The world is a scary place these days, moving faster, changing, threatening to take away that which we depend on to “get by” in many cases. Those of us who have taken on primary caregiving duties may feel like we’re under siege, causing anxiety and depression in the face of those responsibilities.

We may feel hopeless or powerless, like we are out of control, which can create panic in those most vulnerable to these feelings. We truly have no real control and may try to create some somewhere just to feel OK. The problem is that when we try to exert undue influence over people, places and things, our actions are often met with resistance, discord or feelings of resentment. Also, when we get stuck in bemoaning the past or projecting our angst into the future, we waste our energy and exhaust ourselves. How can we possibly be happy or effective under these circumstances?

The truth is that our attitude has everything to do with how we weather the storms around us.

The first step is to accept everything as it is; much like creating a restore point on a computer. Applying an attitude of gratitude reprograms our nervous systems, calms us and rebalances us so that feelings of doom and gloom dissolve with the positive energy of gratitude. As human beings, these feelings come up. It’s ok to have unwanted feelings; they are our teachers. How wonderful that we can transform the worst of our feelings by embracing gratitude!

In her book, “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want,” Sonja Lyubomirsky breaks down how and why gratitude works. They are outlined here from her article, ”Eight Ways Gratitude Boosts Happiness,” on www.gratefulness.org:

1. Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences.
2. Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem.
3. Gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.
4. The expression of gratitude encourages moral behavior … grateful people are more likely to help others
5. Gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthening existing relationships and nurturing new ones.
6. Expressing gratitude tends to inhibit invidious comparisons with others.
7. The practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed.
8. Gratitude helps us thwart hedonic adaptation.

I urge you to practice expressing gratitude whenever possible. Whenever your feel overwhelmed or overtaken by negative thoughts, stop and make a gratitude list. Mentally note or even take a moment jot down several (3-5) things for which you are grateful. It will change how you perceive and move through the world.

Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of that question.Tennessee Williams

Dr. Jamie co-authored the acclaimed Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health & Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss and was featured in The 100 Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership, Voices of Caregiving and Voices of Alcoholism. Dr. Huysman writes for Caregiver SOS, Florida MD and Today’s Caregiver magazines and blogs on PsychologyToday.com.

This business of baseball is only one-half skill. The other half is something else; something bigger!

That’s the lead-in line to the song “Heart” in the musical “Damn Yankees.” For our purposes this month, I’d like to substitute the word baseball for caregiving.

In my days of clinical practice, I had to “have a heart” to be of any real help to my patients. As a therapist, it was important to be present, listen, witness, and, many times, ask probative questions to find out was really going on.

I have since learned that it is an important aspect to quality of life as well. In my view, being open-hearted and living from a heart-centered place is an extension of my true self. Heartfelt kindness carries no judgment but has the power to discern and understand what is not being said, rather than what is.

As caregivers are not mind-readers, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with those we care for, which can be difficult when both time and energy are at a premium.

My experience is that it’s well worth the effort to take the time.

My mantra is, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” I found it online credited to a gentleman named Toby Mac, whom I’ve never met. It’s not always easy to live up to, but it’s how I really try to live.

When I lack the ability to be kind, I do not “have heart.” As a rule, that’s usually a red flag that means there’s something going on within me that I may or may not be aware of at a conscious level.

Having an open heart has an empowering magnetic field that feeds me. I become more tolerant of my humanity when centered there; I am happier, even more productive. This is in great contrast to the feeling of being shut down, tuned out, defensive, acting as if you’re unengaged and downright bored. I have felt and have been at the mercy of all those, too, because I’m human.

Like all personal growth and evolution, having a heart is a process that one surrenders to over time; it’s an alternative way to flex my heart muscle! It is not a weakness, and it doesn’t make me too sensitive to be in the world.

I’m reminded of the lyrics to an old song by the band America, that went:

But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn’t, didn’t already have

Yup, he had to find it for himself. I hope you find yours and use it to take care of yourself as well as those you care for.

Happy Heart Month!

Dr. Jamie co-authored the acclaimed Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health & Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss and was featured in The 100 Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership, Voices of Caregiving and Voices of Alcoholism. Dr. Huysman writes for Caregiver SOS, Florida MD and Today’s Caregiver magazines and blogs on PsychologyToday.com.rolex watches amazon fake
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