Most of us feel frustrated when we think we have no control over
what is happening to us. Living in ambiguity or uncertainty, we turn
to our crystal balls and forecast gloom and doom in our lives. We
tend to create a fictional certainty to counteract the ambiguity and
usually this version of “our certainty” ends in failure.
Anticipating a negative outcome, we bring it on ourselves, or at
best waste precious time dreading the outcome which luckily never
happens the way we imagine it would! This hopeless and helpless
attitude is not only stressful, but terribly unhealthy for us and
those in our care!
According to the American Medical Association, a new personality
type has been identified to be more prone to heart disease and
stroke than the Type A (which pales in comparison); it is the Type D
personality who is distressed and distant. Caregivers, in
particular, tend to feel distressed taking care of everyone’s needs
but their own. Also, because caregivers feel overwhelmed with the
daily to-do list, they feel isolated by a wall of grief and guilt.
The antidote is to understand what is slowly poisoning our innate
zest for living; in other words, what is holding us back from
leading our lives. Could we be the authors of this distress,
creating the irreconcilable distance from all those people we blame
for not helping us and not being sensitive enough?
The unknown invites fearful visions. Consider this: We can
confidently walk a plank on the ground. Now elevate that same plank
ten feet high and we are frightened that we will lose our balance
and fall. It is not our bodies that fail us, but our minds which
conjure up failure. We are terribly afraid of living: What will
people say if we have fun – shouldn’t we be grieving and humble? How
will we measure up – are we good enough? What if we are rejected
when we ask for help or some free time for ourselves? The good news:
We can exchange our negative crystal ball for a positive one.
Even when we think that we have absolutely lost all control, such as
in the aging and disease process, we can exert our powerful control
center, the mind. Observe how some people look young, act young and
are vital even when chronologically they are advanced in age. Some
people get cancer and come to their senses. In both cases, people
have made up their minds to live their lives with enthusiasm,
experiencing one focused action after another. Obviously, no one is
going to live forever, but we can really be alive because our life
depends on it. Let’s turn adversity into advantage. After all,
unlike most people, we know the facts; the next step is how we
choose to perceive them. Caregiving need not be a case of identity
theft. Rather, this might be the time in your life to reinvent.
When my mother was sick with
Alzheimer’s, I realized that Alzheimer’s teaches us a powerful
lesson — to let go. Alzheimer’s forces the patient to let go of the
past and live in the now, moment to moment. My mother, who didn’t
know what planet she was on, knew me, her daughter. When everything
melted away in her memory, our visceral love was there – so thick
you could touch it. How blessed I was to have experienced that kind
of love and forever keep it in my heart! How blessed I was to see
the world with Alzheimer’s eyes and live in the moment and
appreciate the little things with my five senses! Because I was
experiencing a painful time in my life, I decided as a caregiver to
fill my life with creativity to counteract the destruction. I wrote
two books on stress-management and put them in my mother’s hands! I
found my passion and my true identity.
Here are some suggestions to
lead your life, instead of blindly following wherever it takes you:
Accept responsibility for
your life. Either make things work out better where you are, or
select a more suitable environment like a nursing home or
assisted living for the person in your care. Learn to rid
yourself of the victim mentality. If you use the word “stuck” to
describe your life, then you have given away your power. Words
train our spirit. Loosen your addiction to the word “stuck.” Use
words like: “choose,” “free” and “decide.”
Express yourself honestly,
but pay careful attention to how others receive your words.
Communication is a two-way street. Plan to do a lot of listening
and you will learn vital information that can help.
Balance your needs with the
people who inhabit your life. When you know what makes you
happy, make those around you happy too. That means compliment
them by finding something positive to say to trigger their
positive energy. Touch and hug to transmit the loving, healing
energy deep within you. Good energy rebounds, settles an
agitated heart and promotes improved health.
Can you learn from
criticism? Associate with a person or persons who don’t always
agree with you. Hear their ideas and suggestions. Avoid being
right all the time!
Don’t let your need for
emotional security and control run your life. Try to leave your
comfort zone and seek out change. Emotional security can serve
as a cage.
Don’t let anger fuel your
future. Anger and resentment are energy vampires that stunt your
Don’t be the archetypal
rescuer who forgets to rescue the self. As per airline
instructions, put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on
the person in your charge. Because if you pass out, so will your
patient. If you are stressed, the person you love and care for
will absorb that stress.
delegate! Ask for help. Community centers, houses of worship,
colleges, etc. have volunteers ready, willing and able to help
you out. Live in greater balance with a sense of who you are.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing
Habits: The Caregivers’ Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light:
Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist,
motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She
is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB
AM1240 in New York City, produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and
has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more,
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