Stopped to Smell the Roses Lately? It May be Time to Start!

By: Julia Yarbough

Are you taking time to care for yourself? When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses? This post is designed to challenge you to consider who you are.

Do you ever sometimes look in the mirror, and wonder who the person staring back at you is? Maybe you see a slight wrinkle, or you spot a gray hair that you simply know wasn’t there the day before? Or maybe you see a reflection of a person who exudes a sense of calm and acceptance?

younger black woman with long black hair looking at her face in the mirror with hands on side of her face

I have to believe I am not the only person who has these moments and would love to hear if any of you experience the same?



Over the past year or so, I have to admit I find myself giving pause, and having these ‘mirror moments’ as I’ll call them. I often ask myself:

  • How did 58 years go by so fast?
  • How did you get here?
  • If this first half moved this quickly, how much time do I have left?
  • When was the last time you/I stopped and smelled the roses? (you know… slow down enough to notice the world around us?)

And that’s when I get a bit of an anxiety attack.

Image of Julia and Nellie Yarbough standing in front of New York Broadway sign for Mama Mia

Enjoying the journey

I start thinking about my mother and I miss her. I think about my caregiving role and how at times I was beyond overwhelmed. Even so, I am thankful I was able to provide as much care as I did for my mother. It taught me a lot about what may lie ahead for many of us as we age.

I slip down a rabbit-hole wondering, ‘Is there anyone who is going to help take care of me the way I cared for my mom?’

Phew…. Most of the time I manage to pull myself back to the here and now and shake off the panic.

These moments make my heart race, but they also remind me to embrace the passage of time, of aging, of experiencing this life journey, and not taking any of it for granted.

Caregiving Changes Who We Are


I believe caregiving changes who we are. Studies show the role can increase the chances of facing our own health challenges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named caregiving a public health issue. That is just one reason why we must remind ourselves that we must take care of ourselves in the process of caring for others. Even so, I’m talking about subtle shifts in who we are as a result of going through the caregiving experience.

How could going through the experience of watching our loved one grow older, perhaps declining in physical and mental health, needing our help in almost every facet of their lives – then, sadly, accepting their eventual deaths NOT leave a lasting imprint on us?

When you experience aging, decline, and death up close and personal – you are forever changed.

Since the time of losing my mother, Nellie Yarbough, there are a handful of emotional attributes I have identified within myself. Some of which did not exist before, some which were there but barely, and others which used to exist, but are now gone.

image of multi-colored shape of human being

Emotional intelligence

Consider this: it may not simply be a given that as individuals, we inherently know how to genuinely ‘care’ for or about others in our sphere. For years, I can honestly say my level of emotional intelligence was pretty low. Not because I didn’t care about others. But rather, because I was so focused on my career and achieving success that many of the events and people that made up the fabric of my life barely registered in my consciousness.

Roll the clock forward to more than 20 years of being the primary care provider for my mother and now several years since her death.

There is greater awareness and empathy for those around me who might need help in some way. Sometimes it is complete strangers; adult children with their aging loved ones. I feel almost compelled to lend a hand. Is this happening to any of you as well?

Connecting the dots

You hear me use that phrase often. Since coming out on the other side of caregiving, and having created Keeping It REAL Caregiving, I am more aware of how systems overlap and impact. I encourage you to consider the same in these areas:

Pay close attention to imagery in the media of an aging population. The American Society on Aging has partnered with Shutterstock to address ageism in advertising.

Listen closely to how people talk and engage with someone older than themselves – Is it respectful? Are they addressing that individual as an equal?

Observe if products, services, and businesses are adapting their offerings to consider the needs of an aging population and their caregivers. If not, be willing to always submit your comments and observations to those companies.

Make a point to educate yourselves of the vocabulary of the caregiving world and how health insurance companies provide services, fees, and what is/is not covered.

image of pink rose with petals half open

Smell the Roses

Take time to smell the roses

I know, that is such a cliche! But how true. Years ago, when I was a young and ‘thought I knew it all’ reporter, an older colleague would often say to me:

Julia, slow down. Do you see those flowers over there. They are so beautiful.

Typically he would literally slow the car, and point out something he spotted. At the time, it made me insane. Didn’t he realize we had an important deadline to meet?!

His name was Mr. Dinh. He was one of the most amazing photographers I ever worked with, and simply one of the kindest human beings – ever! I didn’t understand him at the time. But you know what? Mr. Dinh was 100% right! He would make sure I stopped to smell the roses, so to speak.

Slow down. Take in the simple pleasures that are all around you.

Don’t stress about what other people think

I’ve let that go. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up treating others with respect and kindness. No. It simply means there is greater awareness of what makes me happy and content, rather than worrying and wondering what others may think. Challenge yourselves to get into this space.

Keeping It REAL Caregiving Call to Action


Image of white coffee mug in front of a Call to Action sign, spelled out with tiles

Call to Action for Caregivers


I know you are busy. You are stressed. You may be pushed to the limit. Still – I encourage you to slow down.

Make a point to sit and talk with your loved one. The dishes, laundry, and all the other errands? They are always going to be there. It can wait.

Let your loved one have the food treats they want (within doctors’ guidelines). They know their time may be short. Let them enjoy what they can. Allow yourselves to ‘let go.’

Remember – you do not have to be superhuman.

Do what you can. That is all you can do.

Take time to stop and smell the roses. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time~

Image of Keeping It REAL Caregiving and creator Julia Yarbough