AHW Counseling & Consulting, PLLC.

The Tired Caregiver: 3 Quick Tools You Can Use THIS Week to Take Better Care of YOU

Do you find yourself taking care of everyone else first, and taking care of you very, very last? When you are caring for a loved one with a chronic illness, it is so easy to forget about you. Whether it’s your child, spouse, parent, or close friend, often their illness and pain and needs can easily find a way to override your needs and your care.  

One common response to this is the old tried and true airplane oxygen mask example. What do they say at the beginning of literally every single flight that takes off every single day? If you are traveling with a young child, secure your oxygen mask first, then secure your child’s oxygen mask next. How does this even make sense? You are going to worry about YOU breathing before your CHILD is breathing? Well….yes.

If you can’t breathe, you are no good to your child. You become helpless yourself. You are the one that needs help from flight attendants or those around you. And then what has happened to your child? They need help and you are no longer available to provide that help. It’s a tough one to swallow, it’s a little cliche, but it really is a great analogy for being a caregiver. If you can’t breathe, you can’t provide care.

So let’s take 3 easy steps to help give you some oxygen. These are simple and are extremely effective. And the great news is that you can use them starting this week. No prep work needed, nothing fancy, just 3 simple tools to take some time for you.

Breathe. The first tool is to literally work on breathing. It’s the most simple, most readily available, cheapest, easiest tool that our bodies come built with at birth. Think of a phrase with two words that calms you down and gives you peace. In your head say one on the inhale and one on the exhale. “I’m okay”, “Peaceful thoughts”, “Calm heart”, or even “In and Out” are a few examples. Take a moment each day and breathe using your two words as you inhale the therapeutic breath, filling your body with care, and exhale the stress, letting your shoulders come down.


 Schedule it. If you are a caregiver for someone with chronic illness, you know how to schedule. You live by a schedule. Your calendar is full and balanced and every day you likely review it and then live by it. So schedule time for you. Literally put it on your calendar, to take 5 minutes just for you. If daily feels impossible, and I know it may, try 3 times a week and build up. Practicing helps. Decide how you want to spend those 5 minutes and write that in as the appointment. Is it breathing with your eyes closed? Maybe taking a 5 minute walk around the block. Reading a magazine. Sipping your coffee, alone and quietly. Simply putting it on the calendar makes all the difference. Everything on your calendar is valid and necessary and important. Time for you is too and having it on your calendar will make time for you valid and necessary and important.


Use a transition ritual. What’s a transition ritual? Well it’s whatever you want it to be, but it’s used to help you transition from one thing to the next. Some people use it at the beginning of their day, after they drop their children off at school and head to work by stopping for coffee. Others may use it at the end of their work day to transition from work brain to home brain, by listening to a funny podcast, or a distracting playlist, or maybe driving in the car in silence. It can be used all day long, basically any time you move from one thing to the next. Shifting gears. Transitioning. When caring for a loved one dealing with chronic illness, there is constant transition. Daily transitions from appointments to home to daily care to ups to downs. Our brains are amazing and actually can take on quite a bit of  transition but what if we made it a little easier with a ritual? Especially after stressful experiences that require a lot of energy. Maybe Wednesday’s physical therapy is always stressful, what little thing can you do afterwards to then help you transition to getting home and starting to cook dinner? What helps your brain close one experience, have a little space, and then shift and be ready for the next? You could create a transition ritual playlist, music that helps your brain breathe for a minute. Maybe you have a friend that you check in with to help make the shift. Replenishing with water, coffee, or a snack. Using your thoughts to shift out of one and into the other… “Physical therapy was so hard today. It was exhausting. But it’s done. We are not there anymore. My next step is cooking dinner. In between those two I’m going to take some sips of water, breathe, and listen to my transition ritual song.”



It may be hard to imagine adding one more thing, but these little tools may actually open up even more space. It’s funny how sometimes adding some love and care for yourself can open up time. It can help us be more efficient and gives a little room so that the space being taken up by being tired and worn down can be replaced with more energy for YOU.

Next Steps

If you are a caregiver for a loved one dealing with a chronic illness and would like additional support, there are therapists such as myself that specialize in supporting those dealing with chronic illness and medical trauma. Chronic illness, injury, and rare complex diagnoses impact the entire family. If you are looking for more support, please contact me here. I offer free 15 minute consultations where I’ll try to get an idea of what you are dealing with and how I can help. I can let you know if I think therapy would be a good fit for you. We will get a good sense of each other and can decide if I’m the best fit for you. Together we will make a plan for the next steps.

american-bags-busy-1798948Transition Rituals Life is crazy! It seems as though the world keeps picking up pace, moving faster and faster. Our smart devices encourage this speed because they allow us to keep moving so that no matter where we are…we can just keep going. And our lives are full. Family, relationships, work, household management, kids, friends, exercise, etc etc etc. There is much to balance with multiple transitions all throughout the day. Whether at work or at home we are constantly moving from one thing to the next. It can make us crazy but there is a REALLY SIMPLE thing you can do to help.

Transition rituals. Helping our brains and bodies move from one thing to the next is key to regaining energy, helping our minds shift more easily, and to feeling more productive and alive at the end of the day. A transition ritual is a simple practice of taking a moment, a break, between appointments, tasks, or any other shifts in the day to more easily and more mindfully move from one to the next. It could be breathing, listening to a song, taking a coffee or water break, meditating on a word, anything that allows your brain and body to rest for a moment, more calmly transitioning to the next.

I first heard about transition rituals when I was in grad school. A professor started talking about how important this practice was for therapists as we move from one client session to the next. Each session we need to bring different parts of who we are, skills, and offerings to the people we work with, and we need to be able to shift from what one person needs, to what the next person needs. It’s great self-care for me as I am holding space for one person’s story and then shifting, caring for myself, so that I can bring my very best energy and self to my next client.

adult-beverage-coffee-999305This idea really resonated with me and I’ve been practicing it as a therapist between sessions ever since I began doing therapy. But then I realized, transition rituals are for everyone. It hit me one day when I was talking to a friend about the stress of her daily morning routine. During her morning, she went from the crazy rush of getting her daughter to school to then quickly transitioning into her professional world and driving to work. She talked about the “break” that she built in between these two parts of her life by grabbing a coffee and mentally resetting. She worried that this was not a good use of her time. My response to her was, “It’s your transitional ritual. It’s the very best use of your time!” It’s what she needed to move from Mom to Professional. It was clear to her that she needed this time to shift well. Releasing the energy and or stress it took to get to the school drop off then transitioning to the next energy that she wanted to bring to start her work day. My friend was doing this transition practice accidentally and what I suggest, and encouraged her, is that you mindfully do this with intention. Acknowledging transitional moments help you navigate the day in a more mindful way.

A great secret about transition rituals….they count for meditation! There is SO much research now about the positive immediate impact that meditation can have on us. Research also supports the ongoing positive outcomes of meditation for months even years after we start a meditative practice.

A few of these incredible outcomes of meditative or mindful practices are:

  • stress and anxiety reduction
  • promoting better sleep
  • generating kindness
  • increasing focus
  • helping with pain control

Meditation does not have to be 20 minutes twice a day to have a positive impact. Transitioning with 2-3 minutes of quiet breathing can have similar effects in helping our minds take breaks to rest, then move ahead, filling us with time that we took care of ourselves and restored the ever sought after energy.

close-up-eyes-face-792043It’s simple. I like simple. I believe we need simple as a society today. It can be at the beginning of the day, the end of the day, between appointments, or it can even be all day long as you shift from one thing to the next. After a sprint of focus, take 2-3 minutes to sit quietly, be still, and breathe. Inhale, filling up on all that you just experienced, exhale to let it go. Think of a word that works for you….”let go”, “relax”, “shift”, “transition”. Keep repeating it as your shoulders begin to come down. If you can, close your eyes. Let them rest as they get so much stimulation all day long. Then move in your last minute to what’s coming next. Maybe say something that will inspire you, motivate you to give the next thing good positive strong energy. How can you bring your best self to what’s next? What word will help you set that intention?

Once you sit for just a few moments, your body will start to respond. You can literally feel your muscles relax. Your brain will get the restoration it’s likely craving. Practice this ritual whenever you can. From one thing to the next. From home to work. From work to home. It will change you. It will change the you that you bring to the people in your life. Brendon Burchard is a very successful business coach who teaches a transition ritual that he uses throughout his day. He uses the word “release” and then sets an intention for whatever’s coming next. These release meditations have had really positive outcomes for him and for his clients.

Trust me, this works. Try it. Take a few minutes a few times a day to try it and pretty soon, you may be doing a transition ritual every time you can.

Next Steps

If you are someone looking to find relief from the stress and anxiety of a busy world, there are therapists such as myself that specialize in supporting these needs. Please contact me here. I offer free 15 minute consultations where I’ll try to get an idea of what you are dealing with and how I can help. I can let you know if I think therapy would be a good fit for you. We will get a good sense of each other and can decide if I’m the best fit for you. Together we will make a plan for the next steps.

lesly-juarez-220845-unsplashPracticing Gratitude and How it Helps    Do you want to feel better? Happier? Sleep better? Relax more? Feel less anxiety? Practicing gratitude could be the answer. In recent years, there has been more and more research on the practice of gratitude and how it makes an impact on each of the above concerns. It’s been shown to help people feel better, sleep better, relax more, and decrease anxiety.

The best news…it’s easy! There are so many ways to incorporate a gratitude practice into your day. It may be important to build a little structure into the practice but it can be as simple as counting to 10 before you go to bed.

Practicing gratitude right before you go to bed can be helpful to your sleep and even helps the way you wake up the next morning. People who have a before bed gratitude ritual say that their mood starts off better the following day. It’s typical for people to wake up reviewing their very lasts thoughts from the night before. If those last end of the day thoughts are filled with gratitude, it’d be no wonder that the next day we start out with the same mind set.

When I talk about gratitude and being grateful, there’s a whole range to what we can be grateful for each day. I think it’s nice to have variety and include the whole range in your practice. Try not to use too many repeats from day to day and certainly not within the same day because one thing that’s helpful is seeing the 5-10 different points of gratitude.

The range can be big…

  • I liked my hair today
  • Our dinner was delicious/fast/easy/simple/healthy
  • We HAD dinner
  • My house that keeps me safe
  • The text my friend sent was at the exact right time and made me SMILE
  • My relationship with ____
  • Air conditioning
  • The way I felt after I saw ______
  • The sun came out after 10 days of cloudy rainy days
  • This afternoon I had a break in my pain
  • Pasta
  • My mom/dad/sister/friend/spouse/child….
  • Etc. etc. etc.

Once you get going, it may be hard to limit 5-10! You might even have a built in slot for naming one person who you are grateful for whether it’s a family member, friend, a member of your medical care team, the cashier at the grocery store who smiled at you…the list could go on!


Gratitude journals are a great way to engage in the practice. Set a number from 5-10 and start with a blank notebook. Keep it in your bedside table and start the habit. Each night, date the page and make a list of 5-10 things that make you feel gratitude. Remember, it can be anywhere on the range.

If writing is not your thing, don’t stress. Use your fingers and just count.dev-222588-unsplash

  • Hold out your hands in front of you, fingers closed.
  • One at a time, open a finger up and think in your head or say out loud one thing you are grateful for.
  • Continue with each finger until you have open hands, fingers sprawled.
  • Using your hands as a visual and a way to focus can be helpful. If you simply do this in your head, you can get lost in your other thoughts like a to do list or what is happening tomorrow, etc.

It’s really easy to get bogged down with all of the things we wish were different and all that is hard about life. Taking the time to reflect on the positives and what we are grateful for can make a huge difference. The research says so and after only a few weeks or days, I bet you will start to feel the difference.

Next Steps

If you are someone looking to find relief from stress, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and worry, there are therapists such as myself that specialize in supporting these needs. If you are looking for more support, please contact me here. I offer free 15 minute consultations where I’ll try to get an idea of what you are dealing with and how I can help. I can let you know if I think therapy would be a good fit for you. We will get a good sense of each other and can decide if I’m the best fit for you. Together we will make a plan for the next steps.