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8 Ways to Be a More Optimistic Caregiver

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June 1, 2017

It was a simple fill-in-the-blank statement at the Caregiver Stress Relief community : “Today I feel grateful for ___________.” And yet, oh, the differences between responses.

“Not much,” DeeAnn candidly commented. “It’s been a bad day, and I don’t roll with the punches very well.”

In contrast, Ednita claimed gratitude for “the occasional breeze we’re getting today” while Chris was grateful to “still being able to help others.”

Some caregivers may relate more with DeeAnn and less with Ednita and Chris as they go through their stressful caregiving day. And that’s OK. Like every other human being, family caregivers experience good days and bad days.
But if you’d like to learn how to cultivate more optimism in your caregiving life, you may be interested in these tips for creating positivity and building resiliency in the face of adversity.

1. Look for the Good
Author Catherine Pulsifer said, “To find optimism, look for the good things in life.” This advice may be easier said than done, however it’s important to help keep the negative thoughts at bay. Try making a list each day of things that are good in your life. Some caregivers shared that they were grateful for the little things like a cool breeze, a nap, or sunshine. When problems loom large, look for the small bright spots in your life.

2. Speak kindly – to yourself
“Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else,” recommends a mayoclinic.org article on positive thinking. Turning off the negative dialogue in your head can be a powerful tool to harness optimism. The first step is recognizing negative thoughts and reframing them in your mind. For example, instead of thinking, “This will never work,” you might say to yourself, “I’ll try again a different way.” Positive thinking takes practice, and with time you’ll notice fewer critical or negative thoughts popping into your mind.

3. Lean on positive people
Surrounding yourself with positive friends and family is helpful when trying to stay upbeat yourself. Phyllis, a family caregiver, said that she is grateful for “the helpful people I have met on my journey. Their kindness is inspirational.” Seeing the positivity in others and involving them in your life can be powerful. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” said the late Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. Choose to spend time with those that give you energy and positivity, not people that take it from you. If getting together in person is not possible, connect online or join a supportive online community such as the Caregiver Stress Relief community.

4. Find happiness through health
A healthy diet and exercise can go a long way to improve mood and maintain positivity in your life. Exercise can reduce stress, increase energy, and foster good sleep habits. Can’t find 30 minutes a day to exercise? Break it up into three 10-minute chunks. With today’s technology, you can find activities to get you moving online or even “On Demand” workouts through your cable TV provider. Eating well can also impact wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy diet is a priority for Cindy, a family caregiver. “It’s probably one of the most important things to do to keep my mind sharp,” she said.

5. Remember you are doing your best
Alzheimer’s expert Karen Garner tells caregivers on her blog to remember "…you know you did the best you could at that particular moment.” Karen was a caregiver to her husband before he passed, and said “I was entrenched in the battle of caregiving that leaves little room for luxuries like taking the time to write and read and sit quietly to reflect on all that is happening.” She reminds caregivers that they showed up when it mattered the most and were present. “At times, you may have lost your patience, but that doesn’t detract from all the other positives you have done,” she said.

6. Laugh to lighten your load
Not only does laughter make you feel good, its positive effects stay with you long after the chuckling subsides. Research shows that laughter lowers stress hormones, relaxes muscles, improves mood, and eases anxiety. According to HelpGuide.org, “Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.” Some caregivers not only find laugher for themselves, they share it with others. Linda says that she is always grateful for “another day filled with laughter with my loved one.”

7. Keep it simple
Sometimes, doing only what needs to be done – dishes, laundry, meals – can make the days less daunting. Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself. Family caregiver Angela describes how she lets it go “if in fact my sofa wins the day” and she doesn’t meet her own expectations. To keep it simple, she tries to pick one thing to accomplish and focuses on that.

8. Take time for yourself
Whether it’s a quick walk around the block or meeting a friend for lunch, taking a break from caregiving duties is important for your health and wellbeing. If you’re able to take time off, it will be good for both you and your loved one. Gail is a caregiver to her father and said she is grateful for “…the care companions who do so much more than just give me some respite time. They engage Dad in a way that helps him be alert and happy.” Look to a family member, friend, or professional caregiver to give you a few hours to yourself so you can recharge and maintain an optimistic outlook.

Caregiving can be rewarding, but no caregiver breezes through the journey without feeling some degree of negativity and hopelessness creeping in. By following tips to stay positive, you may be able to transition your outlook to one of optimism and gratitude for even the smallest positive things in life.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 28, 2017 at 2:11 am | Posted by Judy Rippengale

    Thanks so much for the Optimistic Tips. I relate to many of the points and the tips are encouraging. I am Caregiver to my sister who is disabled with cerebral palsy and mental health issues. I attend monthly support group meetings with the Family Caregivers of BC group, and am wondering if I could take copies of this article to give to other Caregivers (mostly for parents/spouses). I notice a copyright for Home Instead so knew I needed to ask.

    Reply

    • June 28, 2017 at 9:52 am | Posted by Home Instead

      You are most welcome! So glad you found the tips useful and encouraging. We will email you separately regarding use of the article with your support group. Hope you have a great day!

      Reply

  2. June 20, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Posted by Sonya Crayton

    My sister would share the responsibility of caring for our mother but she died suddenly of a massive heart attack ( Dr. Evelyn Odunsi) I miss her more than words can say. My younger brother is no help at all, I decided not to ask him anymore. After two years of trying mother just was approved for a home care provider. Yay!! My younger son helps tremendously I thank GOD for him. I know had my sister lived things would be so different. I do try not to dwell on it. I'm Trying to exercise every day and am always up for A good laugh. I want to do right by my mother she was a single parent very hard worker. I wish we had The chance to know one another. She was a registered nurse. She worked 60-70 hours a week sometimes. She had a series of strokes after she retired and when my sister died she took a turn for the worse Alzheimer's. It's like I have a third baby. I'll be getting help soon. Thanks for listening.

    Reply

  3. June 8, 2017 at 5:47 pm | Posted by Ghazala Chaudhry

    Thanks for the optimistic tips.

    Reply

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