Horne: Importance of positive thinking when caring for a senior

As you all know by now, my life is somewhat stressful these days as I care for my aging mom.

Each day brings a change in her condition and with it a new challenge.

As I passed through many daily changes this past week, I began to feel that stress was taking over my life.

It is like the big boogey man under the bed, something that you can’t grasp, but that you just know is there.

I could not see the forest for the trees so to speak.

What results from this state is a feeling that you have no control; that you are not able to cope; that you must get away.  It doesn’t really matter where, anywhere you can feel less stressed would be fine.

Recently, as one major difficulty was resolved, I stepped back and observed myself like I was looking at a friend.  I could see that I was letting these external circumstances take a hold of my thinking and that the story I was telling myself was causing my reaction and my inability to stay in the moment.

We have all heard that stress is an internal process resulting from how we react rather than respond to what is going on around us.

Yes, I have a lot going on, but if I really want to help myself, and very likely those around me, it is up to me how I monitor my reactions to the events taking place.

If everything that is happening to you is a lesson for your own learning, what is the lesson?

Some of us are better worriers than others.  I have watched my mom for many years worry about things that might happen and drive herself to distraction thinking about those possibilities.

I see that I have the same pattern and perhaps the gift is that it would be valuable to change my way of thinking.

I will tell you that I have read all the books and learned many techniques over the past 25 years, but of course the key to change is daily practise of what you know.

So last night, I went to spend some time with my new favourite man, Dr. Mike Evans.

By chance discovery, I found his You Tube channel at:

An innovative preventive health physician in Toronto, he has developed a health lab that uses creative whiteboards to teach the public about simple methods to enhance their wellness through research-based facts. I love it.  Please check his link for practical solutions to many health questions you may have.

As I pondered my current difficulty in practicing basic stress management and keeping some balance in my daily activities as I care for my mom, his entertaining and helpful whiteboard called The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Stress brought me back to remembering that it is how I respond to what I cannot control that makes the difference.

Jumping the fast train to Chattanooga might not be the answer.

Mindfulness, choosing one thought over another in the moment, is under our control.

I find myself going to the future, wondering how long I can manage all this, afraid for myself and my husband and as the fear increases, of course my ability to cope decreases.

Solidifying in my mind what I can do for myself to stay balanced and actually doing it is up to me.

I am a master breathwork practitioner and one of the things I do in my business is teach others how to use conscious awareness of their breath to improve their health and well being.

I find myself many days lately holding my breath and forgetting to practice what I preach.

Our attitude, our outlook on what is going on in our lives, determines our response.

I began to think about what I was grateful for, instead of worrying about what I had to do next.

It was choice to stop feeling somewhat sorry for myself and look at who I have in my life and how incredibly supported I am, people such as my mom’s daily caregivers, Gabe and Sandie, who come in to give me the respite I need as I try to keep running a business.

Then there are the most wonderful palliative care nurses, Kathleen and Anne whose empathy and ability to listen give me the strength to realize I am never alone.

The humor of some of the crazy moments are not lost on these two, and we laugh together with great gusto at the fragility of life and the cards it deals you.

It feels so good to laugh out loud. Just do it, get a good belly laugh going all by yourself if you have to or better yet, with anyone who’ll join you.

There’s my beautiful sister Jeanie, who calls every day to see how I am doing and brainstorms solutions with me, coming over bag in hand to stay the night whenever I ask.

I have also been introduced to a husband that I never knew—one who can empty a commode most ably or pick up my mom and dance her gently over to her bed as she smiles and hugs his big shoulders as they sway together.

What a joy that brings to my heart to see and to know that he is getting the chance to say good bye to his own mom who died at 56, without him being able to be there with her.

As Dr. Mike says, just keep things simple by telling yourself short to do’s: I will swim today, I will walk the dog, I will sit and have a quiet lunch and chew slowly.

Someone said your life’s happiness is determined 10 per cent by what happens to you and 90 per cent by how you respond.

I headed off for a lunch the next day with my girl buddies and went for a pedicure after that.

I knew I would be better for it and my caregiving would be too when I got home.

And I will remember to breathe and I will remember to laugh, because even when this story is done, new challenges await.

It is always going to be about how consistently I commit to staying balanced through the more difficult opportunities that life presents that will determine my own state of well being.

Thanks mom.

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