If you were asked to answer the question, “Today I feel grateful for______?”, what would you answer? If you said, “Not much,” you’re not alone.
Consider family caregiver Dee’s response when asked the question about what she’s grateful for: “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—and there are more than 7.8 million in Canada alone—may relate more with DeeAnn and less with Ednita and Chris as they go through their stressful caregiving day. And that’s OK.
In order to move past the struggles and learn how to cultivate more optimism in your caregiving life, follow these tips for creating positivity and building resiliency in the face of adversity.
9 Ways to Be a More Optimistic Caregiver
Look for the Good
In order to keep the negative thoughts at bay, try making a list each day of things that are good in your life. When problems loom large, look for the small bright spots in your life like a cool breeze, sunshine or a nap.
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. For example, instead of thinking, “This will never work,” you might say to yourself, “I’ll try again a different way.”
Lean on Positive People
Surrounding yourself with positive friends and family is helpful when trying to stay upbeat yourself. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” said the late Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. Stay connected with these people by getting together regularly in person or online. You might consider joining a supportive online community.
Find Happiness Through Health
A healthy diet and exercise can go a long way to improve mood and overall wellness. Exercise and good nutrition can reduce stress, increase energy, and foster good sleep habits. 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.
Remember you are Doing Your Best
Stay positive and give yourself grace. Even if you lose your temper, that doesn’t detract from all of the positive that you’ve done for your aging loved one. Let go of the guilt, which is a normal part of the caregiving process, and if you’re struggling with feeling angry about your role as a caregiver, find positive ways to redirect your emotions. Remember that you are showing up every day and making a difference.
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.
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. Pick one thing to accomplish and focus on that.
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 and focusing on self-care is important for your health and wellbeing. 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.
Embrace Your Spiritual Side
Spirituality has been shown to improve mood and even physical health. Memory care expert and author of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care, David Troxel suggests finding focused time for spiritual activities during the day including sharing/reading prayers with your aging loved one, singing or listening to spiritual music.
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.
Consider the benefits professional respite care, from a company like Home Instead, which provides a break from the rigors of caregiving and helps you focus more on the blessings in your life.