Monday, November 16, 2015

Is Happiness Possible for Caregivers?

Ask any caregiver about her flagging level of happiness, and she’ll probably say: "What happiness?" Take Pamela, for example. With a dying mother who needs care around the clock, a strained budget, two teenage children, and a demanding job—she’d likely tell you: "Happiness is just a mirage."

But should Pamela merely accept her lot in life? Or could she pursue happiness by shifting her perspective, drawing on wisdom of the heart? From this viewpoint, she can now embrace her intuition, inventiveness and resourcefulness to achieve the nearly impossible: Smooth conflict, ease tension, as well as cultivate generosity and love to overcome the daily grind and the adversities she faces.

Positive care strategies will begin to emerge when we allow the heart to be the driver. Some simple changes come to mind: seeking help outside the family, putting aside time for herself, recognizing that her well-being is the essential element in being a successful, enduring caregiver.

With an attitude of gratitude, the caregiver soon realizes that her energy is limited, and that "she can’t give away what she hasn’t got." She also understands from personal experience that "you have to fill up own cup first before you can fill another’s."

Here are a few affirmations to help restore and renew caregivers like Pamela.

Eight Strategies for Happier Living

1. Listen to your inner voice to assess what you’re willing and able to do, and to discard what feels like an overload. Work on being a problem-solver, not a problem-maker.

2. Keep a journal to document all your caregiving accomplishments on a daily basis, so that you can give with a full heart. Sharing photos, rubbing your loved one’s back and exchanging hugs can all flow from a loving heart. Scrubbing the kitchen floor to perfection, washing every last dish in the sink before you allow yourself to go to bed or insisting on creating elaborate meals are activities that you might consider letting go of for now. Find substitute interests that allow both you and your loved one to benefit.

3. Use heart-speak when you interact with your loved one. Terms of endearment, tender words and loving tones can ease that weight of duty, and lifts both of your spirits.

4. Bring your intention of giving care lovingly into every care act, whether it’s making a doctor’s appointment for your mother or driving your husband to his yoga class. Positive intention contributes to a relaxed physical state and peaceful mind.

5. Evaluate the pros and cons of your current job. Does this job work for me right now? If not, what could be done to make necessary changes to reduce my job-related physical and emotional pressures.

6. Look for inspiration wherever you can find it. Whether being with a circle of dear friends, taking a walk in the park, reading your favorite magazine, attending a religious service—any activity that energizes and empowers you—could be just the ticket to brightening your day.

7. Practice mindfulness, which means simply being aware of your bodily sensations, your thoughts, emotions, environment, relationships and overall life. Think of yourself as a witness to your own life, or see yourself as the lead actor in a fascinating movie: your life. Having some distance from your immediate situation can alter the picture immensely. Some experts advocate meditation to heighten this sense of awareness. Mindfulness can be the giant step in helping you achieve deep relaxation and stress reduction.

8. Cultivate compassion and kindness, not only for your loved one, but also for all living things. It’s amazing how differently you look at the world when you view people and human activity from a benevolent and sympathetic point of view. You can start with feeling compassionate, kind and loving with yourself. Praise yourself frequently over the course of the day, especially as you encounter and surmount challenges in caregiving.

Remember: Happiness is only a short attitude shift away.

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