Caregivers: 7 Practical Yet Simple Steps to Improved Family Communication

Caregivers: 7 Practical Yet Simple Steps to Improved Family Communication

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstandings, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”

—Albert Schweitzer

Meet Barbara:

“Rant alert! As if caring for your loved ones through terminal illness or behavior issues isn’t bad enough—or even navigating systems that promise to offer help but broken, at best. But what gets me is when your f*****g siblings can’t find any f*****g compassion or consideration to give you a f*****g chance to get back up on your feet after being knocked down time and time again for years—whether it be emotionally, physically, financially, or mentally.

“My mum moved into residential care two weeks ago, and she loves it. Why? Because she has company and is well cared for. I fully supported her decision. But my brothers? Oh no! One stopped talking to me. The other doesn’t understand why I haven’t found a job and moved out of the family home, and he wants me to pay for my mum’s residential care.

“Times like these are when I’m convinced that I’m adopted. I’m so f*****g angry! I have had to put my dreams on hold constantly, and I now finally get a chance to rebuild my business with some great products and services but with no f*****g support from my family at all!”

Barbara and her family have failed to communicate adequately.

Interestingly, during the same week, she posted her entry in the online support group, another caregiver member of the group posted these words:

“I HATE my siblings. That is all.”

This member received twenty-nine responses to her, with many sharing her sentiments and saying, “Me too!”

What is going on?

Why is there so much hatred among family members?

Where a good relationship exists, the caregiver, patient, and family laugh together even when they make mistakes.

Conversely, where there is friction, situations sometimes erupt and reveal communication gaps.

Barbara, for example, felt misunderstood and unheard by her brothers when siblings should be part of a robust, supportive circle tied together by a strong familial bond.

Instead, they only have feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment toward each other.

What You Can Do About Family Conflict

You must first understand the reasons behind a conflict before taking steps to resolve it.

One family therapist explains an important reason why brothers and sisters are so often in conflict:

“Each family has a certain number of resources, some emotional and some material. When siblings fight, they’re usually competing for these resources, which include everything from paternal love to money and clothes.”

In Barbara’s situation, some of the conflicts seem to be about money, as one of her brothers believed that she should pay for their mother’s residential care.

Other issues in Barbara’s family involve feelings of resentment—at least from Barbara’s perspective. One brother wants Barbara to move out of the family home and be on her own, which could also be about money.

But the only way Barbara and her brothers can get to the core of their disputes is to talk openly to each other face-to-face.

Such a meeting involves interpersonal communication skills, where the siblings can exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and nonverbal communication, ideally in person or a conference call.

But I believe the most critical communication skill is effective and active listening, which builds trust. Through it, you can make and bring opposing ideas closer together.

Conflicts or clashes often occur due to family stress and other negative emotions, such as worry, anger, grief, guilt, and so forth.

These negative emotions not only affect your health but family dynamics as well.

Barbara might have been experiencing all sorts of inner emotional turmoil, which caused her to express herself so vehemently in her online post.

Indeed, she must resolve the issues with her brothers, or she will need professional mental help.

In the field of psychotherapy, there exist four methods of conflict resolution.

You may have learned these in college or the workplace. They include:

  1. Competition. This method refers to a power struggle involving who gets the upper hand. The result is, “I win, and you lose.”
  2. Accommodation. You concede to resolve issues with this style. The result is, “I lose, and you win.”
  3. Compromise. Many believe this is the best way to resolve conflict, resulting in “I lose, and you lose.”
  4. Cooperation. Referred to as a “win-win” situation, both parties cooperate for the best outcome in both their favor.

Conflict Can Happen in Any Relationship

Regardless of the type of relationship, there are four common causes of severe disagreements or disputes:

  1. Lack of shared understanding.
  2. Poor communication skills.
  3. Unclear or unfair expectations.
  4. Power plays and manipulations.

Use These Seven Simple Steps to Improve Your Family Communication

Step 1: Prepare to listen with understanding.

In Barbara’s case, she should calmly approach her brothers and ask to meet with them face-to-face, if possible. She can plan to avoid being defensive. She might say to them in a friendly tone of voice, “Let’s talk.”

When approaching her brothers, Barbara should recall what she has learned about nonverbal communication skills and remember that it is not only what she says but, also how she presents her case.

Step 2: Engage in active listening.

If Barbara’s brothers agree to a meeting, she must engage in active listening. She will acknowledge whatever her brothers say by nodding or making statements such as, “I see,” or “I get it.” However, this is not to be confused with obeying or acquiescing. She should ask sincere questions and express herself with mildness and respect for better results.

Step 3. State your position tactfully.

In this step, you should avoid blame, shame, or guilt to present your case, as doing so would be ineffective. Using such a tactic could backfire in Barbara’s case, and her brothers might instead become defensive and argumentative. Use statements that start with “I.”

Step 4. Give the benefit of the doubt.

Open your discussion by expecting the best results. Barbara, for instance, could assume right away that her brothers will be sympathetic to her point of view, putting her into a more positive frame of mind instead of expecting the worse and thus feeling tense or nervous. Repeating the phrase, “I’m sure they’ll understand how I feel,” may help.

Step 5. Be hard on the problem.

Focus on the issue at hand but do not attack the people. Avoid generalizing by using statements such as, “You always do this” or “You never do that.”

Step 6. Resist casting blame.

The only time casting blame is adequate is when you’re blaming yourself, which will denote humility. Make statements such as, “I messed up; I apologize.” Blaming others will only cause resentment and will reinforce their position.

Step 7. Negotiate with confidence.

Convince yourself that you are not afraid to confront the issues. Explain that people have different needs, wants, and aspirations. If you have a problem with your family and it’s causing you distress, it’s time to speak up. Nearly everything is negotiable. Aim for a win-win solution. It may not be easy, but it is well worth the effort.

In addition to the above seven steps, showing empathy can be beneficial, as some refer to this quality as “The Bedrock of Conversation.”

How so?

According to Dr. Bernard Guerney of Pennsylvania State University:

“Empathy is the capacity to appreciate the other person’s feelings and point of view—whether you agree with him or not. Empathy is the foundation upon which we build everything else.”

Thus, to resolve conflict and preserve the relationship, we must be willing to talk about the problem without making the other person defensive or angry.

Most people confuse empathy—the appreciation and respect for the other person’s point of view—with the agreement with the other person’s position.

That is not the case.

According to Dr. Guerney, empathy allows you to put yourself mentally in the other person’s shoes so that you can feel and think as they do. And you will find that doing so will result in understanding, appreciation, and respect, even if you disagree with their point of view.

Empathy shows you care.

Empathy serves to foster better communication people want and need.

To Summarize:

  • Communication is the exchange of thoughts and feelings.
  • Miscommunication is a failure to communicate adequately.
  • As with all conflict, family conflict occurs due to a lack of shared understanding, poor communication skills, unclear or unfair expectations, and power plays and manipulations.

As a caregiver, I implore you to follow the seven practical yet simple steps in this article and watch communication within your family improve.

With the stress, overwhelm, and struggles you are undoubtedly experiencing in caring for your loved one, you (all of us) need family!

We must try to get along.

Make your caregiving days less stressful and more loving, joyful, and peaceful through effective communication with family.

****  ****

Source for this article:

A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions, published 2019.

Find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T8KSC34

The Happiness Code: 6 Ways to Find Happiness Today, Tomorrow, and Into Your Future

The Happiness Code: 6 Ways to Find Happiness Today, Tomorrow, and Into Your Future

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

Are you happy?

Oxford English Dictionary defines happiness as: “feeling or showing pleasure; fortunate and convenient.”

In line with this definition, other sources say happiness is an “emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment.”

If you accept the above descriptions, what principles or qualities of life would you say characterize the way to find such happiness?

What rules do happy people live by?

How do happy people behave?

Unlocking the Code

Many people experience a measure of happiness when they reach a specific goal or obtain a new item, such as a car, a house, or another thing they desire.

But how long does that surge of happiness last? Often, it is only temporary.

What’s missing?

The six qualities that promote lasting happiness include:

  1. Physical health and resilience
  2. Contentment and generosity
  3. Purpose in life
  4. Forgiveness
  5. Hope
  6. Love

Let’s now consider each of these specific measures of happiness one at a time:

Physical Health and Resilience

Tammy’s husband had had three strokes within three months. She had to drive him from the hospital to a nursing home for rehab each time it happened.

Tammy had no assistance from relatives and was under extreme stress. And stress makes you sick!

According to Dr. Jay Winner, as reported on WebMD.com, the most significant health problems induced by stress include:

  • Heart disease
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Accelerated aging
  • Premature death

What could Tammy do?

Control her negative emotions.

Your mind and body are closely linked.

So, Tammy should avoid undue anxiety, unbridled anger, and other harmful emotions and focus on positive things.

Yes, you can choose how to feel.

To keep her health from deteriorating, Tammy should also, if at all possible, find a few minutes each day to exercise. Get out for a walk. Work in the garden, if she has one. Or find an exercise she can enjoy on YouTube.

Tammy has no choice but to care for her husband, but she must find ways to cope; build resilience.

Three suggested ways to help Tammy manage her difficult situation and become more resilient are; meditation, mindfulness, and prayer.

Also, getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy meals required for good health is a must!

Contentment and Generosity

Many believe that we measure happiness by wealth and assets.

Not true!

There are always cycles in the traditional financial markets.

For Instance, Bitcoin (a cryptocurrency), has lost so much of its value in the last 2-3 months that folks have heart attacks!

Perhaps these markets will recover—who knows?

But if our desires do not exceed our means, we’re spared needless anxiety and stress.

Mental health experts link striving for money to unhappiness because it leads to worry and loss of sleep.

Many people experience grief and frustration when money or investments depreciate or fail.

If this is your situation, why not adopt the attitude that you will be content with if you have food and clothing for yourself and your family.

An attitude of contentment will protect you against envy and the desire to exceed your means—less anxiety and stress.

Generosity also brings happiness.

One definition for generous: “freely giving more than necessary or expected.”

The word “generous” has many synonyms: kindness, humanity, benevolence, unselfishness, openhandedness, and on and on.

And if you’re familiar with the Christian Bible, you have undoubtedly read: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35).

Generous people put people before things and value good relationships with others above material riches.

Generous people are happy people.

“It’s enough to indulge and to be selfish but true happiness is really when you start giving back.”

—Adrian Grenier

Purpose in Life

Humans are unique in many ways.

We have extraordinary brains, though not the most giant brains in the world.

We can think symbolically and reason.

We write, we paint, we create, and humans can control fire!

And only humans think about life’s big questions: Why are we here? What is the purpose of life?

William McDougall, a professor of psychology, wrote: “To keep alive and mentally healthy, we need something to live for.”

Another professor of psychology, Carol Ryff, agrees: “People whose lives have purpose show widespread health benefits—they have reduced risk for cognitive [mental] impairment … reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, better recovery from stroke … and, relatedly they live longer.”

There are health benefits to having a purpose.:

  • Fewer strokes and heart attacks
  • Better sleep
  • Lower risk of dementia and disabilities

Not sure about your purpose?

Start with a self-assessment. There are many formulas on the Web that can help you discover your life’s purpose.

Be clear about your life purpose. You were born with an inner guidance that tells you when you’re on or off course by the amount of joy you are experiencing.

Forgiveness

To forgive means to “stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offense or mistake.”—Oxford English Dictionary

Forgiveness means pardoning an offender and letting go of anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge; it does not mean condoning a wrong, minimizing, or pretending it did not happen.

For instance, Rhonda and her brother Darin had agreed to care equally for their seriously ill 78-year-old mother.

Unfortunately, this is not what happened.

Rhonda said, “I’m so frustrated. I do everything for my mother, and my brother does nothing! For example, my brother said he mowed the lawn and called pest control so they could get ready to sell the house.

“Pest control sent me a picture of the yard. My brother had not mowed the lawn! My brother is unreliable and irresponsible! Yet, he is my mother’s pride and joy. She dotes on him and criticizes me!

“How can I cope!?”

To say that Rhonda resents her brother is putting it mildly. She could also be jealous of him. She seems to feel that her brother gets the love, and she gets the grind of caring for their mother’s needs.

Rhonda must work to overcome and control such feelings. She must work to remain kind and considerate—no matter what.

The value of unity and peace in one’s family is worth whatever it may cost.

By being willing to forgive, for instance, makes us more loving and lovable.

Forgiveness reflects an understanding that we all err in word and deed.

According to Mayo Clinic, forgiveness leads to:

  • Healthier relationships, including feelings of empathy, understanding, and compassion for others
  • Improved mental and spiritual well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved self-esteem

And forgive yourself.

Self-forgiveness is critical to your mental health but can be challenging to achieve.

No one is perfect; you will make mistakes.

If you hurt someone, take responsibility and be quick to apologize.

Learn from your errors, and so you are less likely to repeat them.

Be patient with yourself.

Here are a few self-forgiveness affirmations I found on the Web:

  • I acknowledge my faults and forgive myself completely
  • I release the heavy burden of shame, guilt, self-hatred, and self-judgment
  • I let go of all urges to criticize myself
  • Self-hatred does not serve me

You must learn to forgive yourself.

Hope

“Hope is a match in a dark tunnel, a moment of light, just enough to reveal the path ahead and ultimately the way out.”—Dr. Judith Rich

On October 27, 2020, I wrote a blog article that I posted to my website entitled, “A Story of Hope and Optimism: What It Means for You.”

In the article, I quoted Charles Richard Snyder, the psychologist who developed the hope theory: “A rainbow is a prism that sends shards of multicolored light in various directions. It lifts our spirits and makes us think of what is possible. Hope is the same—a personal rainbow of the mind.”

However, hope and optimism are not the same things.

Optimism means “most likely to lead to a favorable outcome.”—Oxford English Dictionary

An example would be: “My workday started stressfully, but I believe it could only get better.”

The book Hope in the Age of Anxiety states: “Hope is an essential element of our spiritual lifeblood. And it is the best medicine for overcoming feelings of helplessness, alienation, and fear.”

The opposite of hope is fear: “An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.”—Oxford English Dictionary

Our need for hope is reflected in everyday life.

What we hope for:

  • An end of poverty and hunger; ample food for all
  • An end to violence against women and children
  • An end to warfare
  • A more open, inclusive, and fair world for all people
  • Clean water for all

Undoubtedly, you can think of other needs for which to hope.

“Hope is the dream of the waking man.”—Aristotle

Love

“One word frees us of all weight and pain in life—that word is love.”

—Sophocles

Definition of love: noun, “A strong feeling of affection”; verb, “Loves, loving, loved.”—Oxford English Dictionary

Humans crave love, and therefore love is essential to mental health and happiness.

One Bible writer described love this way:

“Love is patient and kind. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8

When self-sacrificing love exists between family members, they all greatly benefit.

A young woman named Melissa, whose mother was critically ill and house bond, shared:

“Just Mom and me today hanging at home. I cooked dinner for us, and we’re going to watch the Colorado Rockies on TV.

“I was invited to quite a few things with friends, and I was a little bitter, but I’m making the best of it. My sisters couldn’t be bothered to visit. I would do anything for my mom, and I know she won’t be here forever.

“Taking care of Mom makes me happy.”

How beautiful.

Yes, love promotes happiness because:

  • It helps us to show sincere concern for the welfare and benefit of others
  • It can grow stronger over time
  • It gives strength and resilience to families and friendships

Choose to act the love.

And find Happiness

Finally

In this article, you have discovered the Happiness Code.

When troubles and misery come your way (and they will), you now know the rules and principles that, if followed, will for sure lift you up.

  1. Take care of your physical health and strengthen your resilience.
  2. Learn contentment and be generous
  3. Find your purpose in life
  4. Practice forgiveness
  5. Have hope—always
  6. Act the love

These six practices are the way of happiness.

“Try to make at least one person happy every day. If you cannot do a kind deed, speak a kind word. If you cannot speak a kind word, think a kind thought. Count up, if you can, the treasure of happiness that you would dispense in a week, in a year, in a lifetime!”—

Lawrence G. Lovasik

Boomer Women: 8 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Health

Boomer Women: 8 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Health

“I’m alone, but I’m not lonely. I like who I am. I like who I’m becoming.”

—Deena Kastor

Today, because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the digital mental health market is exploding.

Stress and anxiety have accelerated demand for virtual behavioral health services.

According to the European Connected Health Alliance, more than 380,000 health apps are available through Apple and Android operating systems, and around 20,000 of them address mental health.

But what about emotional health?

Emotional Health Vs. Mental Health

In researching this topic, I did not find apps specifically to help with emotional health.

I believe this is because mental health and emotional health are two terms often used interchangeably.

But while deeply intertwined, mental health and emotional health are not the same things.

Emotional health has to do with your thoughts and feelings—and get the best of you.

On the other hand, mental health impacts our ability to process information and what’s going on around us.

For instance, our emotional health enables us to express our dissatisfaction if a situation makes us upset or angry. But our mental health affects how we understand what’s going on and process the problem.

In other words, I was thinking vs. expressing.

Some say that mental health is hardware, meaning how well our mind processes and understands information and experiences; our ability to carefully reason through decisions and remain focused and steady.

Whereas emotional health is the software, meaning our ability to manage and express emotions that arise and deal with life’s challenges.

Emotional Health Matters

When we cope with life relationships, we must balance our thoughts and emotions.

Though caring for our mental health (being productive at work, setting goals, contributing to society, etc.) is essential, too, our emotional awareness and health (behaviors, feelings, and thoughts).

Thus, if you are struggling with life’s stresses and an ability to adapt to life’s changes and handle difficult times—unable to manage the ups and downs of day-to-day life—you are not emotionally healthy.

And you need to take action now!

Here are eight helpful tips to improve your emotional health:

Tip #1. Practice daily self-care

  • Meditate
  • Drink cold water (8 glasses a day)
  • Exercise (walk 15 minutes outside, if possible)
  • Eat healthy meals
  • Practice gratitude
  • Manage stress (practice yoga)

Tip #2. Talk about your feelings

  • Feel good about who you are
  • Be positive
  • Tell someone if you feel anxious
  • Write positive affirmations down and repeat them to yourself
  • Ask for help; accept support
  • Say “no” when you need to

Tip #3. Have a sense of purpose

Having a driving force or something to inspire you keeps you going:

  • Commit more time to your children
  • Take up a hobby
  • Get a new job
  • Volunteer

Tip #4. Get quality sleep

To have good health, it has been said that “sleep is to a man what winding up is to a clock.” In sleep, you:

  • Get a break from the many tensions of the day
  • Get rest from such burdens as loneliness and poor health
  • Relieve feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, or worry

Tip #5. Learn to manage your time to reduce stress

Time management means the conscious control of time spent on specific activities. The benefits: more productivity and less stress.

Check out the Harvard Business Review for tips on ways to improve your time management and feel like you’ve accomplished what’s needed.

Tip #6. Connect with others

Scientists are finding that social connections will help you live longer because of the effects on emotional and physical health. Ideas:

  • Deepen relationships (with the kids, friends, family)
  • Take a class
  • Accept invitations
  • Join at least three groups (online or in-person)

Tip #7. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to things as they are.”—Zindel Segal

  • Slow down
  • Breathe deeply
  • Meditate
  • Focus on the moment
  • Spend time in nature
  • Keep a daily journal
  • Forgive yourself, repeatedly

Tip #8. See a therapist

If you aren’t able to deal with your feelings adequately, and your loved ones aren’t helping you to do so, then, by all means, see a therapist. They can help you identify areas of your emotional health where you want to improve and help you come up with a plan.

Seeking professional help is a way to practice proper self-care.

Bottom Line

Emotional health is equally important to physical health.

In this article, you have discovered eight tips to put you on the path to improved emotional health.

If you feel like you don’t have control of your thoughts and emotions, then

make self-care a priority.

Start by caring for your core needs: explore ways to reduce stress, get adequate sleep, connect with others, meditate, stay positive, call a friend.

Believe it or not, you can choose how to feel.

Emotional and physical health are two sides of the same coin. There is a strong connection between the mind and body.

Emotional instability will affect your work and your family.

Please, do not take your emotional health for granted.

But if you’re struggling to keep it together and need help, then it’s time to contact a therapist, which is the most self-loving choice you can make.

“When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves.”

—Jess C. Scott
Change Your Mindset to Improve Your Relationships

Change Your Mindset to Improve Your Relationships

“Becoming is better than being.”

—Carol Dweck

Mindset is a way of thinking.

I watched Lisa Nichol’s show recently, and she had as her guest Shawn Stevenson, nutritionist, and bestselling author.

I was so impressed with Shawn’s presentation that I was moved to write this article based on what he claims are our two most valuable assets: our mind (not our brain) and our health.

The brain and the mind are not the same things.

As discussed on researchgate.net, “The brain is an organ, but the mind isn’t. The brain is the physical place where the mind resides.

“The mind is the manifestation of thought, perception, emotion, determination, memory, and imagination that takes place within the brain.

“The mind is often used to refer especially to the thought processes of reason.”

Thus, the brain and the mind are different types of entities—physical and mental.

What Is Your Mindset?

Mindset: “An established set of attitudes held by someone.”—Oxford English Dictionary

One of the foremost published authorities on mindset is Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., who describes two different mindsets: A Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset.

In Dr. Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, she says those with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits…that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

However, those with a growth mindset “believe that their basic abilities developed through dedication and hard work…this view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

According to Dr. Dweck, “virtually all great people have had these [growth mindset] qualities.”

I have devoted my business website to health and wellness topics, especially as this relates to senior women.

So how can you, dear reader, benefit your health and well-being if you had what Dr. Dweck calls a “growth mindset”?

Can You Change Your Mindset?

Let me begin with Martha’s story (as told in my book, A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions):

“I have been caring for Mom and Dad for nearly twelve years now. Six of the years have been 24/7 living with Mom and Dad until he died two years ago. We all know how stressful life is when caregiving. And it only builds up.

“Also, I have anxiety/panic disorder for the last thirty years. Anyway, a close friend and I were chatting, and we were saying how we don’t feel ‘happy’ and haven’t felt so for a long time, but we don’t know why or what is missing.

“I thought it was because I’m a recovering addict/alcoholic—although I have been clean and sober for thirty years now—and that my personality is searching for an emotional ‘high’ and when I don’t feel it, I’m down.

“So, we decided to do some homework. Each night for a week, we were to make a list of things that made us happy during the day. So, I sat down in front of the computer to start my list.

“I sat there for a long time, and as I reviewed my day, nothing was coming to mind—until the first f*****g thing that popped into my head was, ‘I yelled at Mom today.’ And yes, that had made me happy. I am pathetic!”

Everybody wants to feel good—everybody!

It is without exception; it doesn’t matter what your race, color, creed, or religion is—you want to feel good.

Your mind and your body are closely linked.

Medical science recognizes that emotions such as fear, sorrow, envy, resentment, and hatred are responsible for most sicknesses; some even estimate that they account for 60 percent of all illnesses.

Martha’s mindset—her thoughts, attitude, and beliefs—about her circumstances caring for her parents were such that she felt angry, miserable, and lost.

And her behavior toward her mother reflected her attitude and mindset: “I yelled at Mom today. And yes, that made me happy.”

I don’t question that Martha loves her mother, but her actions and attitude do not reflect any warmth or kindness.

In considering her actions toward her mother, perhaps Martha would say, “That’s just the way I am!”

So, does Martha have a fixed mindset when it comes to the qualities she possesses as her mother’s caregiver?

Can Martha change her mindset, and if so, how?

Learn to Get in the Right Mindset

The question for Martha becomes does she want to act differently toward her mother. If so, she must say to herself, “I will learn to be different.”

“I will learn to display the qualities of a successful and loving family caregiver.”

In other words, Martha must have a “growth mindset”; a mindset that allows her to learn how to foster positive relations with her mother.

Martha must learn to exhibit successful family caregivers’ qualities that include empathy, patience, and gratitude.

In showing empathy, Martha shows she understands her mother’s struggle in her illness. She has, in effect, fellow feeling in her mother’s pain and discomfort; she has walked in her mother’s shoes, so to speak.

Unfortunately, empathy is not a universal response to the suffering of others. Some don’t care deeply about other people or their well-being.

Surely, Martha would not yell at her mother if she felt and showed empathy.

When it comes to patience, Martha has been caring for her mother for nearly twelve years; she’s tired, exhausted.

Martha’s nerves are understandably frayed; she’s annoyed and frustrated.

But Martha can learn the value of patience.

Scientists say that learning to be patient is good for your health; you’ll be a happier person.

If Martha learns how to be patient with her circumstances, she’ll find she has less anger, less stress, and less worry.

Patience: “The ability to accept delay, trouble, or suffering without becoming angry or upset.”—Oxford English Dictionary

A final quality I would suggest Martha learn to express to have better relations with her mother is gratitude.

Oftentimes, we don’t understand the value of what we have. We no longer recognize the good that comes our way. We’re closed off to others’ needs.

Showing gratitude often removes this feeling.

Also, gratitude is a powerful human emotion with scientifically-proven benefits to our health, including our brains.

Science shows that grateful people sleep better, improve their self-esteem, and reduce stress, among many other benefits.

In fact, a Google search on “gratitude” reveals numerous science-based findings on the benefits of gratitude.

Adopt a Growth Mindset

In this article, I’ve shared just one example of the value of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. 

When it comes to interpersonal relationships, people often wish things could be different.

In the example of “Martha” discussed in this article, she was angry and frustrated due to her caregiving responsibilities.

In fact, Martha was so resentful that she couldn’t think of one positive thing about her situation that she could share with a friend; everything was negative.

Yelling at her mother is what made Martha happy.

Imagine!

But all is not lost.

No matter your current mindset, you can adopt and nurture a growth mindset, but you have to work.

Just knowing about the two mindsets discussed in this article should give you something to think about.

You can choose (or learn) to have a growth mindset that believes that you have changeable traits; that intelligence and talent are not fixed or unchangeable.

With your growth mindset, you believe that your abilities can be strengthened and developed if you work at them.

Think how much better your relationships will be for your efforts.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Three Secrets to Relieve Caregiver Stress

Three Secrets to Relieve Caregiver Stress

“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”

—Rosalyn Carter

Meet Rita:

“I am so f*****g stressed out and sick of my pathetic life. Sam is having a bad day, and I have been trying to get ahold of my son and daughter, but of course, no one answers my plea for help. I got his oxygen back up to ninety-seven. It was eighty this morning, and he was coherent. I really need a break—a few hours for just me, but that will never happen. This is not how I envisioned our retirement—sitting here, crying and feeling sorry for myself. I’m not even sure that is allowed. Please help me!”

Rita, a family caregiver, is experiencing major stress.

What can she do?

Research on the word “stress” yields 1,130,000,000 results.

Yes, over 1 billion searches at any given time on the word stress.

Why?

People worldwide are looking for answers to managing the emotional and physical strain of everyday living, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Family caregivers are especially affected due to being “on-call” 24/7 when caring for a loved one.

What Is a Caregiver and Who Are They?

According to Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), a caregiver is an unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, a partner, or others) that helps with personal activities of daily living (ADLs) such as eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, and medical tasks.

Caregivers range in age from 18 and older. However, Boomers (born 1946-1964 and are now 55-75 years of age) or 39% provide the largest care percentage.

The percentage of women providing care ranges from 53-68%, according to the FCA.

The economic value of unpaid labor has steadily increased over the last decade, and in 2013 at $470 billion, the value of unpaid caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care.

According to AARP Caregiving in U.S. 2020 Research Report, today, 1 in 5 Americans (21.3 percent) are caregivers who provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months.

On a personal note, I, too was a caregiver to my dear husband for more than three years, including hospice at home.

What Is Caregiver Stress and Who Gets It?

Everyone undergoes stress.  The human body is designed to produce mental and physical responses to experiences or challenges (stressors) you have.

But caregivers report much higher stress levels than people who are not caregivers because they have little if any time for self-care, and consequently, they burn out.

As to who gets caregiver stress, this could be anyone.

However, more women caregivers say they have high-stress levels and related health problems than men caregivers. 

What Are the Signs of Caregiver Stress?

Anxiety or feeling frustrated and angry one minute and helpless the next is one sign of caregiver stress. But there are many others:

  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches or body aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Drinking or smoking
  • Health problems*

*Talk to your doctor about prolonged health issues as they can increase your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis.

Three Secrets to Relieve Caregiver Stress

Long-term caregiver stress can lead to serious health problems, including early death.

What Can You Do?

Secret No.1: Seek Respite Care and Support

I cared for my husband 24/7 for three years, including Hospice at Home. But I never asked for help outside of the required services.

I was so concerned that my husband should always be treated with dignity and respect that I barely let anyone touch him, other than the medical professionals.

And I wore myself out.

Please, do not make my mistake.

Ask for and accept help.

The word respite means: “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.”

—Oxford English Dictionary

Respite care can provide short-term relief from the day-to-day challenges you face.

You can request respite care for an afternoon, a few days, or weeks.

Respite care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center.

Visit the National Respite locator service at www.archrespite.org/respitelocator  for a list of respite care providers in your area.

However, respite does not have to be formal but take many forms:

  • A minivacation
  • Asking a family member or friend to sit with your loved one for a few hours
  • Hiring a local daycare facility for several days’ care*
  • Asking a church member or someone from your community organization (volunteer) to sit with your loved one for a few hours

*Contact your local Area Agency on Aging organization for assistance with planning.

I joined an online support group for caregivers on Facebook, which was excellent to pick up helpful caregiver tips. We also shared stories and generally supported each other as we faced the same challenges.

Secret No. 2: Accept Your Limitations

Caregiving is hard work.

And some days, you will feel helpless because of your inability to ease the suffering or change your loved one’s circumstances.

The dangers of prolonged feelings of helplessness include:

  • Loss of self-confidence, which can lead to you giving up
  • Stress, which can cause headaches, stomachaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, ulcers, and heart attacks
  • Depression, which can lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as drugs, drinking, overeating, and weight gain
  • Aggression, which can result in violence toward another person
  • Burnout

So, you must be mindful of your limitations so as not to become hopelessly discouraged.

You can’t do it all.

In researching this article, I came across this quote:

“Whether we like it or not, each of us is constrained by limits on what we can do and feel. To ignore these limits leads to denial and eventually to failure. To achieve excellence, we must first understand the reality of the every day, with all its demands and potential frustrations.”

—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life

The first step to accepting your limitations is to ask for help, as discussed above in Secret #1: Seek Respite Care and Support.

Accept your limitations and find joy in helping your loved one within those limits.

Secret No. 3: Attend to Your Own Physical and Mental Health

Activity is needed.

Health professionals generally recognize that remaining physically and mentally active is important for physical and mental health.

Anyone whose health requires movement but who sits around regularly is going to become quite depressed.

The many benefits touted by regular exercise proponents include improved conditions of the heart and lungs, and other organs.

The oxygen that is delivered to the body cells through physical exercise improves circulation and overall health.

I know it can be tough when caring full time for a loved one, but devote a set amount of time each day to exercise, preferably at the same time every day. You don’t need a gym.

A few ideas:

  • Walking briskly
  • Swimming
  • Jumping rope
  • Dancing
  • Cycling
  • Gardening can also help

*Be sure to check with your doctor before engaging in strenuous activities.

Or, find a YouTube video that’s fun.

I follow along daily with two different line dancing exercise routines on YouTube.

According to Mayo Clinic, there is no question that regular exercise and physical activity can:

  • Give you an emotional lift
  • Improve your mood
  • Boost energy
  • Promote better sleep
  • Strengthen bones
  • Protect your joints
  • Prevent bladder control problems
  • Ward off memory loss
  • Keep your weight under control

Your mental health is just as important as physical health.

You can start with getting enough sleep, as getting too little can make it difficult to make decisions.

But mental well-being is having peace of mind, contentment, happiness, and joy.

Loneliness can harm your mental health.

Ideas to protect your mental well-being:

  • Connect with other people:
  • Join a book club
  • Volunteer
  • Get involved in community activities
  • Take a class
  • Accept invitations
  • Adopt an animal
  • Practice forgiveness and acceptance
  • Practice gratitude
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Meditate and pray
  • Practice journaling

These practices support mental health and help manage stress.

There’s a myth that caregiving is depressing and hard work.

The fact: Caregiving can bring joy and be very rewarding. I wouldn’t change my experiences caring for my husband full-time. I had those precious last days with him that I’ll always treasure in my heart.

I’m grateful that I had the strength to care for him myself, including hospice at home. If I could do it all over again, minus the awful pain my dear husband suffered, I’d gladly do so to have him with me.

Caregiver stress can be brutal and debilitating.

But if you follow these Three Secrets to Reduce Caregiver Stress: Seek Respite Care and Support, Accept Your limitations, and Attend to Your Own Physical and Mental Health, you’ll find the rewards of caregiving far outweigh the pain.

You’ll discover your caregiving days less stressful and more joyful.

You will have peace.