I have a confession…I’m a control freak! It’s gotten better over the years but I do have streaks that still shine through and take over my body. During those times, I can tell you and after talking to thousands of caregivers that I”m not alone, I have a tendency to get frustrated. If we were to chart frustration on a graph it would mimic the graphs for the stock market over the past few weeks, sometimes up…sometimes down. Frustration is a natural outcome of overwhelm, multi-tasking, and the need or desire to be all things to the patient.
It’s time to change gears. My interviews with caregivers has offered me a private look into the magical thinking of the caregiver. It’s not unusual to believe that with you in control the patient will get well. I have watched numerous caregivers who become a military drill sergeant with charts and schedules, words of caution and marching orders. Are all of these ways of dealing with anxiety and that’s what leads to frustration?
Frustration is multi-pronged. It’s a combination of the natural feelings you experience when your loved one has been diagnosed with an illness plus a feeling of helplessness that you can’t change the diagnosis plus all the interactions between you and the patient as well as the medical community. Believe it or not there is a solution to frustration…calm.
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Frustration never settled anything nor did it every make anyone feel good about the role they’re playing in the patient’s life. Achieving calm when facing frustration starts with breathing. You breathe automatically but when it’s an unconscious process your need for control isn’t served. When you are conscious of your breath, you can regulate your breathing and have it result in a positive outcome. Breathing obviously oxygenates the body…that’s feeding your cells and that’s a good thing. When you’re well oxygenated calm is easier to achieve. The recommendation is that you stop and breathe (the good thing is you can do it anywhere, anytime and it only takes 10 seconds, so no excuses).
Find something that evokes calm in your body; for me it’s music. I find that I have certain music I play to calm me down, get me centered and it makes me feel good. Other times I’ll go to my art studio and work in there because when I’m creative I’m transported away from frustration. Everyone has their own happy place, both internally and externally. When I lived in California my calm place was the ocean. The ocean always put things in perspective. During my time at the ocean I could reflect on how big the ocean was and how powerful. It let look at life as more of a continuum instead of absolutes.
How do you shift from frustration to calm? Do you engage in a particular practice? Read a certain piece of literary work? Engage in physical activity? Let’s share and make a universal shift for all caregivers from frustration to calm!