Here on TransformingCaregiving over the next few weeks, I’ll share with you a sneak preview of the shows by looking at the topics through the MindfulCaregiving lens.
The Cost of UNintentionality
People avoid change until the pain
of remaining the same is greater
than the pain of changing.
For most of us most of the time, our ordinary mode of operating is fairly unintentional. We run on automatic. We systematize, schedule, and routinize our days, trying to maximize effectiveness while minimizing insanity. We respond to others in habitual ways. We solve problems using familiar strategies.
Though these ways of operating seem to work in the early days of caregiving, later on they can undermine us and our best intentions. Over time, our habits carry costs to both the caregiver and their loved one, costs that may sound familiar: emotional and physical exhaustion, frustration, diminished self-worth, deflated spirit, and even disempowerment for and dimished connection with the loved one.
But it’s not our fault that we fall into difficulties as caregiving intensifies. There is an old proverb about frogs that explains how we can find ourselves in hot water. If you put a frog into boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put it in cool water and slowly heat it, the frog won’t jump—it will die. Like frogs, we can refuse to notice when the water we swim in has changed. Because our familiar ways of operating have kept us safe and in control in the past, we are very leery of changing our approach. But if we don’t learn to change and change to learn, we will end up in hot water.
There’s a saying that “You get what you focus on.” If caregiving isn’t all you would like it to be, where are you putting your focus? Focus on struggle, and you get struggle. But focus on challenge, and you get more energy. Start observing how you habitually think and operate, and begin to experiment with other ways. Less and less will you let your energy leak away through focus on past regrets or future fears. Bit by bit, over the coming days and weeks, intentionally refocus your attention on who you are being and how you are thinking. More and more you will nurture your presence to your loved one, as well as your connection with yourself.
Intentional Caregiving opens the way to greater ease, smoother relationships, and an increase in personal power. You can gradually learn how to build your resilience and move with the prevailing winds of caregiving. In the next article we’ll dig deeper into this practice of intentional focus, looking at "The Power of Intentional Self-awareness".
*”The Caregiver Hour” airs every Monday at noon EST online at http://www.thecaregiverhour.com/ or on Tampa Bay radio WHNZ Station 1250 AM. The topic of the first “The Intentional Caregiver” show will be “The Cost of UNintentionality”, and the following three shows will explore the gifts of intentional self-awareness, connection, and acceptance. Expert guests will address the topic from a wide variety of perspectives. We are especially excited to have invited Chris Perna to join the conversation. Chris is the CEO of The Eden Alternative (http://www.edenalt.org) the organization leading the movement for person-centered long-term care. Thanks to Kim for letting me partner with her in the design of this series, offering caregivers a "new thought" approach to caregiving.