Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Elder Care: Stress--the first suggestion

In my previous post, Stress and Suggestions #1, I listed 10 ideas for managing the stresses of being a caregiver or care manager for elderly or ill parents. All of the ideas involve putting some (or a lot) of thought into how you evaluate what's happening and then choosing how you wish to respond to the situation. All of the ideas take more energy than having a glass of wine, or going to a movie. The movie or glass of wine is a pleasure, but their benefits are fleeting. The ideas I listed will return broad and continuous rewards for that investment of energy.

Here's the first one from the list: Learn how to speak up for what you need and what you want.
Why is this even important? Whether it's leaving a doctor's office with a clear understanding of a medical issue, or knowing for certain that your parent's laundry will be done regularly, knowing what you want and asking for it is the best way to clean up your To Do list. It's also highly satisfying.

If you can learn how to do this, you'll regain a measure of control. And it's the near absence of control that is often so frustrating and therefore so stress-creating in our situation. Here are a few tips to get started:

First, take a step back and identify what you're seeking. Be honest with yourself here and don't censor what comes to mind. A basic element of managing stress is giving yourself permission to have thoughts that you, or others close to you, might initally react to as socially unacceptable. When you actually mull over those thoughts, you may find that they're not so awful after all. In fact, by not suppressing them you could discover that there's a strong element of reason in them. Or you might learn that there's really nothing you want to do about them.

So, your first inkling of the outcome you're seeking may come attached with a statement like "Oh, I couldn't possibly do that." Or "Gee, I'd like to say that but they might get mad if I do." That's OK. Write down whatever comes to mind, even if you imagine it's impossible for you to do.

Then, write down what action you want to take or what words you want to say. This may sound pedantic, but one of the big bugaboos in speaking up for yourself is not knowing what to say. So, write it down. If you're going to be in a tense situation, work on phrasing that's neutral, non-judgmental, and that has some positives in it.

Now, practice saying what you've written out loud. Practice in your car while doing errands or driving to work. Repeat your key statements until they feel part of you. I'm not saying memorize what you've written. But if you're not accustomed to speaking up for what you want, this is a good way to start to see yourself as someone who does just that. The more you hear your own voice saying things you didn't imagine you could say, the more you'll believe you can speak up for what you want.

Lastly, give it a whirl. This speaking up for yourself business gets easier each time you do it.

Next, pick

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