Today I want to talk to you about Caregiver Mindset, the Hereditary Mindset that is that creates negative self-talk, self-doubt, and more self-awareness - what Caregivers experience when the stress level goes up!
I hit the proverbial brick wall recently as it became obvious Mom is now living in Stage 6 of Dementia. I was prepared for this after all my studies and publishing my book The Proactive Caregiver, Stop Reacting to Life, Start Living Proactively. And yet, when the signs became clear, my heart still began to break. I noticed that my body was aching more while fatigue crept in. I am committed to helping Mom through her journey to the end of her last breath, but I subconsciously began fighting darkness instead of seeking the light.
I did not become self-aware of my darkness until I could admit, "I am depressed." Saying this seemed to allow my mind and body to release a tension I had been holding on to since I received the first lab result test that Mom's kidneys were failing. Even now that her kidneys have bounced back, thanks to hospice care, her CHF is worsening.
I had this hereditary mindset to be strong and forge ahead because Mom's quality of life depended on how I continually reacted to her decline. The problem with this notion of having to remain strong, as Mom did throughout my adolescence, was the self-talk and self-doubt hijacked my positive mindset. I began to doubt my abilities as her caregiver. I started to doubt my dreams, goals, and ability to persevere. No matter how much I was aware of what to expect, witnessing the changes each passing week created an emotional surge that caused me to forget all I had come to understand. This reaction is not only a normal response for caregivers but it is expected.
Today's guest, Kayle Johnson, is a health and life coach. Instead of fighting the darkness, Kaley Johnson teaches you how to bring in the light to support caregivers. Kaley has a degree in human services and has been a professional caregiver for over 25 years. From becoming a foster parent to caring for her 92-year-old grandmother, Kaley strives to fill in the gaps through her Health and Life coaching business to support caregiver needs. She knows what it is like to feel exhausted daily, burned out, and losing an identity while caring for loved ones. Her program is designed to help caregivers with resentment, overwhelm, and exhaustion before they become sick to thrive rather than just survive.
I asked her to join me because I had again lost my identity. After going through years of therapy to discover my true self and reclaim a positive outlook on life, it is safe to say I fell off the wagon. The parts of me that I walked across the spiritual threshold to lay down my burdens reignited when frustration woke up my angry inner part, which then woke up my runaway part. I was fighting an internal struggle to remain in control and, at the very least, to stay positive. The more I watched Mom play board Scrabble and Dominos and listened to her question the moves, the more I panicked because I knew our time together was coming to an end soon. The more I felt the panic, the more my anger part tried to take over. I broke down into tears and finally put my Caregiver Trinity into practice. It was time for reflection and more soul searching.
So I said, "I fell off the wagon," but I just slipped back into old habits. It was easier to blame others for my pain or project anger than feel the pain of loss. My self-talk turned into a broken negative record, reminding me why I thought I couldn't achieve my dreams and live out my soul life purpose. The more days that passed with the broken heart spirit of convincing myself why I can't, I denied myself the truth of why I can, why I am needed, why I must succeed.
This hereditary mindset is something I grew up with that was passed down to me from Mom and Dad. They had a way of thinking of learning a skill or having enough education to pay bills and just get by. They did not have big dreams of becoming a game-changer or world changer as I do. They wanted to make enough to live and pay taxes, then die while letting others figure out the details. During my grieving and extended self-pity party, I had forgotten that God placed a dream in my heart for a reason. What I did not recognize until I was crying pointed back to my habits which broke my mindset of going forward positively.
Self-talk is incredibly powerful. This power can work for us or against us. I knew this, and still, the voices, and what I call spiritual attacks, were patiently standing by for the moment I stopped my daily affirmations. Over the days, weeks, and months that I slipped up, I became impatient, frustrated, resentful and distrustful of God's plan. I took my funk out on God instead of realizing the negative forces in our universe can seep into our being like vitamin D from Sunlight. Only instead of filling us up with a shield of positive light, the negativity begins to degrade our focus, thoughts, and words spoken.
Being able to focus on the good in any given situation is a choice that takes daily practice. Identifying the bright side and rolling with the punches in life will significantly impact your physical and mental health. I went from ignoring reality to letting reality weigh me down, feeling trampled by the wagon wheels. As they learned from their parents, my parents dealt with life's punches by sleeping through them or drinking to numb the pain. When all I wanted to do was sleep all day and then have a glass of wine at lunch, well before dinner, then I knew I needed to snap out of this funk.
During my reflection time, I backtracked over my moments of progress in therapy. Being conscious of an inner voice that provides a running monologue also means I can change the conversation. Suddenly, I became self-aware of what was causing my depression to pull me under those wagon wheels. Acknowledging once again that I was never in control of Mom's journey put me back into a positive mindset. I'm not trying to live every day with a Polly Anna mindset, but understanding what I am in control of and what I cannot control helped me reset my expectations, which then helped reset my mood. Besides, my To-Do list would not get done if I was to sleep through the day or sip through the afternoon.
While I shared my broken heart with my husband, he responded with the anti-trigger statement by saying, "It sounds like you are trying to talk yourself out of pursuing your dreams." Those words felt like a moment in medical dramas when they put defibrillator pads on the patient's chest and yelled, "clear!"
He shocked my mindset so that I had to ask every single inner part, "why are you self-sabotaging our goals?" There was no easy answer, but there was an honest look inside to begin a new game plan.
Kayle explained, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right!" I know I can make a difference in Mom's quality of life. I know I can make a difference in the world. So why was the self-talk turning into self-defeat? Unfortunately, the therapeutic answer is that human nature is prone to negative talk.
Caregivers' negative self-talk is a reminder that we are human. We may be viewed as heroes from time to time, but every hero has an Achilles heel. Even though this hereditary mindset is typical, it is hazardous. Our self-talk may result from our life challenges. Still, it is often a one-sided view that convinces us we are not good enough, can never get better, and therefore paralyzes us into inaction or self-defeating. These feelings open the emotional door to depression, anxiety, and further destructive internal chatter. This kind of downward spiral eventually affects the care we provide our loved ones and turns up our inner critic. As the spiral continues, it affects how we perceive our looks, fitness level, and even sexual skill.
So I had yet another lesson in maintaining my mental mindset to remain positive to stop the downward hereditary spiral. Here is what I was able to put into place to help me refocus my thoughts on a positive outlook and continue being the best caregiver I can be.
1. Expose the inner critic. Identify the voices and name them. The voices in our heads are not entirely a one-way conversation. Express what you are hearing out loud to hear the underlying message or absurdity.
2. Silence the inner critic. Hone in on what those voices are saying to you or encourage you to do by writing it down. Writing the conversation down breaks the thought process enough to let it out of your mind so fresh thoughts can take their place.
3. Distract the inner critic. Get creative because everyone understands art is subjective, meaning there is no right or wrong way to do it. The negative feelings can be channeled into your artwork. Art can be worded in a poem or painted on a canvass or clay on the potter's wheel.
4. Smile more, even if it feels fake. Once you expose your inner critic, you know when it's likely to show negativity during a task or during time with your loved one. Smile throughout the job despite the inner critic. If you find it difficult to smile, listen to or watch a comedy special to laugh away the moody blues and provide another distraction.
5. Reframe the position your inner critic is trying to take. No matter the situation, way out the pros with the cons and find a different angle to view the case. If you feel personally attacked, then express why.
6. Challenge your thoughts to balance negative thinking by following up with positive thinking. Every story has at least two sides. Force your mindset to focus on more than one angle.
7. Focus on your strengths. If your negative self-talk tells you that you are not good at anything, you know the wrong mindset is still driving you. We all have at least one gift or talent that we are innately born with to apply to life. Caregivers have several strengths!
Thank you for joining in and listening today. I hope this episode gave you more food for thought. Until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.