I have shared a number of things through this blog, including practical tips & suggestions, creative ideas, books, music and links, silliness and coping strategies, along with my own experiences and insights. But this particular post is probably the single most important information I can impart to you, the caregiver, because it empowers you to profoundly change your own experience of the caregiving role, reducing your stress, and even achieving the best interaction possible between you, family members, and all those along the journey with you. It is powerful. It works. And I highly encourage you to try it.
The "it" I am speaking of is creative visualization. If you have no experience in this area, fear not! It is an easy, perfectly acceptable and highly positive tool to use, for your own wellbeing and that of your loved ones.
One of the very most damaging aspects of caregiving, is the constant anxiety because of the pressure on you to make the best decisions -- not only for yourself and family, but for your loved one as well -- made all the more difficult because often there is no clear answer and lots of conflicting needs. The negative impacts of stress and anxiety on caregivers is only now truly coming to light through long term research and it is very alarming. That's why I want to share this tool with you and encourage you to use it whenever you need it.
Creative visualization exercise: Sit comfortably in a room where you won't be disturbed for a few minutes. Breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth for three slow breaths. Close your eyes and consciously relax your shoulders and neck, moving a bit if that feels good. Now, begin to imagine whatever situation or decision is causing you anxiety, but see it in completely positive ways, being resolved for everyone's highest good, seeing those involved as smiling and cooperative, helpful and happy (including the person for whom you are caring). See the people interacting in supportive, loving ways. See and feel yourself smiling and relaxed as you give love and care, and receive help and gratitude. Create as much vivid detail and emotional power as possible in the images, keeping everything positive, smooth and flowing. If you can't see the best outcome, you can simply visualize everyone involved as happy and cooperative. Stay with it for a few minutes, until you feel "complete". Then, release the situation, affirm that it is so, and wait in full expectation of a positive outcome. If you practice a faith tradition, you can also add a prayer for your visualization to be accomplished. Not beseeching, but affirming. I think people should be more like cats and ask for what they want in no uncertain terms.
Now, I know there are skeptics out there who think this is rubbish. But I simply challenge you to suspend your disbelief long enough to try it. There is no harm that can come of deep breathing, relaxing and using your imagination for a positive outcome. And, athletes have long known the power of positive visualization in enhancing their performance and decreasing anxiety. It's well documented that the body and mind benefit just as thoroughly from a mental/emotional rehearsal as from an actual, physical one. It is a way of psyching oneself, building your deep convictions and purpose, seeing the desired outcome, and it works. I have used this tool in my professional career quite often, and benefit greatly from its use. I did so with caregiving also, but to a lesser degree, since exhaustion can play havoc with one's positive, sunny outlook on life. That's why I encourage the use of this technique from the very beginning of the caregiver's role. It can make a tremendous difference, to you and to those around you. You can use this practice for your own health and wellbeing, that of your loved one, or any specific situation which is causing you anxious moments and stress.
If you wish, you can enhance the visualization experience with some soft, gentle relaxing music, soft lighting, anything that helps you "shift" your conscious mind away from worry and toward positive transformation of the situation.
I would really love to hear of your experiences with visualization. Or answer any questions about it that may come to you. Please feel free to comment and know that I will respond.
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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