What is the most effective caregiver stress management tool?
As a caregiver, self-awareness is essential for preventing stress, managing stress, and eradicating it!
How we manage our thoughts can actually create stress, or serve as an effective caregiver stress management technique.
Being aware of our thoughts (stress) helps us to further learn how to allow these thoughts to be there without buying into them, regardless of the level of caregiver stress we may be experiencing.
While caregiving, do 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 caregivers, we must always be aware of the thoughts we believe about the situation, the event, etc. How we manage our thoughts can actually create stress, or serve as an effective caregiver stress management technique.
I invite you to think about a recent situation you experienced as very stressful while caregiving. Now go back and explore what you were saying (either to yourself, internally, or to someone else). How did those thoughts hinder or help your caregiver stress management?
Examples of typical caregiver stressful thoughts are such things as:
- "This shouldn’t be happening"
- "This isn’t fair"
- "This is terrible"
- "I can’t handle this (anymore)"
- "Why is this happening"
- "This is too much for me"
Chances are you will find 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" that says it is time to look at what you are thinking right now.
When we are feeling stressed caregiving, and we explore our thoughts in the moment, we are likely to find some resistance to what is happening: resistance to the situation, resistance to what is. Byron Katie calls this arguing with reality.
And have you noticed that as 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 caregiver stress management by improving your self-awareness. Learn to watch and/or examine your thoughts more effectively. You do NOT have to believe or identify with these types of thoughts. This is where self-awareness comes in. You have to first know what you are thinking!
You may be feeling some resistance to this perspective 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 caregiver stress management by becoming more aware of your thoughts, and to take responsibility for your thoughts, this does not mean that you won’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 from stressful thoughts (which are fear driven). Related to this, self-limiting thoughts like "I can’t handle this"; or "This is too much"; or "Why is this happening" etc., actually increase our stress and we get stuck, unable to imagine changes that can be put into place to improve the situation, or to improve our management of the situation, or the caregiver stress we are experiencing.
Next month, we will begin to explore how to develop self-awareness for effective caregiver stress management. It isn’t difficult but it does require commitment and a focused practice.