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6 days ago · Practicing self-kindness: Part 2 in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

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Last week we started the conversation about self-kindness or self-compassion and challenged you to a few concrete self-kindness activities you could try for a week. In this week’s post, we’d like to address how you might more broadly and in a life-style change sort of way, live a life of self-kindness. Specifically, we’d like to help you continually monitor your self-critic and pay kind attention to yourself.

Monitoring your self-critic

How would you respond if you heard a friend saying critical things about themselves? You’d probably jump in to support them and show then kindness, even if they are not perfect. We’d like you to talk to yourself like you would that dear friend.

It’s easy to be kind to ourselves when we think we deserve it, but past and current experiences and emotional mood states can make it difficult for us to accept kindness from ourselves.  Despite that you may not always believe it, you deserve to be treated with patience, love, tenderness, compassion, and grace.  Self-kindness is an important “practice.”  It may not come naturally to all of us so we actually have to practice being kind to ourselves.  This involves generating feelings of caring and kindness towards yourself, instead of being critical and judgmental. Speak and treat yourself in a nurturing way. Have the courage to be imperfect and believe that you are enough just as you are. Validate and embrace the vulnerability that may emerge from this.

Self-kindness exercises to nurture your inner voice

 

  1. Practice kindness with yourself:

Say three nice things to yourself, about yourself, each day.

Example: I’m a good friend/spouse.  I have a good sense of humor.  I have these strengths and abilities: (list strengths and abilities). I’m perfectly imperfect.

 

  1. Tell yourself “I love you”:

Put your hand on your heart and take a breath and say “Good morning (state your name).”

Do this for 1-2 weeks.

Placing your hand on your heart as you do this also releases oxytocin (a “love hormone”) which is good for you.

 

Advanced practice:

Put your hand on your heart and say, “Good morning, I love you (state your name).”

Allow yourself to receive this kind attention and self-love.

We may not always believe it each day, but give it to yourself anyway.

 

  1. Kind attention:

Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention with kindness. Notice when you are becoming self-critical and/or judgmental and pay kind attention to your responses and compassionately respond to yourself again.

Example:

Negative/critical attention: I always mess things up.

Kind attention: I made a mistake, mistakes happen.  I can learn from this.

 

Advanced practice:

Cultivate kind attention to what may seem like an unforgiveable part of yourself.  You are so much more than your past actions.  You can change and choose differently now.

 

  1. Check your perfectionistic talk:

Perfectionism is a thought pattern with unrealistically high standards.  Do you judge yourself in a harsher manner than others would judge you?

Notice when you “should” yourself.  (Ex. I should have done “X.”  I should have known “Y.”) Change “should” to “could.”  (Ex. I could have done “X.”) It turns regrets about the past into a strategy for the future.

 

  1. Ask yourself “what do I need now?” and give it to yourself:

Every “now” is a different “now” so you will answer this question differently each time.

Notice if you need:

Quiet/stillness

Activity/socialization

Food/drink

Cool/warm shower or bath

Activity with rest breaks (pace yourself)

Physical touch

Space and time to yourself

A friend to talk to

 

Some of these may feel awkward when you first start the exercises, but the longer you do them intentionally, the more often you will be able to act with self-kindness in time of challenge or stress. “Self-compassion is nurturing yourself with all the kindness and love you would shower on someone you cherish.” (Debra Reble, PhD). We cherish our loved ones even with all of their mistakes and imperfections. Let’s cherish ourselves as much as we do those loved ones!

 

Tue, Mar 12 8:00am · Practicing self-kindness: Part 1 in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

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Random acts of kindness

Have you ever engaged in a random act of kindness? We hear those delightful stories all the time–the kind customer who bought coffee for the person behind them in line or a surprise batch of cookies for a lonely next-door-neighbor. And there is simple kindness toward others–compliments, a smile, praise, or just saying hello! The writer Barbara de Angelis said, ”Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.”

I think we can all agree that kindness is powerful and to be kind to one another is valued. But what about self-kindness?  Today, we’d like to suggest some ways that you can be both the giver and the receiver of kindness by practicing self-kindness–get that double blessing! None of us are perfect—we all make mistakes and have flaws. But when we add stress to the mix, such as a challenging diagnosis like Mild Cognitive Impairment, acts of self-kindness can help. Self-kindness can help both you and your loved ones cope with your own internal experiences (your thoughts and emotions) as well as day to day outside stress with more resiliency. Mild Cognitive Impairment is, unfortunately, one of those stressors we just can’t change. It is what it is. And when you can’t change that external stressor, you CAN change your response to it.

Deliberate acts of self-kindness

Here are some recommendations for practicing self-kindness. This week, I’d like to challenge you to randomly pick an activity from the list below each day for the next week. Give that activity a try and see what happens!

  1. Do something nice for yourself (flowers, a movie, meet up with a friend, splurge on a fancy coffee).
  2. Praise yourself! Find one thing to compliment yourself about. Write that on your mirror in dry erase marker.
  3.  Watch your self-critic. If you hear a discouraging voice in your head–tell yourself something positive. What would you tell a friend if you heard them saying such discouraging words to him or herself?
  4. Spend 30 minutes doing something you love.
  5. Ask your partner or a friend or loved one to join you for lunch.
  6. Write a list of 5 things you are grateful for.
  7. Send yourself a thank you note–there is always something you can thank yourself for!
  8. Give yourself permission to say no. Say no to doing things that make you unhappy and yes to things you’d rather do instead.
  9. Set your own pace. Allow yourself to complete a task at a pace comfortable to you, even if that is slower than in the past.
  10. Walk tall and smile!  You will feel better and so will those you smile with!

Let us know how it goes!  Or  tell us what is your favorite random act of self-kindness? Next week, we’ll aim to go a little more in depth into more broad concepts of practicing self-kindness in an ongoing manner in your approach to yourself and life.

Sep 25, 2018 · Habits of Calm: The Body Scan in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Thank you! One of my favorite sayings is, "sometimes you have to go slow to go fast." Slowing it down and being more present and intentional in our moments is definitely an ongoing practice.

Sep 25, 2018 · Habits of Calm: The Body Scan in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

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How do you notice stress?

Symptoms of stress can vary from person to person. Every person’s body sends out a different set of red flags. Some common examples of stress body signals are:  increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, breathing changes (fast or shallow breathing), stomach and digestive problems, dizziness, sweating, lightheadedness, tremors, fatigue, pain (ex. headaches), tension in various muscles in your body etc.

How the body scan can help

The body scan is a mindfulness exercise that can help you reduce stress in your body by bringing awareness and identifying parts of the body that hold both physical and emotional stress tension.  It increases kind attention and awareness, and acceptance of things as they are.  It also helps us practice being in the “being” mode instead of the “doing” mode.  Cultivating internal peace not only helps us feel better in our mind and body, but this calmness can help guide our interactions with daily stressors.  We can’t always fix a stressor, but we can change our response to it.

Consider trying the body scan meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn to practice mindful awareness of thoughts and body sensations.  Notice how this awareness can affect your body, as well as your moment by moment experiences in your daily living.

Doing vs. Being

“Doing mode” is goal-oriented, narrowly focused, “get it done” way of thinking and behaving.  It also tries to close the discrepancy between how things are and how we would like them to be.  Doing mode involves thinking about the past, present, and future.  Doing mode works well for strategizing how to solve problems and achieve goals that we can do, but it doesn’t work well for things that we can’t do or we can’t fix.

“Being mode” is accepting and allowing what is happening without any immediate pressure to change it.  There is no goal or desired state to achieve, and there is no problem to solve.  Being mode focuses on the present moment and dropping into it and experiencing it as it is, rather than viewing it through past experiences or future predictions.  Awareness is focused on the experience of the moment so it can be processed in all of its fullness, rather than comparing moments.

Acceptance isn’t resignation

Acceptance of something is allowing it to be as it is, not because you like it or want it that way, but because it is that way …for right now anyway.  Letting go of our desire to want things to be different than they are, and making space to allow things to be exactly as they are, can help us struggle less with the moment.  Instead of constantly trying to fix or change the moment, we learn to live and even thrive within it.

What are the ways you handle stress and take care of yourself?

Apr 17, 2018 · “I Already Told You That”- When Memory Affects Communication in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

I Already Told You

For those living with MCI, it’s a common issue to repeat questions or stories due to your short term memory problem. At times you may be aware that you are repeating yourself, but since you can’t recall the answer, you ask the question again. Other times you may not be aware that you’ve asked the question before, but you sense the frustration in your loved one based on his/her response: “I already told you that!”

Here are some tips for you and your loved one to consider in tackling this difficult problem for both of you.

Your loved one may not always understand MCI, or may lack patience with your memory loss. Some people get frustrated when they are asked the same question again because they may assume that the person they responded to was not listening or paying attention to their response. This is not the necessarily the case with MCI.

Since memory problems are mild in MCI, and you may still be very independent, your partner may on occasion forget that you have a short term memory problem. However, it’s not a  “selective hearing” problem, or you’re “trying to be difficult” problem, it’s a memory problem.  If you believe they get frustrated or angry with you when they remind you that you’ve already asked the question, you may have hurt feelings.  Or, you may feel embarrassed, sad, frustrated, anxious, depressed, etc.  Your memory may be impaired, but your feelings and emotions are not.

Neither of you can change MCI, but you can change your response to it.

Care partners may need some guidance in adjusting their communication with you. Some care partners may suggest you “try harder” to remember, or will quiz you, or give you vague hints in hopes that you’ll remember. Be patient with them because these old techniques of exercising your memory may have worked in the past, but they no longer do. Talk to your partner about your needs and what they can specifically do to better communicate with you.  We offer these tips:

Communication tips for repeating questions: 

  1. Ask your partner to repeat the answer to a question as if you had asked it for the first time. Saying, “I already told you that!” can just upset everyone involved.
  2. Encourage your partner to face you when you are speaking to one another. Don’t talk to each other when you are walking away or when you are in different rooms.
  3. Minimize and/or omit distractions and noise during a conversation. Remind your partner to turn off the television or stop their activity while you are having an important conversation.
  4. If you are a HABIT alumni, use your Memory Support System (MSS) to write things down that your partner says. Refer to your MSS (blue book/calendar) multiple times a day and search for the answer there before asking your partner. If your partner notices that you’ve asked the same question a few times, allow them to encourage you to write that information in your MSS.
  5. Tell your care partners to be brief and specific with the information they are communicating to you.
  6. Let your care partner know you need time to respond. Ask them to give you a moment, instead of interrupting or finishing your sentence.
  7. Try to tackle one topic or task at a time. Write down the details of that topic or task before moving on to the next one. If you have many tasks to complete, make a list and pick one task to work on at a time. If you are using your MSS, use the scheduled events/appointments or to-be-done list to record and/or break down tasks.
  8. Check in with your care partner after the conversation—are you both on the same page? Do you know what the other person is trying to convey?
  9. Speak kindly to yourself (and your care partner) when you are struggling. Being harsh with yourself is not going to help you recall the information any better or any faster. It will only make you feel worse emotionally. Have compassion for yourself and speak to yourself as you would a dear friend.
  10. MCI is causing the memory issues. So, remind yourself and others that it is not your fault when you don’t remember.

Learning new behaviors can take time to master.  So if your partner messes up, please forgive them, because they too are learning.  If you and your partner are struggling to communicate, you may want to consider getting help through an MCI support group or a partner support group. You can contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for MCI support 1(800)272-3900.

 

Feb 2, 2018 · Money, Memory, and Future Planning in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Safe Finances

Mismanaging money is a common problem in people who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Memory impairment can unfortunately impact our accuracy with our finances. Have you noticed money errors now and then? Here are some safeguards people diagnosed with MCI can put in place to help themselves stay protected and financially safe, while also aiming to maintain independence as much as possible. If you’ve been diagnosed with MCI, we encourage to you consider putting some of these plans in place, even if you haven’t had any problems managing finances.

 

1). Limit use of credit cards and ATM cards and consider a prepaid credit card or having a limited amount of cash on hand instead. Do you really need to carry all of your credit cards in your purse or wallet?  If you’ve had any difficulty misplacing items, or forgetting your wallet/purse, that old habit may actually make it easier to loose them. Further, discuss with your care partner what is a safe amount of money to carry with you.

 

2). Involve a trusted loved one or finance professional in supervision of payment of bills and other expenses. Consider adding that individual onto your accounts so that they can help you when needed (bank accounts, utilities, mortgage, other financial accounts). This person can help keep an eye out for mistakes and let you know if frequent errors occur. If you have already noticed yourself making financial mistakes this may be your signal that it is time to get assistance and/or turn over some financial management to someone else.

 

3).  Be on the lookout for mail ,email, and phone  financial scams.  If you are contacted by a source that you are not familiar with, and do not routinely do business with, please discuss it with a trusted family member or friend.  Do not send any money or give any personal information to unknown sources, even if it looks or sounds official.  There are several Medicare, IRS, fake charities, law enforcement, and sweepstakes etc. scams, so protect yourself against fraud and identity theft by double checking the source with someone you trust.  The IRS puts out a “dirty dozen” list of scams for taxpayers to be aware of on their website: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/dirty-dozen

 

4).  Consider completing a durable financial power of attorney document.  This document allows you to give financial decision making power to someone you trust in the event you are not able to make financial decisions. Lawyers who specializes in elder law and financial and estate planning can also help you complete this document. 

 

5).  Think about creating a retirement budget, or revising your existing one if you already have one, with your care partner and/or a financial advisor that includes your health care costs, basic living expenses, recreational expenses, and unforeseen expenses.   This can help relieve any future financial worries and maintain good spending habits. 

 

Dec 19, 2017 · Help Beat the Holiday Stress with a Loving-Kindness Meditation in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. It is a “heart” meditation.  Research shows that loving kindness meditation can benefit our personal well-being by increasing positive emotions and decreasing negative emotions. Meditation can also help trigger the relax response in our body. Feeling calmer in our mind and body can help us physically, cognitively, and emotionally feel better.

Loving-kindness is an unconditional type of love that does not depend on whether a person deserves it or not. It’s not restricted to certain beings, but rather it includes all beings.  Loving-kindness is sent with no “strings attached,” no expectation of something in return.  The meditation starts by sending ourselves love, kindness, and compassion, because it can be difficult to send unconditional love and acceptance to others if we do not extend it to ourselves first.  The meditation then sends this loving-kindness to other people in our lives as well as the world.

Try this meditation from Mayo’s Dan Abraham’s Healthy Living Center:

Loving Kindness Meditation

When you complete the meditation just notice how you emotionally feel afterwards as you check in with yourself and your heart space.  We’d love to hear you share your results.