Caregiving, by its nature, is a challenge, yet here are some tools and techniques that can move you forward with greater inner peace and strength. Mindful Caregiving is a set of relatively simple principles which, if practiced, can make your caregiving experience emotionally easier.
The two key principles of Mindful Caregiving are:
1. Language creates reality. The words that you choose to think or speak actually give you your emotional experience of caregiving. To shift the way caregiving feels, shift the way you describe it, both to yourself in your thoughts, and in the words you speak to others. To shift the way you are feeling about a person, shift the words you use to describe him/her. Shift your locked-in story to a more empowering and engaging one that has some movement to it. Choose words that fine-tune your emotional movement, either to up your energy if it’s low, or proactively to move through a challenging patch.
2. As Jung told us, “What you resist, persists.” We resist numerous aspects of caregiving (parenting an elder, the decline of a loved one, a sibling’s behavior,) and much of the pain of caregiving comes from resistance. Once you see what is being resisted, choices become available. You can do caregiving differently. You can’t change others, but you can make a shift within yourself. What you can’t change you can allow to be as it is.
Acceptance frees up so much energy! There’s simply more emotional space in which to move. Identify your points of resistance, change what you can, and then practice the art of allowing, to free yourself into forward motion.
Other fundamental principles include:
• What you focus on is what you get.
• Fear is usually not an indicator of a life-or-death crisis.
• Anger can be a gift, showing you what is missing.
• Asking for support in the form of partnership can be empowering.
• Helping or fixing too much can disempower your loved one, as well as you.
As these Mindful Caregiving principles and others are applied consistently in a variety of challenging situations, caregiving gets smoother, and you feel stronger and steadier.
by Holly Whittelsey Whiteside
Caregiver’s Coach & Advocate
Author of The Caregiver’s Compass: How To Navigate With Balance & Effectiveness Using Mindful Caregiving
For private coaching and workshops, please contact Holly at MindfulCaregiving@comcast.net
Holly is a certified Eden Alternative Associate and a member of the board of the New Hampshire (NH) Coalition for Culture Change in nursing homes. She lives in a former one-room schoolhouse in NH with her husband of thirty-seven years and two Golden Retrievers.