I was called to go to a patient's bedside...
Sometimes it happens - less than you might imagine for hospice. We pretend we are in control, and we are, of some things, but life happens.
It's like my Grandmother Annie said: "Everyone takes their time to be born and to die..."
She had no idea I would be a hospice chaplain...and be quoting her wisdom to you decades later.
Ah, life happens.
But each death take a toll on caregivers...
These little deaths can add up and my body keeps score. Even if my brain feels honored to do this work and the rest of me is also so very grateful, it can tally in my body as textbook trauma.
I have found in the last six years that my body holds these little griefs and deaths.
Peppermint takes you up, but lavender takes me down...
In other words, caregiving and its incremental life and death dramas and losses will creep up on you and PRESTO I/you have accumulated enough embodied stress to get us sick. The issue for me, is that it is an equally slow release process.
I would like to 'let it go' but physically, alas, I have not found that button. It is a slow drip, drip, drip of releasing. If I ignore it, stress can get deep pretty quickly.
Naming the feeling and feeling it works too.
Actually the quickest route is feeling the loss, and naming it as soon as it possible for a caregiver. Having a meltdown in front of the patient, is not useful. They are most likely unable to respond and you just feel foolish. But simply sitting with it is the most efficient way I have found to AVOID storing it for processing–later.
I have recently tried something new into my daily process - see if it helps you:
I have now made a daily habit of using essential oils to train my body/mind/spirit...I am employing the wisdom of Pavlov's dog...to wake up or chill out. Aromatherapy is effective for getting under my skin and softening the accumulated stressors of caregiving.
Try a bottle of Dr. Bonner's Peppermint Soap. This refreshing secret weapon has been around since hippie days and is no mainstream in many supermarkets. (Try it with a super exfoliating mit for extra 'letting go' superpowers.)
No matter how stressed out you are as a caregiver, hey, we need to shower.
To relax, I use lavender in various forms
to trigger and align all my senses to the task that I do not need to hold on to another's story. To take them on, to embody to these stories and their associated sadnesses will not help me help them. It will not help me–in fact it gets in the way of being a good caregiver. When I leave a patient - during the day or at the end of my day, I use lavender anti-bacterial hand sanitizer to mentally relax...(I imagine it as allowing their story to pass out of my body and into the good Earth which knows what to do with it.) ( I use the anti-bacterial one which is simply alcohol and does not teach the germs to be super germs.)
EO has a wonderful line of lavender which uses essential oils not some artificial, chemical clone of the scent...and it says its organic (which is bound to be better, right?)
If it has been ...one of those days... where you never seem to catch up to the goodness. I take a lavender bubble bath or shower. Kiehl's has one a lavender series of liquid soaps, and lotions. Dr. Bonner's has one too...
Try it...and let me know how it works for you. And Share yours.
Please share your best 'how to get under the skin of stress' practices. It will make the world a more peaceful (an sane) place.
on a Chaplain's life