Department of Health


Meet Caregivers Caregiver Training

Caregiver Training online course

A Place for Mom trainings and videos

APFM videos and courses

These will get you started.

What about your own physical strength?

Do you have the physical strength to transfer the care receiver? Do you have the physical strength to help someone get into and out of the shower or bath that is mostly dead weight? Toileting and bathing are intimate experiences and are very tough to handle. Not everyone can or will learn do it. It can be very unnerving and very uncomfortable. Your loved one will feel the same way. Be patient and respectful. It is going to take more time than you think for bathing.

Do you know how to help with personal hygiene appropriately and safely?

Personal hygiene is probably the hardest to do. No one likes it, but it is necessary. You will have to make the decision to do it, all of the love you feel for them will not make it any easier.  You will have to use discipline to get it done. Get yourself trained. The training will help you to feel more comfortable with doing it safely. The training will help you increase your confidence. The training will help your loved one feel more safe and secure.

You are more apt to be able to help with personal hygiene if you have been properly trained. As many family members as possible need this type of training. It is a learnable skill. Focus on the positive aspects of them being clean. Think about how you feel after a bath or shower. You do feel better. You do rest better. Teeth brushed, hair combed, lotion on body with clean clothes makes everyone feel better.

Full bathing two or three times a week is good enough. Do spot cleaning on the other days. You want to keep the skin from breaking down. You want to prevent infections from happening. A daily bath for dementia patients is better because they like routine. Lotion up after the bath. You can find your routine and rhythm.

What if you have a bad back and you need to help your loved one out of a chair or from the floor. How can you do that without hurting them or yourself? Learn the techniques. How much dead weight can you lift safely? Get yourself trained.

When you can no longer do personal hygiene or lift and transfer safely, it is time to bring in home care help or begin the transitioning to assisted living/nursing home.