What is the most effective caregiver stress management tool?
How we manage our thoughts can actually create stress, or serve as an effective caregiver stress management technique.
As a family caregiver, self-awareness is essential for preventing stress, managing stress, and eradicating stress!
Being aware of our thoughts (stress) helps us to further learn how to allow the stressful thoughts to be there without us buying into them regardless of the level of stress we may be experiencing.
While caregiving, can you become aware of your thoughts and feelings in any given moment? Are you already using self-awareness to help with caregiver stress management?
While there are obviously certain situations or events that are more stressful than others, what is equally as important (and perhaps even more important) are the things (negative and positive) we are saying to ourselves.
As family caregivers, we must always be aware of the thoughts we believe about the situation, event, etc. How we manage our thoughts can either create stress or serve as an effective caregiver stress management technique.
I invite you to think about a very stressful situation that you recently experienced while caregiving. Now go back and explore what you were saying (either to yourself, internally or someone else). How did those thoughts hinder or help your stress management?
Examples of typical, stressful thoughts of caregivers are, “This shouldn’t be happening,” “This isn’t fair,” “This is terrible,” “I can’t handle this (anymore),” “Why is this happening,” or “This is too much for me.’’ Chances are pretty good that you have had thoughts like these.
Our identification and agreement with thoughts, such as those cited above, is usually so accepted that it feels like the truth.
Byron Katie, an international teacher, describes stressful feelings as a “compassionate alarm clock” telling us to examine the thoughts that precede the stressful feelings.
If we explore our thoughts in times of stress, we are likely to find some resistance to what is happening (resistance to the situation or resistance to what is). Byron Katie calls this “arguing with reality.”
And have you noticed that as family caregivers, regardless of how much we say something should be different or shouldn’t be happening, it is still happening?!
You can learn to improve your stress management by improving your self-awareness. Learn to listen to and/or examine your thoughts more closely. You do NOT have to believe or identify with the stressful thoughts. This is where self-awareness comes in. You have to first know what you are thinking!
You may be feeling some resistance to the idea that we create stress with our thought patterns.
You may be thinking (there are those thoughts again!) that perhaps I just don’t get what your life is like or how much you have on your plate!
Please understand that while we are encouraging you to improve stress management by becoming more aware of your thoughts and to take responsibility for your thoughts, this does not mean that you don’t have a lot on your plate. Nor does it mean that you are being encouraged to become passive and take no action to improve and make changes to improve your life. Au contraire.
We are less likely to be clear problem solvers when we are not self-aware and we react to the stressful thoughts (which are fear driven). Related to this, self-limiting thoughts like “I can’t handle this,” “This is too much,” or “Why is this happening?,” etc. actually increase our stress. We get stuck and unable to imagine changes that can be put into place to improve the situation, our management of the situation, or the caregiver stress we are experiencing.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.
You might also like our Elizz article on Self Care for Caregivers or try taking our Elizz Caregiver Stress Quiz.