Caregiving Blog: 5 Secrets to Achieving Caregiving Bliss
While caregivers would not choose a different path, secrets to achieving caregiving bliss can be elusive. Caregiving and bliss are not words generally associated with each other. Anxiety, frustration, and feelings of overwhelm are the feelings that caregivers express to me.
Love, gratitude, and appreciation are also feelings that caregivers express to me. How do we find a balance between stress and appreciation? On some days, finding balance or calm seems impossible.
What are the secrets to achieving caregiving bliss? Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, caregivers wear the red ruby slippers to take us home. Caregivers have the power to change our mood.
Is It Time for a Little R&R?
We can control how we respond to situations. My invention is a technique that I used called R&R. I am far from perfect. In 20 years of caregiving, I have learned that saying the first thought that comes into my mind is not always wise. Logic and thought produce better outcomes than emotional responses.
Reflect and respond is a technique that I use personally in situations where the tendency may be to react before thinking. We all have these moments.
Times when we blurt out a response that is something that we cannot erase. Situations where we may have been thinking more about ourselves than the situation or about another person. Our brains shut off and our mouths take over
Because of day to day wear and tear, and stress that feels unrelenting, caregivers blurt. Depending on the situation and the company present, blurting is okay.
Everyone has the right to express their feelings. It is when and how we express these feelings that matter. Few people want to be intentionally abusive or mean. None of us enjoy having our feelings hurt.
Anger is usually the result of frustration, sadness, or loss. Caregiving stress, worries about money, conflict with family members, and overwhelming demands on time and energy can result in anger.
Depression Results from Caregiver Frustration
Depression is common among caregivers and care receivers. Caregivers feel guilty for many reasons. Not being able to do enough, parental blame, a lack of confidence or self-esteem. Guilt may transfer to feelings of depression.
Aging parents and others who need care may feel depressed because of a loss of day-to-day abilities, feelings of isolation, and poor health. Transitioning into old age is one of the greatest challenges we will all face.
Caregiving blurt happens. Sometimes multiple times in a single day. There are times when it is better to walk away from a situation than to immediately respond. Finding periods of bliss in caregiving is mandatory to endure the ongoing responsibilities of being a caregiver.
Sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees. There are days when caregiving seems like a struggle. We need a friendly reminder that tomorrow is another day and that we can hit the reset button and start over. Here are five secrets to finding periods of bliss in caregiving.
5 Secrets to Achieving Caregiving Bliss
Let’s start with the definition of bliss. The Merriam Webster dictionary (1) defines bliss as listed below. I added comments in parentheses after the dictionary definition
- Enjoying eternal bliss in heaven (maybe one day but not yet)
- Marital bliss (marriages have been destroyed by the role of caregiving)
- The sheer bliss of an afternoon at the spa (when can we go?)
- Paradise (we all have our definition)
The challenge of achieving caregiving bliss is one of the most common concerns of caregivers. Time. There is never enough time. Caregivers are constantly running here and there.
Constant motion results in frenetic energy. Feeling frantic and worked up about everything. We’re rushing to make a deadline, take an aging parent to a doctor appointment, on the edge of screaming at someone on the other end of the phone.
Caregivers become physically and emotionally drained from the act of caregiving. This feeling is called burnout. Stop moving around. Sit for a moment. Hit the reset button.
Drink a cup of coffee. Have a glass of wine and let your mind dream for a moment about what caregiving bliss means to you. Then make time for you to achieve caregiving bliss.
1 Escape Bliss
Escape from caregiving is a caregiver’s dream. Bliss equals the hours devoted to caregiving in an average day or a week and the time devoted to escaping. For caregivers who are full-time, meaning 24 hours a day and seven days a week, escaping for 4 hours may be bliss. For another caregiver, an entire weekend away is bliss.
The idea of escape bliss is to mentally escape from anxiety, stress, and worry by engaging in an activity that takes your mind off caregiving as much as possible. This may be an afternoon at the movies, going to a spa, to a quiet place like the library, or sitting outside by a lake or at a park.
Escape bliss can be a solo-activity so that you don’t feel as if you have to entertain anyone else. Doing something by yourself can be a self-esteem building activity if you rarely go out alone. The idea is that the escape is relaxing and distracting.
2 Friendship Bliss
Friendship bliss is being able to spend time with a best friend away from the site of caregiving. This means you go to a friend’s home or meet for another activity.
The idea of friendship bliss is to be totally yourself with a friend who understands you and who has similar interests. For women, friendship, bliss is social, chatty, and emotional.
For men, friendship bliss usually involves getting together around an activity. This may be participating in sports or attending a sporting event. Other blissful activities are working on something (a car, a home repair), going to the gym, meeting friends for a drink, or grilling out. Men are less likely than women to admit frustrations about caregiving.
Time devoted to caregiving can result in lost friendships. Time devoted to caregiving will eventually transition to time after caregiving. Do your best not to lose friends during the period of caregiving. Many caregivers become so isolated that they have to rebuild a life when caregiving ends.
If you find that you can’t physically get away on a regular basis to spend time with friends, visit on Skype, Face Time, email, text or find other ways to maintain the connection.
3 Pet Bliss
We love our pets almost as much as we love our family. On an emotional level owning a pet can decrease depression, lower stress, and anxiety, and support positive health.
Pets offer unconditional love. When we arrive home from work, our dog or cat runs to the door excited to greet us. A bird may start talking or chirping. When we fall asleep on the couch, a dog or a cat may be right there next to us.
When we have a bad day or a good day, our pets listen to us. We talk to our dog, cat, fish, rabbit, miniature pig, bird, horse, and other pets as if they were people. They listen and don’t try to reason with us or tell us that we’re wrong.
They enjoy being touched, a tummy rub, or a scratch behind the ear. Being with a pet provides as much joy as being with humans. Having a pet is also attributed to the ability to socialize with others who have a similar pet. Some medical research says that pets reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, lower cholesterol, and have other health benefits.
As a caregiver, your pet may be the one who gives you comfort. If you have a pet, spent time with your pet. Go for a walk. Ride your horse. Cuddle on the couch. Have a conversation with your pet that you can’t have with anyone else.
4 Hobby Bliss
How many caregivers have a hobby that is gathering dust on a shelf, is stuck in a drawer, or may be sitting in the garage? Maybe your hobby is an activity that you haven’t done in some time.
Even if for only one hour a week – schedule the time and let everyone know this is your “me time.” Dust off the hobby project, make uninterrupted time for the activity. Sew, craft, bake cookies, tinker in the garage, woodwork, go out in the yard and putter around.
Our minds need mental breaks to clear the clutter and to manage stress. Hobby bliss has a way of making us feel like everything will be okay. Worries and anxieties decrease, frustrations become manageable, and we may even solve a few problems while our minds are experiencing hobby bliss.
5 Meditation or Music Bliss
There are many types of meditation. Some types of meditation focus on guided imagery to imagine a particular scenario. Other types of meditation use sound like running water or wind rustling through the trees to calm the mind. Transcendental meditation clears the mind of thoughts. The goal of meditation is to calm the body and mind. To bring peace into our lives.
For caregivers, finding peace may seem elusive. Finding a quiet place may be rare in a household with constant motion. There are times when it would be nice if the world would just stop.
Listening to music has properties similar to meditation. Research studies confirm that listening to music can relieve depression and increase self-esteem in the elderly. Music has been used for years to treat illnesses and restore the mind and body connection. (2)
Take your iPod with you on a walk or to work and disappear in the music. Listening to music has a relaxing effect on the mind and body. Play music for aging parents, a spouse, or the person for whom you caregive.
Both meditation and music help reduce stress and anxiety. Music is portable. Music goes with us in the car, on our cell phones, or an iPod. Meditation requires a quiet space which may be difficult to find. Use one or both to connect your mind and body. Find a little bliss in each day.
There are times when caregivers are too close to a situation. A time when solutions seem non-existent. Times of feeling alone and hopeless. Times when emotions are all over the place or when frustration exists over the inability to fix a situation are the times to embrace caregiving bliss.
Benefits of Caregiving Support
The last idea is far from a secret. The results are proven and tested. Time is mentioned by caregivers as another reason why support groups are not accessed. Caregivers talk on cell phones, text, and respond to emails. Support groups are as close as a computer.
There’s no need to leave home when caregiving support is accessible 24 hours a day. While live groups may be scheduled, caregivers can make time to attend by computer or Internet on a cellphone.
Research confirms that all caregivers benefit from support. Having other caregivers to talk with, having the opportunity to share feelings and blurt in a safe environment.
My private online Facebook group for family caregivers offers information, opportunities for support and opportunities to interact with other caregivers. You can choose to be an observer or to participate. The group is accessible 24 hours a day. Advance notice of upcoming support and programs is available through this group.
Click HERE to join my private Facebook caregiver support group.
(1) Merriam Webster Dictionary. Definition of Bliss. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bliss
(2) Collingwood, Jane. The Power of Music to Reduce Stress. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-power-of-music-to-reduce-stress/
Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA is a national caregiving expert, advocate and speaker who solves caregiving problems. Since 1999, she has been a direct service provider as a court-appointed guardian, power of attorney, and care manager. In response to the need for accessible, accurate, reliable, and trustworthy information Pamela offers online caregiving support and programming to solve caregiving problems, advance healthcare literacy, and promote self-advocacy. She collaborates with professionals in the areas of estate planning, elder law, and probate, financial planning, and healthcare to raise awareness of and sensitivity to family caregiving and healthcare issues.
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