My Bedtime Routine

Hi everyone. I’m feeling a little stressed out and, as it is past 9PM as I’m starting to write this post, I thought I’d share about my bedtime routine in order to get myself comfy and relaxed for bed.

Usually, the staff come by my room at around 9:45PM to help me get ready for bed, like get into my pajamas and brush my teeth. I usually leave my socks on, as I’ll often want to stay up a little longer. The evening shift here at my current care home ends at 10:30PM, so the staff usually say goodbye then too and turn off my light. In the care home I may move to on October 5, the evening shift ends at 10PM, so I may want to move my bedtime back a little.

I can go into bed by myself, but sometimes I want the staff to stand by while I go into bed. I will pull off my socks. Then, I’ll grab my iPhone if it’s sufficiently charged and select a Spotify playlist to play on my music pillow. The music pillow is connected to my iPhone via its lightning port (and a lightning-to-audio converter). I love the Harp Lullabies playlist, the Guitar Lullabies playlist or some albums by Robbins Island Music Group or Dan Gibson’s Solitudes. I most commonly set the sleep timer for an hour.

I sometimes will have an essential oil blend in my diffuser too. Some aren’t very suited to sleeping, but I know of a number of relaxing essential oil blends, four of which I shared before.

I have a weighted blanket, which I pull up over me almost till my chin. I also will grab ahold of one of my soft toys. Sometimes, I’ll lay the tail of the lemur over my chest, while at other times, I’ll hold the dolphin or unicorn.

Sometimes, I need to shift my sleeping position. I can sleep in every position except on my right side, but my preference will vary. Once I’ve found a comfortable position, I’ll likely doze off pretty quickly.

The night staff does come by at around 11:30PM to check on me. This is mostly to prevent me sitting up all night without anyone noticing. I can also press the call button if I can’t sleep, but of course other than try to comfort me, there is little the night staff can do. That being said, I sleep a lot better now that I have the weighted blanket, music pillow and essential oil diffuser than before I had all these.

loopyloulaura

My Safe Space

A few months ago, my former behavior specialist introduced a kind of visualization exercise to me called something like “A safe space” It doesn’t necessarily involve just visualizations though. Rather, the idea is to imagine your safe space, real or imaginary, in as much detail as you can. For today’s blog post, I’m going to describe mine.

I am in a kind of artificial forest surrounded by trees. The ground, however, is smooth, so that I can walk on it. When I want to rest, I can sit on a soft, cushioned bench in the forest. It feels like moss, but smoother and velveter. I can pull a weighted blanket over me when I want to fully relax. Of course, it’s always comfortably warm here.

I smell the scent of various plants and trees in the forest, such as lavender, sweet orange, pine, etc. They vary with the time of day or week and with the seasons, creating ever-changing combinations of aromas.

There are, of course, unicorns in the forest. The unicorns have all kinds of colors and sparkly or shimmery or glow-in-the-dark mane, creating a beautiful sight. Since my safe space is imaginary, I can see well enough to actually perceive these colors and sparkles and everything. When I feel like it, I can ride one of the unicorns. I can also cuddle with the colts and fillies. The unicorns comfort me.

There’s water in my safe space too. It has all the pros of a swimming pool (the cleanliness, smooth surface to stand on at the shallow end, etc.) but is still natural in a way. There are dolphins in the water that I can do dolphin therapy with.

I hear calm harp music and birdsong in the background when I’m in my safe space. Sometimes, the birdsong is replaced by dolphin sounds.

All combined, the unicorns and dolphins with the music, scents, and comfortable feel of the weighted blanket, will calm me.

Of course, aside from the real dolphins and the unicorns, everything I have in my imaginary safe space, I either have in my real room at the care facility or could somehow create elsewhere. I mean, I have a weighted blanket, an essential oil diffuser, a music pillow and a Spotify account to create the soothing music. The staff also offered to take me swimming once in a while again and I could obviously find a real forest (though that does not have the smooth ground to stand on). I can still imagine many colors in my mind, so this visualization exercise may help me create the colorful experience of the unicorns I described above. In truth, though merely imagining a safe space isn’t necessarily going to make me feel any calmer, it does get me closer to realizing the things I have right here in order to create it.

loopyloulaura

Gratitude List (February 18, 2022) #TToT

Hi all again. I am feeling in the mood for a gratitude post. It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily feeling upbeat – not too downcast either, thankfully. Oh wait, I hadn’t started my gratitude list yet. I’m just inspired to write one. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful. Here goes.

1. I am grateful I’m negative for COVID so far. The virus finally reached my care home, as several clients tested positive yesterday. Thankfully though, my lateral flow test was negative yesterday and I’m not having symptoms suggestive of COVID at this point.

2. I am grateful for a great essential oil blend in my diffuser right now. I put lemon, tangerine, orange and spearmint in it and it smells truly delicious.

3. I am grateful for a good nurse practitioner’s appt yesterday. I was still allowed to leave the home yesterday to go to my appointment and it was really productive. My nurse practitioner validated my experience of dissociation and we were able to talk some about my anxiety too. We will discuss my flashbacks separately later.

4. I am grateful to be indoors. It’s storming outside and I’m so happy I don’t have to leave the home. Not that I’m allowed to now that the official positive PCR test results are in for my fellow clients, but oh well.

5. I am grateful for relatively cheap quark. I usually have that with my muesli for breakfast now, but yesterday used up the last few spoonfuls. However, a staff offered to buy new quark at her local supermarket. She got 1kg for €1,28. At the supermarket my care facility order from, they only have the 500g cans for €1,09. Not that I personally have to pay for my quark, but I don’t want the facility to have to pay €1,09 on a can I cannot even get three breakfasts out of.

6. I am grateful to have been able to be very crafty lately. I think I already mentioned creating the polymer clay narwhal last week. This week, I created another couple of things. Can you guess what this is supposed to be? About half my staff guessed it correctly and the others didn’t.

7. I am grateful for bananas, plums and grapes. Somehow, the staff had forgotten to order bananas last week, but thankfully, the care home next to mine was able to give us two on Wednesday. Yum! Then on my way home from my nurse practitioner’s appt yesterday, we stopped by the supermarket for some more fruit. We got plums and grapes. The plums were surprisingly sweet.

8. I am grateful for free audiobooks. Or one free audiobook, at least. I haven’t started listening to it yet, but the first book in one of Blake Pierce’s series is free even as an audiobook. I loved reading the first book in the Riley Paige Mystery series, even though I haven’t read any of his other books. This is the first installment in another series. Free stuff is always great and, now that iOS is giving me a headache working with my Braille display, I’d love to give audiobooks a try.

9. I am grateful for peach yogurt. It is the only type of fruit yogurt I really like and I’m so grateful we’ve been having it all week.

10. I am grateful to be alive. After writing my poem this afternoon, I’d just like to say this.

What are you grateful for?

Gratitude List (December 10, 2021) #TToT

Hi all on this cold but lovely Friday. Today, I’m doing a gratitude post, just because I can. As usual, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. I am grateful my mammogram came back all clear. I still suffer with slight discomfort, but I feel comforted knowing it’s nothing serious.

2. I am grateful I got my COVID booster shot yesterday and I didn’t even suffer a sore arm. Well, not that arm, at least. All my limbs were stiff this morning, except for the arm I’d been jabbed in.

3. I am grateful my one-on-one support got approved again. Not only that, but it got approved for two years this time! I am so intensely happy, but still can hardly believe it.

4. I am grateful for crafty inspiration. I am currently working on a mixed media Christmas project which includes polymer clay.

5. I am grateful my husband was able to sort out my health insurance for next year. Here in the Netherlands, basic insurance is mandatory but you get to pick your own private insurance company. The government decides what is covered under basic insurance but insurers get to fill in the fine print and decide which care providers (eg. doctors, hospitals, etc.) to contract with. In addition, they get to offer additional coverage packages. For several reasons, my current health insurance was no longer fitting for me, so I decided to change insurers, but needed my husband to help me make the actual switch. I am so glad it seems to be sorted now.

6. I am grateful we still have pepernoten. That’s a typical St. Nicholas (December 5th) treat and I love it!

7. I am grateful that I was able to have quite varied lunches over the week and most were relatively healthy too. I had Turkish pizza on Wednesday, which was my unhealthy lunch of the week. Yesterday, I had a boiled egg on bread and today, I had a toasted cheese sandwich. On Monday and Tuesday, I think I had my usual lunch of a peanut butter sandwich, which I don’t really like.

8. I am grateful I was able to clean my essential oil diffuser (the new one) yesterday and that it was hardly dirty at all.

9. I am grateful for my Christmas tree and its lights. Its lights were almost out this afternoon, so initially I thought its batteries were empty. That would’ve been highly annoying, since I had only put the batteries in last week. Thankfully, switching the position of the batteries did the trick of turning the lights on again.

10. I am grateful I have been sleeping really well over the past several nights. Last week, I had a few rough nights, but this week is much better.

It was harder than I expected to actually make it to ten things of thankful. I mean, I am overjoyed at my one-on-one having been approved, but that makes for only one item on the list. However, I am trying my best to remind myself that even the little things in life that I am grateful for, can and should make it onto this list.

Describing My Favorite Place

For her first writing prompt, Ebar asks us to describe our favorite place using all five senses. I was thinking of sharing something about my favorite place in the entire world just yesterday. As someone who doesn’t feel she belongs anywhere, the concept of a favorite place is hard to comprehend. However, right now, my favorite place in the entire world is where I am at this very moment: my room in the care home. Below, let me describe it using my five senses.

I can see the light being on. Though I cannot usually see the colored LEDs on my essential oil diffuser due to being blind, I know they are there and appreciate them. I can see through the windows. Well, not right now as it’s dark outside and the curtains are drawn, but during the day, I can.

I can listen to the sound of soothing music on my music pillow, or to my text-to-speech software on my computer or iPhone through my headphones. I can also sometimes hear the door behind which the laundry and trash cans are stored slam shut right below my room. I don’t like that sound, but the staff are looking into the technical people doing something about the door being made less loud. I can hear the sounds of other clients and staff elsewhere in the home. I may not always like those sounds either, but they are the sounds of my room. I was almost going to say they are the sounds of home, but calling my room “home” just feels like it’s a step too far as of yet.

I can feel the fabric of the chair I’m sitting on. I can feel the characteristic floor my feet touch. When I’m in my bed, I can feel the comfort of my weighted blanket and my stuffed animals.

I can smell the scent of whichever essential oil blend I choose to put into my diffuser when I want to. Lastly, I can taste the meal delivery service meals in my mouth. I can select from their menu and, though the meals aren’t great and there’s a particular lack of variety, some are quite delicious. I’m going to pretend we have lasagne for the sake of this post.

What’s your favorite place like?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 21, 2021)

Hi everyone. Today is a rather mixed Sunday weather-wise. We had sunshine almost all morning and early afternoon, but now we’re having clouds and rain. I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare today. I just had a late afternoon coffee (I normally have them at around 2:15PM and it’s almost 3:30 now). I am likely to skip my soft drink, which I normally have at around 3:30, and have some water again when my one-on-one comes on at four o’clock. If you’d like a drink, you’re welcome to grab a soft drink or water or get a Senseo in the kitchen. Let’s catch up.

I already shared on Friday that this week was a rather meh one. So, if we were having coffee, I’d try to focus on other things. I’d share that I’ve been trying to pick up the polymer clay craft again. Yesterday, I finished three labels with “Bedankt” (Dutch for “Thanks”) on them for the three staff who are leaving soon. I still need to cure them in the oven and add glitter glue for decoration. I’m probably going to do that this evening.

I will still need to make real presents for each of the three staff, because I don’t think just a simple label, even if it’s hand-made, is enough. One of the staff is leaving at the end of this month. The other two aren’t leaving till the end of December, so I still have time for those.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I’ve been oohing and aahing at some polymer clay supplies I want to get for Christmas or St. Nicholas (December 5). You need to actually pay for your own St. Nicholas presents, but I agreed with my assigned staff that she could spend around €15 on them and I’d send her a wishlist which she could pick something from, so that I’d still feel a sense of surprise. We do get a small Christmas hamper from the day center, so I told my day activities staff she might talk to my assigned home staff about ordering from the same company as to save on shipping. Some things on my wishlist include cutters, pushmolds and texture sheets.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I bought a new essential oil diffuser. I couldn’t seem to clean the other one properly anymore, so all scents were starting to smell the same. I made a note in my Reminders app to clean this one each month, but with how often I’m currently using it, I’ll probably make that every other week. The new one has a remote and two mist settings for normal and strong mist.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that my husband came by to take me out to lunch this afternoon. We’d talked about going to a particular snack and dine place we’d been to two years ago and I’d looked forward to it all week. It was really good back then. Now, not really. The burger we ordered was okay’ish. Not very bad, but not good either. In addition, we had to wait forever to place our order and the staffer really was quite curt. This time, we were asked for our CoronaCheck code, but not our ID, as is required. Oh well.

How have you been?

Orange and Other Citrus Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter O post in the #AtoZChallenge. I have been looking forward to sharing this post ever since I found out that the letter O in the #AtoZChallenge alphabet scavenger hunt is for orange. Yes, I’m writing about orange essential oil. Oh, and all the other great citrus essential oils too.

When referring to orange oil, many people mean sweet orange essential oil. Wild orange essential oil is also often used in aromatherapy. I for one don’t own that oil, so I always substitute it with sweet orange.

Unlike most other essential oils, sweet orange and most other citrus oils are not extracted using steam distillation. Rather, they are extracted by cold pressing the rinds (peel) of the fruit. There are distilled varieties of citrus essential oils, but they are much harder to come by. I, for one, have searched a lot of places to find steam distilled lime and lemon essential oils, but haven’t been able to find them here in the Netherlands.

Sweet orange oil is one of the more skin-safe oils out of the citrus group. It is most likely not phototoxic. However, most other citrus essential oils, such as lime, lemon and also bitter orange, are phototoxic.

Another citrus essential oil I love is bergamot. This aroma and flavor may be well-known to those who drink Earl Grey tea, as bergamot oil is used to flavor this type of tea. Bergamot’s scent is citrusy like orange, but somewhat more floral with bitter undertones too. Be very careful when using bergamot essential oil on the skin, as it is highly phototoxic due to it containing bergaptene. When using bergamot essential oil on the skin, be sure to choose the furocoumarin-free (FCF) variant, which has the bergaptene removed. Still, even FCF bergamot essential oil can be irritating to the skin as well as photosensitizing.

Citrus essential oils blend well with many different essential oils, including lavender, eucalyptus, etc. I also love the combination of several different citrus essential oils in a diffuser blend. For example, here’s a recipe for my keylime pie diffuser blend:


  • 2 drops sweet orange

  • 7 drops lime

  • 1 drop lemon

I also like to blend citrus essential oils with spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove bud. However, just about anything goes!

Diffusing Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter D post in the #AtoZChallenge. My theme for this challenge is aromatherapy and today, I’ll talk about one of the most common ways of using essential oils: diffusing.

When I first started using essential oils, oil lamps were still popular. These use a tealight under the essential oil bowl. Other options were aroma stones, which you were supposed to lay on the heating. However, heat can alter the effects of the essential oil and is, for this reason, not recommended.

When I first got my own essential oil diffuser, it was a nebulizer that works with a fan. Then, about a year and a half ago, I got an ultrasonic diffuser. This is a diffuser in which you add water and essential oils. Ultrasonic waves then convert the water and oil into a fine mist. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of diffusers:


  • Fan-based nebulizers are more expensive than ultrasonic diffusers.
  • They also are usually louder. My nebulizer’s fan made a horrible noise, while the only sound my ultrasonic diffuser makes, is a slight bubbling of the water.

  • You don’t need to clean fan-based nebulizers. Rather, you remove the oil filter or switch off the bottle of oil. My nebulizer had oil filters, but I’ve heard there are also diffusers to which you attach a bottle of essential oil directly. Ultrasonic diffusers need to be cleaned occasionally. I heard various things about how to clean a diffuser. I personally fill about half the diffuser’s container with water and then add a bit of white vinegar. Then I turn on the diffuser for five to ten minutes. I finally have it on with just water to clear out the vinegar smell.


I, to be honest, prefer my ultrasonic diffuser because it’s quieter than the fan.

There are many brands of diffusers. Some ultrasonic diffusers are as cheap as €15. Mine cost about €40. My AromaStream® fan-based nebulizer cost about €60.

Ultrasonic diffusers also come in various sizes. Mine has a container of at most 300ml water, which is enough to diffuse essential oils into a large bedroom or normal living room. The diffuser size determines how many drops of essential oil you can use in it. With a 300ml diffuser like mine, 10-12 drops is recommended.

Many essential oil diffusers have other uses besides diffusing essential oil. For example, mine has LED lights in it too, so it doubles as a night light. I’ve also heard of an essential oil diffuser with a Bluetooth speaker in it. I think that’s awesome!

Creating a Sensory Room Experience in My Own Bedroom

It’s been a year since the day center closed. For the most part, it was a good thing for me. I, after all, was often overwhelmed in my day activities group. One thing I miss about the day center though, is the sensory or snoezelen® room. Today, I am sharing how I recreated a sensory room experience in my own bedroom. Since I am blind, I skipped the visual aspect mostly, but I’ll add some ideas for it regardless. That way, you can create a sensory environment for yourself.

Sound

In the day center sensory room, we have a really cool speaker system that’s attached to the bed. It isn’t likely that advanced, so with some speakers at the right position, you may be able to recreate it. I don’t own wireless speakers. However, I found that I can recreate similar effects with earbuds or headphones. I would recommend earbuds for better positioning, but since I don’t have wireless ones, I use my wireless headphones anyway.

I mentioned before that I use an app called MyNoise. This app has over 120 soundscapes and you can customize each individual sound to your own hearing. There are nature soundscapes, but also white noise, Buddhist-like and SciFi soundscapes. I prefer the nature ones.

Like I said, I don’t own wireless speakers, though I might want to invest in some at some point. My phone or computer speakers work okay when listening to music though. There are many calming playlists on Spotify and undoubtedly other music apps too. The ones I love most are Harp Music for Sleeping, Peaceful Guitar and Peaceful Piano. There are also a number of nature sound playlists.

I at one point wanted a music pillow. I may still buy one at some point, but I haven’t yet found one that’s big enough to be used as a sleeping pillow and also works with Bluetooth.

Smell

One thing that my bedroom has and the snoezelen® room didn’t, is an aromatherapy diffuser. I have posted many times about my love for it. Mine cost €40, but they start at as cheap as €15. Essential oils can be a bit expensive depending on the quality you choose. I am obsessed with creating my own blends, so I really like to have a large collection of essential oils. However, if all you want is a nice smell, fragrance oils are also great.

Touch

In the day center sensory room, we had a specially designed waterbed. That felt good, but my own bed is also a pretty good substitute. I usually turn up the head side of the bed slightly.

A thing that’s a true blessing for my senses though, is my weighted blanket. These come in different forms. Some are filled with plastic balls. Mine is filled with sachets filled with granules. It’s a rather expensive blanket at over €500. Thankfully though, my care facility paid for it. With the company we used, you can borrow the blanket on a try-out basis for two weeks for just postage. That helped me make sure it was the right one for me. Mine weighs 12kg, which is relatively heavy considering my body weight of 70kg, but I actually love it this way.

I put a flannel duvet cover over my weighted blanket in winter. When it’s really cold or I need some extra softness for sensory reasons, I use a fleece blanket too.

In addition, I have various soft toys. My favorite is an ordinary stuffed bear. However, I also have a 1.60m large stuffed bear that I got from my mother-in-law for my birthday last year. This one was probably quite expensive. Another of my favorite soft toys, is my sensory cat. This stuffed cat can be microwaved and then gives off heat and a lavender scent.

Sight

Like I said, I am blind with the exception of a tiny bit of light perception. I for this reason don’t benefit from visual stimuli. That being said, I do know a bit about making your room visually appealing to the senses.

My essential oil diffuser works as a night light too. It can be set to seven different colors and I believe also two intensity levels.

Of course, you may want to use your sensory room experience for more than just sleeping. I’m pretty sure in my care home’s makeshift sensory room, the staff put up some form of Christmas lights for the visual effect.

In addition, there are many different visual projection systems. My care facility owns the Qwiek.

Conclusion

I really love my makeshift sensory room in my own bedroom. Generally speaking, creating a true sensory room requires a lot of money. I am so glad though that I could buy some equipment myself or ask for it as a gift. That way, I was able to skip the unnecessary for me expensive things and find things I truly would use. I am very glad that my facility paid for the weighted blanket.

loopyloulaura

Gratitude List (January 2, 2021) #TToT

Yay, it’s Saturday and that means I’m going to write another gratitude list. I didn’t specifically resolve to be more grateful this year, but I already set a goal to do a weekly gratitude list in November. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. I am grateful my extra one-on-one care got approved. The staff and manager will meet next week to discuss how to fill in the hours and whether extra staff will need to be hired for it. So far though, nothing will change for me, as I already had some one-on-one as of mid-November. I’m so glad it doesn’t stop though!

2. I am grateful for financial security. My long-term care copay is likely to increase by at least €70 a month this year, but it’s because my husband’s and my household income has increased. I’m pretty sure I can afford this increase without having to live extremely frugally.

3. Speaking of which, I am so grateful my husband bought a new-to-us car. We used to have a Suzuki Wagon R+, but that one wasn’t too comfortable on long drives. It also needed repairing anyway. Of course, buying another car rather than repairing your current one is rarely the economical choice (my husband calculated that it would be if we bought a very small car). He wanted some luxury though and so do I. We now have a Volkswagen Golf.

4. I am grateful for oliebollen and other new year’s snacks. I didn’t eat too many, but I did have some treats.

5. I am grateful for a relatively peaceful new year’s. My sister-in-law came by. My husband had made it clear beforehand that I could always retreat into the bedroom to go on my phone, so I did that a few times.

6. I am grateful for toast with sausages on it for lunch today. I’d never had this before, but it was good.

7. I am grateful for really good essential oil combinations in my diffuser. I even managed to make one that’s good even though there’s geranium in it. I normally hate that scent (don’t ask me why I bought it then), but combined with lavender, orange and cedarwood, it’s good.

8. I am grateful for a really nice nap this afternoon. I had the aforementioned combination of essential oils in my diffuser and slept like a log.

9. I am grateful the festivities are over with for now for a while. They were good, but I’d like to have some normal weeks now.

10. I am so grateful for still no COVID at my care home! I could post that one every week, because of course each week without COVID is a blessing, but well.

What are you grateful for?