Caregivers: Fight Anxiety with “Possible” Thinking

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Female Kathy Stressed.jpgVery few people actually thrive on stress, but some people do just naturally deal better with it than others.  Those who don’t have innate stress handling abilities benefit from learning new ways to deal with stress.

Home caregivers know about anxiety

Stress is a part of our daily lives, but home caregivers typically experience more stressful situations than many other people.  It’s only natural: if you’re dealing not only with your own challenges, but also with the challenges associated with a person in need of care, the opportunities for stress increase.  When stress reaches too high a level, anxiety – intense feelings of apprehension, fear, or worry – can easily result.

In appropriate levels, stress can be a motivating factor, but anxiety tends to paralyze, to keep a person from being able to make decisions and move forward.   The last thing home caregivers need is anxiety.

There are many things that one can do when feeling over-stressed or anxious.  A popular suggestion is to try positive thinking – basically, looking on the bright side – but a recent New York Times article suggests that some people may do better by focusing on “possible" thinking instead.

Possible thinking looks at options

For some people, positive thinking doesn’t work because they feel as if they’re “faking” being positive.  Possible thinking doesn’t ask you to ignore or minimize a problem; it instead simply encourages you to think about what it is possible for you to do in a situation.

For example, maybe getting Mom into the car has become a challenge.  Part of it is physical - bending to get into the car is difficult for her - but part of the problem is resistance on her part.  She doesn’t want to get dressed. She refuses to put on her coat and shoes. She cries out that you’re being mean to her by making her go, and even tries to scratch you. She complains the entire way to and from the doctor, and she always seems to act most resistant on days when you’re already running late and when you really need to get her to the doctor as soon as possible because you have to pick your daughter up from school to take her to another appointment.

Asking friends for advice can expand your range of options.
Rather than dreading trips with your mother, try to spend some of that time thinking of possible solutions.  Concentrating on the negative makes you forget that there may be options. If you can’t think of possible solutions, call relatives or friends and ask them for their ideas.  Sometimes, a person from the outside may be able to look at a situation and see solutions that you don’t.

Take the example I gave above.  The solutions I came up with focused on the mother: start getting her dressed earlier.  Ask a neighbor to help you ease her into the car.  Promise her you’ll take her some place special after the doctor’s visit.  Use an easy-to-put-on shawl rather than a coat.

However, when I asked a friend what he thought, he tended to focus on things that didn’t relate to the mother.  Don’t schedule the daughter’s appointment for the same day as the mother’s.  Put earphones on and listen to music rather than engaging in frustrating conversation.  Train yourself to realize that you simply may be late to some appointments, and that being late is not a crime.

Possible thinking may bring up options that don’t really work – but it may also help you to look at situations in new ways.  Most importantly, it may give you the “jump start” you need to deal with difficult situations and experience less stress and anxiety, and that’s a big bonus for us all.

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