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A Mental Refresh for a New Year

Friday January 8, 2021

pink refresh - a mental refresh

I think we can all agree that 2020 was not what any of us imagined it would be. Not even in our wildest dreams. We have faced illness, isolation, boredom, and fear, but also new diagnosis, stress, job changes, changes in living situations, and changes of pace in life. 2020 was hard, and I don’t ever want to repeat it again.

January is often a time to look ahead and set resolutions. But it’s pretty difficult to make new year’s resolutions when we don’t know what tomorrow will look like. I would like to encourage you to start this year with a refresh. Take some time to assess your mental health and self-talk. Clean out those negative thoughts.

Often when I talk with caregivers about how life is going, I hear an underlying negative message. It sounds something like:
“I can’t do enough.”
“I am failing.”
“I don’t know what to do.”

Do those sound familiar?

As a caregiver, you are doing more and sacrificing more than anyone else can imagine. You are succeeding and loving and making a difference daily. But you are hung up on the things that did not go well.

You carry guilt because you handled a situation badly with your mom at the doctor’s office. You carry shame because you got frustrated with your husband when he asked you the same question for the 100th time today and you snapped back. You mentally berate yourself for not making a better decision about how to care for your loved one.

Dear one, you are so much more than your mistakes. You would never talk to someone else the way you talk to yourself. Those negative thoughts that are running through your head are unhelpful and untrue. It’s time to let them go.

You are doing your best each day. You are providing. You are creating and maintaining a safe space. You are loving. You are meeting needs. You are making it one day at a time.

Yes, things will still go wrong. Even with care in place, your mom may fall and break a hip. Even with door alarms and extra locks, your husband may slip out the door in the 2 minutes you are in the bathroom. You may decide to move your dad into a secure facility because you can’t provide care at home anymore, and he may get sick.

Bad things will happen despite your best efforts and planning. This does not mean it’s your fault. This does not mean you are a bad caregiver. Sometimes life doesn’t go how we want. Let 2020 be a prime example – none of us wanted a global pandemic.

It’s time for a refresh. Give yourself credit. Give yourself a pep talk. Go into the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror, and say “You are doing your best!” (And if you feel silly doing that, then call us, and we will give you a pep talk.)

Let the guilt go. Let go of “what if” and “maybe I should have.” Focus on your successes.

You got Mom to her doctor’s appointment! Maybe you were 20 minutes late, and your hair wasn’t washed or brushed, but you made it.

You got 8 hours of sleep last night! Maybe you had to get up in the middle of the night to help your husband in the restroom, but you were able to go back to sleep.

You found a great memory care residence for your wife! You don’t want to move her, but you are exhausted, and she needs more care than you can give at home.

You had 15 minutes alone to drink coffee! Maybe your dad was watching TV, but he was happy, and you got your coffee.

Every success – no matter how small – is worth celebrating!

When you focus on your successes rather than your failures, your outlook is better. You feel better about yourself. You feel better about your caregiving. You are happier. You are better prepared for whatever each day throws at you.

A positive mindset won’t make awful days or terrible situations disappear. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to have bad days. But your life isn’t over. Take it one day, one joy, and one success at a time.

If at any time you need help problem solving or finding the positives, we are here to help. Being a caregiver is hard, and you don’t have to do it alone. Give us a call at 901-854-1200, or set up a time to connect virtually or over the phone by emailing Sheri at sheri@pagerobbins.org.