Caregiver Tips to Manage What Life Throws at You
The Caring Generation® – Episode 180, November 15, 2023. Caregivers multi-task and have to-do lists that are never done. Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, shares how to manage what life throws at you by managing your emotions and where you commit your attention.
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How to Stop Your Emotions from Holding You Back
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How to manage what life throws your way includes overcoming challenges as a caregiver or a person with health concerns when there is a lot to keep up with. Caregivers share stories of experiencing personal or health difficulties, one after another, that go on for months and years.
Similarly, if you have health concerns, it can feel like one thing happens and then the next and the next. You might wonder if there is ever a point where all of this busyness stops, and you can find a moment of peace.
Manage What Life Throws at You by Managing Anxiety
Living in the moment when your mind spins with distractions can feel impossible. When a lot is happening, it can be difficult to focus your mind, especially when so many unknowns exist.
- Caregivers feel anxious and under constant stress because of caregiving tasks to be completed.
- Too many tasks or too much on your mind can result in an emotional seesaw, up one moment and down the next.
- If you are a person with health problems who needs help from a family caregiver, every medical appointment can be an experience where the news you receive may not be suitable.
There may be more follow-up appointments, tests, and procedures. Add to this the challenges of dealing with insurance companies who may delay pre-authorizations for medications or tests.
When there is so much happening, caregivers can feel alone or isolated if there is no one to help with caregiving tasks for loved ones—especially when caring for an aging parent or a spouse with a condition like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, aphasia that has affected speech—or a condition that resulted in physical weakness.
Additionally, caregivers may worry about keeping a job and leaving a loved one home alone for more than a few hours. High levels of chronic stress can result in new health problems for caregivers.
If you are a person with health issues, you may find yourself unable to do all of the things that you used to do. It can be concerning to have to rely on others for assistance. If you, as the caregiver and the person who needs care, are sole companions and do not create time apart, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.
5 Tips to Identify and Overcome Obstacles
During this program, we will talk about five ways to identify and overcome obstacles so that you can more easily manage what life throws at you. These ideas apply whether you are a caregiver or a person with health problems and can be used in any area of your life.
So regardless of your care situation or need, there can be days of grieving what life used to be like and days of feeling resentful that “something” has been stolen from you. Only you get to decide how you feel and choose how you will deal with and manage what life throws at you.
1 Place Limitations into Perspective
How to manage what life throws at you is to put limitations into perspective. For a caregiver, a limitation might be time to care for an aging parent versus time to go to school or work at a job.
A limitation for a person with health problems might be a physical injury – a shoulder, knee, or hip causing mobility difficulties. Regardless of the limitation that can also be called a constraint, any situation that results in stress or anxiety can result in greater difficulty thinking clearly or finding solutions.
Operating at a high level of emotion can shut down the brain’s ability to think and focus on problem-solving. So, if you are a caregiver who wants to go to school or do anything, start by investigating the options—those you know and those you don’t know.
The ability to admit that we don’t know everything is a powerful force to move ahead when limitations exist. By thinking that you know all you need to know, you can limit options or make it more difficult to achieve what you want because your brain says, “This is all you’ve got to work with.”
Let’s add the person who has experienced a physical injury. Yes, an injured shoulder, knee, or hip is the pit, especially if this is your first injury.
- What are you willing to do about it?
- Do you know the amount of effort and steps necessary to restore this body part to being fully operational?
- Are you willing to do what it takes or allow this physical issue to become a permanent limitation on your life?
How to Work Through Limitations and Constraints
When thinking about any limitation, your mind delivers your outcome, whether positive or negative.
Think about this. Do you feel like you can conquer the world when you are in a positive mood?
What happens when you are in a negative mood? Do you feel the same way? If you are like most people, probably not.
This is why you must realize that negative feelings like anxiety, a lack of self-esteem, or confidence have a significant impact on what you can accomplish. Your mood impacts your result.
So, the only way to work through limitations and constraints is to believe that you can and seek solutions by stopping your emotions from telling you that you can’t do something.
Stop the voice in your head that says this is too much to manage, I can’t do it, I hate my life.
Instead, say, I’ve got this, I’ll find a way, I can do this, even if I need a little time to figure it out. Sometimes, you can check limitations off the list through your actions or learn to live and make the best of them. You get to choose.
2 Is There a Better Way?
The skills and experience of each person are different. You may look at a stressful situation differently from another person who tends to go off the emotional deep end and live in chaos because they have never considered that there may be a better way to deal with stress and anxiety.
When experiencing a limitation or a constraint and searching for options and solutions, ask yourself, “is there a better way to do this?”
Just because you have always done something a particular way and you have been successful does not mean that there may not be another way that also results in success but requires less time or effort or a different approach that makes life a little easier.
The best way to manage what life throws at you is to identify issues early and not wait until you are boxed into a corner or have no other options.
Because of the absence of formal education about preventative health and the significant impact health will eventually have on life, many people—caregivers and persons who need care—do find themselves in a corner at a loss for what to do.
Feeling lost or unsure about what to do is common if you have no prior experience as a caregiver or as a person with health issues. Suddenly, you may be swept into the world of working with the healthcare system.
Make a Plan, Take Action, Make Decisions
You may be seeing or taking loved ones to medical appointments and begin learning how health insurance, deductibles, and co-pays work. The best advice I can give you is to take charge.
For example, If a doctor makes a recommendation, make sure you ask questions and fully understand the reason for the recommendation. If you are the caregiver, talk to your aging parent, a spouse, or the person you can ask to confirm if they understand the recommendation and what they want to do.
Remember, just because a doctor makes a recommendation, the patient always has a choice.
For this reason, it is essential to make sure you understand the pros and cons of the recommendation and the short and long-term consequences.
It’s kind of like seeing a television commercial for a medication, and you hear all of these disclaimers like, “Don’t take this medication if you have X, Y, or Z. Taking this medication can cause serious problems with A, B, or C.”
When considering recommendations, do your best to ensure you understand all of the intentional and unintentional consequences. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Add to this that you or the person you care for may not be 100% committed to following the recommendation and making it work. If you know this, ask about alternatives rather than telling a doctor you will follow directions, knowing fully that you will not.
Every situation to manage what life throws at you is an opportunity to commit to going for it or, as discussed in number one, accept the limitation or constraint and learn how to live with it without being resentful or angry.
3 Create A Plan and a Back-Up Plan
Third on the list for managing what life throws at you is to take action, realizing that your plan may not work out. This necessitates a contingency plan with options for A, B, or C.
The challenge with being a caregiver or a person with health issues is that you may be in a place where you don’t yet have all of the information.
When this happens, you can fall into a place of guessing or imagining hypothetical situations.
How to manage through worry is to identify if the problem is something you can do something about now. This process can be more straightforward if you own the problem and the outcome.
If the answer is yes—you own the problem—then research options and decide to act. If I own the problem but can’t do anything about it right now and have all the information, I will research options and put a date on the calendar to take action.
Planning Through Unknown Situations or Timing
If there is a worry and you won’t have the information until a date or time in the future, do your best to let the worry go until you are in a position where you have enough information, can research options, and make a decision.
Caregivers feel stuck in situations where they can’t move forward because they don’t know how long a parent will need help. In these situations, the limitation can be the thought pattern of the caregiver, who limits the situation by believing that only the caregiver can be the caregiver when there may be other options.
So again, this limitation reminds us of step number two, which asks if there is a better way to do this. Who else can help? What other options exist? When you have identified the options, look at the pros and cons. What can go right and what might not go right?
Develop Plans A, B, and C. As we know, things don’t always work out how we expect.
Consider creating backup plans as a process of iterations or small steps of trial and error that determine what works. Learning to problem-solve, reduce worry, and manage what life throws at you is a continual process of research, planning, agreeing this is a good plan, and doing.
4 Strongly Consider Advice From Others
Number four for how to manage what life throws at you is to strongly consider advice from other people. It is impossible to know everything, especially if you are new to caregiving or have a newly diagnosed or ongoing health problem.
Other people may have experience overcoming these challenges. Why not learn from them?
One way to do this is to join an online support group and participate by asking questions and sharing your story.
My online support group is on Facebook and is called The Caregiving Trap. The people in the group are amazingly kind, empathetic, and happy to share their experiences. Join us.
Here are a few common tips:
Focus Your Mind
It’s common to become lost in a swirling mind of thoughts and worry. The advice is to focus your mind.
Focusing the mind can take commitment if your thoughts are filled with worry and anxiety or if you are constantly busy.
Let’s use the example of an aging parent who watches the news all day and is filled with anxiety and panic. If we’re honest, most news on the news is not good.
So, anyone who watches the news is more likely to become upset or worried about things they probably can’t do anything about. If this is the case, then what is the best thing you or your aging parent can do to feel better right now, in the moment?
If watching television is the only option, maybe watching a comedy or a happy movie would be a better replacement for watching the news.
Let’s say you are a caregiver who never gets a moment to yourself. Schedule focus time. Sit in a quiet room by yourself. Turn off the television. Play soft instrumental music if you need background noise. Soak in the bathtub or take a shower.
Do something to make yourself feel better in the moment, and that will move your mind away from your worries and stressors.
Hit the Reset Button
Think of focusing your mind as hitting the reset button. Turn off the worry and turn on positive feelings.
During focus time, write down your worries and a detailed plan to deal with them. If you feel that you have goals that you are not making progress toward, create daily notecards for what you want to accomplish today.
Be Realistic About Time and Effort
Be realistic about the time and effort it will take to accomplish what you want. Sometimes, you may need to break goals into hours, weeks, or months.
Expecting instant results if your plan requires various steps is not practical.
In working to manage what life throws at you, commit to managing your mental story and focusing on positive thoughts.
Send it away the minute you think a negative thought and replace it with a positive visual or statement.
- A positive visual could be thinking of your happy place or someone you love.
- A positive statement could be something like. “I turn my face to the light. All worries and shadows fall behind me.” So, these are a few thoughts and advice for managing what life throws at you.
There are many others that you can research and do every day. You know yourself and what will work for you.
5 Overcome Emotional Hurdles
Number five for how to manage what life throws at you is overcoming emotional obstacles. Reducing chaos, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed involves advancing skills related to motivation, discipline, commitment, and confidence.
You won’t make it through challenging or seemingly impossible times if you lack confidence and commitment or have weak boundaries. Having weak boundaries can mean that you say yes too often.
You might agree to do things you don’t want or can’t do, so you disappoint others, feel guilty, or resentful.
Your success to manage what life throws at you can relate to aspects of other areas in life. For example, relationships, career, family, managing expectations, money or time.
Balance Priorities and Take Responsibility
You are more likely to feel torn between priorities if you lack balance in any part of life. It is okay to make you the priority in your life if you are a caregiver or a person with health concerns.
How to manage what life throws at you means taking responsibility for your life and the results you produce. You are responsible for taking care of yourself even though, at times, you may need help from others.
This means overcoming the emotional obstacles and the people telling you you can’t or shouldn’t. People who say I could have done that or I should have done that can be filled with regrets.
People you know carry their emotional experiences that they play back to you by telling you that you can’t do things because they may have tried and failed.
Overcoming emotional obstacles to manage what life throws at you includes learning how to increase your stress tolerance and your reaction to stress, toxic people, and toxic situations. Stress tolerance is the ability to hold up to unexpected or challenging events when times get tough and to believe that you can manage situations positively.
Identify Stressful Events and Stress Triggers
Everyone reacts to stress differently. Spending time with yourself in thought can help you identify stressful events and stress triggers.
- The workplace may be stressful if there are deadlines, skills you acquire, teams where not all members are on the same page, and other stressors.
- Home life may be stressful for you if you arrive home from work, the person you care for wants your full time and attention, and you have a spouse and children who compete for the same time and attention.
- Paying for healthcare services and your regular bills may be a constant worry.
Activities to build stress tolerance include doing things you enjoy or things that are good for you. For example, daily exercise can clear your mind and help you sleep better at night. Physical activities like walking the dog, cycling, running, or working out in the yard can build stress tolerance because they take you away from thinking about problems.
Anything you can do to be present in the moment, like daily meditation, can improve stress tolerance. Spirituality, prayer, reaching out to others for social support, and cranking up the music can also help.
Depending on the stress level of your situation, a daily schedule of stress-reducing activities may be necessary to help you operate in tip-top shape.
Traits of Highly Successful People
The traits of highly successful people include optimism and an upbeat personality, emotional intelligence to take responsibility and learn from mistakes, and perseverance. Highly successful people also have healthy habits that include daily exercise.
Early in my career, before I worked in healthcare, I worked in several companies where the president and top management took their lunch hours to exercise by going outside to run.
This attitude toward health prevailed in other company activities, like encouraging employees to walk or run in marathons to support health-oriented organizations.
Because of my mother’s health and seeing these behaviors modeled in the workplace, I joined a gym and started to exercise.
I made friends with people at the gym, which led to weekend participation in volleyball games, water skiing, hiking, and other activities that I enjoy today. So, as a caregiver or a person with health problems who wants to succeed, you can learn more about the habits of highly successful people in other roles in life.
Tolerate Higher Levels of Emotional Discomfort
Another habit or skill to learn is how to tolerate higher levels of emotional discomfort. To understand this, think of any part of your day where you are emotionally uncomfortable.
Discomfort may come from dealing with a difficult co-worker or caring for someone in your family. Emotional discomfort can arise from saying no to a request, feeling that you will disappoint someone, or feeling guilty.
Developing a higher level of comfort with emotional discomfort means you will no longer feel guilty if you say no. It means you realize other people’s rights to their feelings that may not be your feelings and vice versa.
The person you care for may say something that makes you feel bad, or you may say something that makes another person feel bad. Feelings, words, and actions are interpreted differently based on individual experiences.
Words or actions that upset another person may not upset you. Similarly, managing what life throws at you may be different for another person.
Avoid Comparisons and Find Motivation
It’s important to avoid comparisons. Your caregiving situation or your health concerns are unique to you. Your goals are unique to you. Your life experience is unique to you.
How to manage what life throws at you also benefits from finding role models or people you admire who have the skills and characteristics you would like to have. Finding the motivation to keep going when life seems impossible is critical to succeeding in the caregiver role or managing health concerns.
Lastly, I want to mention the skill of perseverance and not giving up. Know that there are solutions to every problem once you identify the problem you want to solve.
Managing what life throws at you can be easier if you schedule focus and chunk time, as previously suggested. The focus time is daily time for you to think about yourself, plan for yourself, and research options.
Chunking time is scheduling the work you need to do to move yourself through managing what life throws at you. It may be time to schedule medical appointments, contact insurance companies, make healthy meals, exercise, order, pick up, and organize your medications.
Being a caregiver and managing your health can be a full-time job. It’s work! But it’s work that you can do.
Start your day by stating your intentions for the day and writing down three things that you’d like to accomplish.
Have that visual or statement on hand that you can see or say if your thoughts go to a negative place.
So, to recap, choose to accept or manage limitations or constraints. Ask, “Is there a better way to do this?” Consider all options and what can go wrong by having a Plan A, B, and C.
Be open to advice from people who have succeeded, and most of all, keep your face to the light and leave the shadows and past experiences that no longer serve you behind you.
Looking For Help Caring for Elderly Parents? Find the Information, Including Step-by-Step Processes, in Pamela’s Online Program.
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