Friday, March 6, 2015

Say Yes! to Life

The "Y" in CRAZY stands for "Yes!"...say Yes! to life.

If you've seen or read stories about family caregiving in the media you'll know they fall into three categories. I call them, Just the Facts, So Sorry, and There, There.

The Just the Facts stories are just that, facts. One out of ten Americans are caregivers. Six percent of caregivers die due to caregiver stress. Working caregivers get fewer plumb job assignments due to the time, energy and focus their caregiving responsibilities take...facts, facts, facts.

The So Sorry stories usually follow caregivers around for a few hours or a day or a week and show how much of their lives are focused on caregiving. Some of the stories have a positive tone, but most of them are essentially saying, "So sorry, this is what your life is when you're a caregiver."

The There, There stories are supposed to be comforting, but they are basically patting the caregiver on the hand and saying, "There, there, things will be ok."

The caregivers who do the best job of moving through the experience say Yes! to life. They understand that their caregiving experiences take up a lot of time, energy and focus, but they make a point of finding activities, people, situations that bring them a sense of life, joy and engagement. They don't give up on saying Yes! to life.

Did you have a hobby before you became a caregiver? Maybe you can't be as fully engaged as in the past but you can probably find moments to participate in it, or read a magazine about it, or talk to someone about their experiences in the activity.

Are there people who make you feel happy, make you laugh, help you feel alive? Don't lose contact with them. Too often, caregivers let their responsibilities gradually or quickly create a shrinking world until their whole life is the person for whom they are caring.

On the other hand, friends/family/coworkers may not know how to act/react or they believe reaching out to the caregiver takes up valuable caregiving time. Or, every time they talk with the caregiver all they hear are complaints and the Oh, woe is me attitude about caregiving. It doesn't take much of that to turn them off.

However, having another caregiver to bounce ideas off of and with whom you can share your stresses is a good thing. Here's a strategy: When you talk with another caregiver you each get 3 minutes to talk about how difficult things are. Then, you each call time out and talk about positive things that are happening in your lives.

Be proactive, say Yes! to life and take a moment to reach out to the people in your life who matter. And, remember, as a caregiver you probably want it to be about you once in awhile, but take a moment to ask about the other person, about their family/friends/activities/job.

While your contact with others isn't supposed to be a therapy session for you, you'll find that it's therapeutic talking with someone about topics other than caregiving.

Put yourself in situations that remind you there's a world out there whether you are caregiving or not. Go to a museum or a game, get a massage, take a walk, go to a party or a movie, cook something you like (but then go for a walk after you eat it!), do SOMETHING that reminds you you're alive, you have a life other than caregiving!

Say Yes! to life. If you don't caregiving will make your life CRAZY.

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