Elizabeth-Leigh Bradley: Reset your Energy through Self Care
In this episode, Elizabeth-Leigh and I talk about a topic that’s especially relevant today, as we all grapple through this pandemic, and the emotional turmoil this has created.
Hear more about:
- Taking the edge off for leaders and caregivers who are used to being ‘the voice of calm’
- How self care includes building your support system outside your immediate family
- Ways to how to bring joy back into your life (that fits in your schedule) and how to break down mental barriers.
Listen to the Podcast Now
Elizabeth-Leigh Bradley, Motivational Speaker, Creator of The Balanced Care System, and Chief Motivational Caregiver is the founder of Every Day Caregivers, a company built exclusively to support the psychological health and wellness needs of caregivers.
As a result of her own long-distance and long-term family caregiving experience, Elizabeth-Leigh has poured her 20(+) years as a family therapist, chief clinical officer, educator, and national trainer into the creation of The Balanced Care System. She is committed to ensuring no other caregiver, whether one is a family member or a professional caregiver, has to go through an experience like the one that nearly ended her life. Learn more about Every Day Caregivers at www.everydaycaregivers.com.
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Welcome to Seniors' Care Matters, part of the Qod Pod Network. Each week, Seniors' Care Matters provides inspiring interviews and insights to help you lead, connect and engage with your teams and your residents' families. We focus on ways to enhance your leadership approach and presence with practical tips to build a relational culture and create breakthrough results. And now, here's your host for Seniors' Care Matters Deborah Bakti.
I had the pleasure of being on a panel for the Pioneer Network with other family members who have had, or currently have loved ones living in a seniors' care home. And this is where I met today's guest, Elizabeth Leigh Bradley. First, I'm going to share her bio info with you. Elizabeth-Leigh Bradley is a motivational speaker, creator of the balanced care system, chief motivational caregiver and founder of everyday caregivers- a company built exclusively to support the psychological health and wellness needs of caregivers. As a result of her own long distance and longterm family caregiving experience, Elizabeth-Leigh has poured her 20 plus years as a family therapist, chief clinical officer, educator, and national trainer into the creation of the balanced care system. She is committed to ensuring no other caregiver, whether one is a family member or a professional caregiver, has to go through an experience like the one that nearly ended her life. I'll have a link to her website in the show notes, Elizabeth- Leigh works to support caregivers, both unpaid family caregivers, as well as people like you, who are caregiving in your professional roles and seniors care.
And I think there's one thing that both types of caregivers share, as an opportunity for expansion. And that is self care. I remember when I was in the midst of caregiving with my husband Ty, while he was receiving home care and then moved into long term care and people would say, "you really need to practice better self care." And it would make me nuts because I was hanging on doing my best to white knuckle through it all. And I had absolutely no idea what they meant or where to even start. And I also hear from my clients about the overwhelm and the burnout symptoms that are being experienced. Caregivers need self care, and here's the good news. Elizabeth-Leigh shares some really easy, practical ways to sneak these into your days. It kind of makes me think about how some parents sneak vegetables into the spaghetti sauce, kind of like that.
Take it from someone who's learned the hard way, and from a therapist who also knew better from her practice and learned the hard way through experiencing the emotional exhaustion and figuring out a way to save herself and support her caregiving clients, both the family members and the professional caregivers. Sometimes breakthroughs come in baby steps and taking just one idea and playing with it can help you to breathe a little lighter and lessen the load that you may be carrying just a bit. So you can build your bandwidth... one baby step at a time. I hope you enjoy this conversation.
When you need podcasts that inspire you, podcasts that help you live your best life, podcasts that speak to you, podcasts that are easy to listen to. You'll find them on the Qod Pod Network coming soon. Elizabeth Leigh (03:50):
Hi, Elizabeth-Leigh, welcome to Seniors' Care Matters. I'm really looking forward to this conversation today.
Elizabeth Leigh (03:55):
Well, hello. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Yeah, well, I was so pleased to be had the opportunity to be a panelist with you for the Pioneer Network, where we got to participate with a few other family members and really speak to the family member experience for those families who have loved ones living in seniors' care. And when you talked about your background and how you formed your organization and your experience as a family therapist, I thought this could be a really interesting conversation for us to have, as it relates to self care for people who work in seniors' care. And particularly as we've gone through the first wave with COVID this year in 2020, the expectation of a second way and when and how hard that's going to be. People working in seniors' care are already feeling some burnout. So, I would love to have a conversation with you as to some ways that they can find a little bit of self care in their day.
Elizabeth Leigh (04:59):
Sure. And I am ecstatic to talk about it. When I started Everyday Caregivers, I started it to reimagine self care for the caregiver. I had no idea to the extent we were going to have to reimagine it, given COVID and its impact on everybody. So we are all in a time where we're relying and needing to lean on one another. And I'm excited that you and others that were part of that panel, the Pioneer Network with that, we're starting to have those conversations because we haven't, unfortunately, haven't even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding how COVID is impacting our mental health.
So what are you finding with the clients that you're working with? What are some of the key patterns or concerns that you're seeing?
Elizabeth Leigh (05:55):
Well for sure stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, there's a lot of, all of that happening all at once. And what's different about that while those, that language, those words are not new for anybody, the way that they're happening and they're happening all at one time together is really overpowering. And so I find people really leaning into that in a way that is causing them additional panic and concern about how am I going to get through this? Whereas before maybe the questions were, you know, how is it that I can do both ...care for my loved one, care for myself, do my job, you know, they were pretty siloed in their own categories. And yet with COVID, they've all been squished in together. And so the language around self care is really, really impacting things. And I, I find myself going back to how and why I even started Everyday Caregivers because I'm a family therapist by training. And when I initiate it was called up, right. I like to say that I was called up into service, right. I had been my family's caregiver for so many years that it really was second nature to me. it wasn't something that I was like, 'oh my gosh, what did I do?' I kind of like, all right, here we go. You know, let's make this happen. And through that, I was so surprised how my own mental health deteriorated. And as a result, I created everyday caregivers and my Balanced Care System. But when COVID hit, I found myself going through that roller coaster of emotion that I had experienced over a 15 year time period, caring for my family within weeks. Right? So you're riding this rollercoaster that is going higher and lower. Whereas before you were just kind of riding the wave, if you will, of all of those emotions with COVID, you are experiencing sharp peaks and sharp valleys. And that is really new for people that's something that is scaring people into, further deterioration of their mental health. And, and I'm concerned because they're shutting down.
And when you say shutting down, what does that look like?
Elizabeth Leigh (08:42):
Shutting down is really your mind going into protective mode, right? So I need to really just kind of shut out everything else and look at what is right in front of me. That I think is our body and our minds' natural instinct to do that, right. What do I need to do to survive this moment? What do I need to do to survive this hour? And when we shut down like that, though, we are, what we're doing is we're suppressing all of our emotions. We're suppressing all of our coping skills and how to work through something because it's so overpowering that we're not sure if we can work through it. So we shut down. So what that would look like is someone just literally doing the bare minimum to get through a moment, to get through an hour, to get through a day.
And it probably, I mean, there's that emotional impact as well as affecting one's physical ability, right? The problem, assuming things like headaches and fatigue, and as well as just lacking that will to do any extra, is that...
Elizabeth Leigh (09:52):
Oh, for sure. You're going to start to see yourself, If you're an extremely patient person, you're going to see that kind of taper off a little bit. You may find yourself getting really reactive to things that are not usually something that you're reactive to. You will find yourself creating physical ailments, as you said, headaches, fatigue, um, maybe even anger, right? The language that you may use is going to be different, maybe a little sharper than usual, or maybe a little trite, triter than usual. And it's going to manifest in some way, right? Our emotions, our feelings are how we take in what is happening to us manifest in some way. So when we suppress our usual way of kind of working through different situations and we kind of shut down, it finds new ways to manifest itself, which can be alarming in and of itself.
Elizabeth Leigh (10:53):
For sure. When, as you're describing that, I'm thinking about leaders. So an Administrator, Director of Care, Director of Nursing, people that are on a management team working in a seniors' care home, and they've got their own personal challenges, as all human beings do. And then they have staff who are dealing with their personal challenges and in the work environment, and the anticipation of this next wave, the amount of pressure because leaders are looked upon to lead and be that voice of calm and reason and direction and confidence and all of those things. And just like when you described how people are less patient, I think we can see that anywhere we go from driving to the grocery store to a seniors' care home.
For sure. Elizabeth Leigh (11:43):
And so it's what would be some approaches or supports that whether somebody is in leadership or they're working at a staff level that can help to take a bit of that edge off?
Elizabeth Leigh (12:01):
I think first and foremost is to just acknowledge that we're all in new territory and to give yourself grace to not have all the answers. The added pressure that anyone can put on themselves right now is to feel like you should know what to do. Nobody knows what to do right now. Right. All we can do is rely on our skills, rely on our training, rely on our coworkers, rely on our policies and working together- and knowing your strengths as well as those strengths of the individuals and professionals that you're surrounded by use those to your advantage. Right. Really dig deep to say, okay, what is it that we have learned from phase one that really helped and, maybe needs some modifications, right. And who has strengths in that area? Okay. Let's brainstorm now, let's get together. Let's figure out how we're going to maximize our strengths with each other and individually to get through this second wave.
So really focusing on what's within your control because the things that are outside of our control, are outside of our control and there isn't anything we can do about it yet, we spend a lot of time...
Elizabeth Leigh (13:23):
Isn't that the rub, right? When the more out of control things are the more we want to control them. And it creates this cyclical motion that goes nowhere, right? Because we're trying to control something that can't be controlled. And so the more we do that, the more difficult and out of control it gets.
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And the other thing, what you said earlier about when people feel shut down, sometimes we can't really think much past the hour or the day, or a few days maybe, and we're dealing with those immediate things. And yet there's an expectation for organizations to have a plan figured out. I am seeing this in the the news yesterday. It's like, what's the plan for how we're all going to deal with this second wave. And yet there's so much uncertainty around that. So it almost feels like a bit of a push and pull when we have limited bandwidth and limited ability to stay focused. But yet we have to be trying to look one month, two months, three months, six months out in what's a very uncertain time.
Elizabeth Leigh (15:48):
Yeah. Get as many people as you can, as many different people as you can involved, right? This is an amazing opportunity to say, we're going to reimagine how we're going to operate as an organization, as a team, as a floor, if you're in a hospital, right. We're going to reimagine that to the extent that we can, and we're going to utilize every, we're going to start looking at people, places and things around us as supports, right? When I work with family members individually, one of the things we work on is building your support system beyond your immediate family, because family members tend to find themselves in this narrow way of thinking that the only people who should or have the responsibility of caring for the loved one is the immediate family. And we work on extending that definition of family to include others. And I would encourage organizations and teams to look at that as well. Who around you, maybe on the second and third tier, can be a resource to you and added support to make sure that you're operating the way that you want to at the level and the quality that you want to be operating. Now is not the time for our egos to get in the way. It's kind of like all hands on deck. And so I think if individuals can find their way to being comfortable with that, or at least comfortable enough to explore that, I think they're going to find that more people are willing to help and support, and help them maintain their operations and their quality of care to others than they originally thought or have utilized in the past.
Well, and you've also indicated that you provide support to the family members who are caregivers and the paid caregivers, people who work in a caregiving profession. And it sounds like there's some overlap with the kind of advice that you would provide. Like even just what you described, there's the asking for help in your network as an individual, as well as an organization. Are there other organizations or partnerships or other people that could be brought in to help? And I'm just curious what are some of the other overlaps that you see between the caregivers and the paid caregivers when it comes to providing self care tips?
Elizabeth Leigh (18:28):
Yeah. So, like you said, I focus on self care. So self care transcends what role you're providing in the care of another individual, because we all need to take care of ourselves. But when we're in those roles that are really emotionally driven and are about the care of another human being and the support that we provide at that kind of intense level can be really overwhelming. So I created what's called the Balanced Care System, and we look at four critical areas of an individual's life that typically change as they enter this industry and, or a specific role of caregiver, whether you're a professional or family caregiver. And those four roles include looking at your functional needs to eat well, right. Healthy, to sleep and to maintain your own personal wellness. So that includes like your medical appointments, but also includes your connection to your peers, your social support system, as well as your family members, because for professional caregivers you are often in a position where you are caregiving 24/7, all the days of your life. Because you're caring for another individual's family member during the "work days," and then you're going home and providing care to your own family members. And so that kind of on-call duty intensifies the need for self care. So we really look at, how do you make those changes? Because in my own experience, and I also spent about almost a year talking to caregivers across the country and internationally about their experience, simply just their experience. Honestly that whole thing started as I wanted to validate my experience. I was like, am I doing something wrong? Like, am I the odd one out that just needs to figure it out and do better? Right? And what I found was it didn't matter what role you were playing, that everybody was feeling that they didn't know how. There's a bunch of blogs, a bunch of people that say, make sure and take care of yourself, make sure and ask for help. But it seems like there's this invisible cry that people were saying, I am trying to do both like, how do you do that? So then I spent another year and I relied on my training as a therapist in my work with family dynamics. And I said, okay, can I create something that helps an individual figure out for their own circumstances what that how is, and that's the Balanced Care System. So we take a look at this first element of functional needs and we kind of break it down and in a guided worksheet kind of way, how do you do that for your particular situation? And we look at very small changes that don't overwhelm the system, meaning AKA your body and your mind, right? We don't want to overwhelm you with, you know, throw out everything and start with the, you know, doing everything fresh and new, but how do you break that down in very small incremental changes that over time will have a huge impact. We also take a look at what I call your balanced care priorities. And this came from, again, my own experience, as well as conversations. And people felt like they were losing a part of themselves. Like they were giving every good piece of themselves to someone else. And so we said, okay, what if we re imagined how to do those things that just make you breathe a little bit easier, put a smile on your face, bring joy into your life, or give you purpose for you as an individual. Right? And so we looked at that and I said, well, I don't want it to be just, you know, make a list of things that you like to do and find time to do them. Right. It's like duh, if I could do that, I would. So what I do ask them to do, I do ask them to make a list, but I say, let's take a look at each one and see if we can break it up into time increments. So can you do you know, item number one on your list in 15 minutes? Is there a way that you can bring some kind of joy or some kind of feeling like, yes, I am doing something for myself in a 15 minute time increment. And so we split it up into 15 minute time increments within four hour time, or excuse me, within two hour time increments and something that could take perhaps a half a day. And then we provide again, another kind of guided worksheet of how do you plug these into your life, you know, and you may find yourself doing more 15 minute things, then even one, two hour things are half day things, but we work through together on how do you keep these things in your life in a modified way so that you still see that you, the individual, is not being lost. So those are the two main things and then I provide them guided worksheets on how to break down barriers in a very systematic and methodical way. And then how do you build a support network beyond your immediate family?
Well, as you were talking about, I love the practicality of being able to create a list with those time elements, because it's like, if we want to shift our mood, the easiest way to do that is to take action.
Elizabeth Leigh (24:14):
Even when we don't feel like it. And I could imagine that some of the conversations, like what brings you joy, if somebody is in a burnout caregiver role, they may say, I have no idea. It's been so long since I... So there's probably a little bit of digging and probing to be able to find something. And even if it's 10 or 15 minute thing to be able to reignite that, but they can recognize that that is possible.
Elizabeth Leigh (24:39):
Yeah. And, and we, I think it's human nature to be like, I just need a break. Right. I need to take a vacation. I need to be able to walk away. And that's a really big red flag for us when we're using language like that. When we're having conversations like that, that's just a huge red flag for the extent in which we are experiencing burnout. Right? If you are vocalizing to anybody who'll listen, I just need to walk away for a bit, I need to take a vacation, I need to get away,
Elizabeth Leigh (25:11):
Run away, which is totally normal. Right. Totally normal. Particularly right now, we all want to go away. I think my husband and I talk all the time when this is over, we're going to go to this destination, right. So that's totally normal. I work with caregivers to say, okay, how can we bring that into your life? And sometimes a lot, not even sometimes a lot of times it comes down to our five senses. What can we bring into our world that can utilize our senses that can tap into the power of our brain and the power of our physiology for our body that can just bring about a little bit of that relaxation. Sometimes it's, you know, I have this favorite candle and every time I smell it, I'm reminded of when we went to X, Y, and Z, or this picture of us when we're on the beach was my favorite vacation. Okay. So where can we put that picture so that it's in your visual path and when you look at it, I want you to take a moment, close your eyes and just do nothing, but think about that. So kind of take that mental mini vacation. Is it the same as being there? Of course it's not, but you'll be amazed at how, what good it does for your brain and your body.
Well, again, I think it's focusing on those things that we can control. And by activating those senses, just as you were describing that I was thinking of a couple of items that I have, that it's some hand cream that's pretty well all dried up, but it's in a jar, but when I open it, it still has that aroma to it. It's just, and I hadn't really thought of it that way. It's just that two or three seconds.
Elizabeth Leigh (26:55):
Things that we can choose to implant in our day until we're able to run away and take that trip, whatever point in 2022 or 2023
Elizabeth Leigh (27:11):
Right. I'm still banking on 2021. We'll see, we'll see it. Maybe 2022 though.
Yeah. Well, we can hope for sure. This has been a really delightful conversation and I just, I love the practicality and I really felt some mindset shifts that could be helpful, certainly for me, and for hopefully for the listeners. If people want to get in touch with you, Elizabeth Leigh, where would they find you?
Elizabeth Leigh (27:35):
Sure you can check out our website everydaycaregivers.com or you can email me. My email address is ElBradley@everydaycaregivers.com.
Excellent. And I'll make sure that your information is in the show notes. And thank you so much for joining me in this conversation today.
Elizabeth Leigh (27:58):
Oh, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it and enjoyed our conversation.
Thanks so much for listening to Seniors' Care Matters. Part of the Qod pod network. For more information on today's episode, please check out our show notes and visit www.deborahbakti.com. Join us next week for another great episode of Seniors' Care Matters.