Many of us are not only caring for ourselves but caring for aging parents or spouses during the pandemic. Caregivers have plenty to think about nowadays, including contracting the coronavirus, feeling isolated at home, getting food and medications, and coping with financial strain. Those worries are normal and expected; it would be surprising if a caregiver wasn’t worrying during this time of crisis. Evolution has equipped human beings with built-in worry capacity for reasons of survival — to fix our attention on pressing problems and then spur us to try to remedy them.
But when the tendency to stew escalates so much during stressful times that worries dominate caregivers’ thoughts, disturb their sleep and detract from their ability to enjoy life, we call it something else: anxiety. Unlike worry, anxiety isn’t normal; it’s a problem that clouds our thinking and diminishes our abilities to perform at our peak. In its more severe forms, anxiety is debilitating and requires treatments such as medication and psychotherapy.
We are now in a global pandemic in which many family caregivers will likely experience some form of shock, uncertainty and fear. We worry that COVID-19 may sicken our loved ones or as caregivers that we may somehow bring the virus into our homes. We also fear that we might fall ill and leave our care recipients in need. These are dire moments that can bring out the best or worst in us. It requires our holding on to hope that the pandemic will eventually be brought under control and the people we love will survive. Hope gives us strength. It bolsters our resilience. It pushes us on when we don’t think we can do any more. Below are some tips and resources that you may find beneficial. Feel free to share any resources that you have found beneficial as a DTE Alumni in the comments.
Monitor your temperament
Through our temperaments and upbringing, each of us is typically inclined toward regarding the world through the lens of a brooding pessimist or a beaming optimist. These tendencies only become more pronounced under the duress of a crisis. Pessimists usually argue that fearing the worst better prepares them for possible catastrophe. But research by psychologist Martin Seligman and others shows that optimists are happier and less prone to anguish and depression, even when danger is realistically present. Do you have a sense of your natural tendency? If you don’t or are simply interested in gauging your thinking’s direction nowadays, keep a daily journal in which you record your current preoccupying thoughts and save that document to be reviewed in, say, a week. Rereading those entries will quickly clue you in to where you are psychologically and allow you to determine whether you need to take steps to better cope with the current crisis.
Shift your mindset
Since optimism is better for us, take steps to enhance your cautiously optimistic thinking. For starters, you could bring your attention more fully to some of the unforeseen benefits (amid many detrimental effects, admittedly) of this halt to our normally hectic lives: a greater chance to see the flowering springtime and hear the repetitive calls of the migrating birds; the opportunity to enjoy the company of your family members; and the time to reinvigorate long-dormant home-cooking skills. Keeping a gratitude journal is another means of heightening our awareness of the good things we still have.
Shift your activities
In the same way that directing your thoughts can lead to a more hopeful outlook, directing your activities can do the same. It is potentially harmful to watch 10 hours of cable news shows at this time; the sheer volume of frightening images and information will take its toll on your psyche. Keep informed but balance news-seeking with engaging in cherished activities that bring you joy and perhaps laughter like reading, playing games or listening to music.
Reach out to positive-minded friends
It is more vital than ever to virtually reach out to friends and family members for support by sharing experiences, fears and well wishes. But those conversations shouldn’t be so gloomy as to reinforce your hopelessness or deepen your despair. Find the folks who can sustain a more balanced and realistic view, recognizing these negative times but positive possibilities as well. Let them spur you to hang on to the belief that — despite the painful losses we have suffered or will suffer — better times will eventually come. We will hurt but we will grow through overcoming this adversity.
Need help for an older adult or an adult with disabilities? United Way can connect you with healthcare, housing, transportation, or other services right in your community. Contact United Way by calling 2-1-1 or visit their website: https://www.mi211.org/get-help/elderly-disabled-individuals
Healthcare & Programs
- Medicare Information / Counseling
- Medicaid Information / Counseling
- Prescription Expense Assistance
- Vision Screening
For more AARP resources about caregiving: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/?cmp=KNC-BRD-MC-REALPOSS-TODAY-BING-SEARCH-CAREGIVING&gclid=CLbjr6jz1OwCFVZIgQodLbkDjw