Emily was exhausted. As the only daughter of her 85-year-old mother, she struggled with trying to balance a full-time job, the needs of her young children, and caregiving responsibilities. Lately she found herself snapping at her kids and feeling negative and unmotivated at work.

Caring for an aging spouse or relative can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but for many people, it’s also emotionally and physically draining. Even if you’ve made self-care a priority by getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and making time for a favorite hobby or activity, caregiving can still be a source of great stress. This stress can lead to feelings of anger and guilt and get in the way of successful caregiving. It may even impact your health.

One way to counter this stress is to cultivate a positive attitude. Research has shown that the average person has thousands of thoughts per day, but the majority of these thoughts are negative and repetitive. This human tendency to focus more on negative thoughts than on positive ones is called the negativity bias. It’s also the reason we tend to dwell more on unpleasant events than on equally positive ones, and pay more attention to bad news than good news. However, persistent negative thoughts and attitudes can create chronic stress and potentially lead to physical and emotional problems.

It takes self-awareness and practice to counter negative thoughts with positive thinking. Here are some ways to shift your pattern of thinking even if your caregiving situation has not changed:

  • When you become aware of negative thoughts and images entering your mind, look for ways to re-frame the events in a more positive way. You can also try redirecting your attention to the present moment and doing something right then that makes you feel happy.
  • Practice gratitude daily. Even in difficult times, thinking of what is going right in your life can reduce stress. You can also practice gratitude by showing appreciation toward a colleague, friend, or loved one for something kind they’ve done for you.
  • Spend as much time as possible with positive people. You’ll pay closer attention to the good things in your life and feel more optimistic.

Positive thinking doesn’t mean avoiding every negative thought or emotion, but it will help you feel less weight on your shoulders and manage caregiving challenges in a more productive way.

If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 610-667-2838 or email us at CareManagement@waverlyheights.org. We’ll be happy to assist!