3 Ways to Find Happiness as a Caregiver

March 18, 2020

Being a caregiver is an extremely rewarding profession. But it is HARD WORK.

It takes a great deal of mental, physical, and emotional strength to do well in this position, but even the strongest of people seem to find themselves in seasons where it is just hard. In order to give the best of yourself, to those who need your best self, it is important to take time to pause and check-in with yourself.

Being happy looks different for everyone, and while it would be ideal if happiness was always constant, it tends to ebb and flow with things happening in life. When a job is stressful, the worries and weight can carry over into other parts of life, clouding the things that should be bringing us happiness.

In seasons when patients are difficult, schedules are packed full, and life just feels heavy, it is so important to pause and ask yourself, “what do I have in my life today that makes me happy?”. The reality is, life isn’t always going to be easy, but we can do everything in our power to focus on the good things, no matter how small they may be. On days where it feels impossible to be happy, remember this:

Happiness is something you can work towards.

You can actually rewire your brain to think positively in situations where your mind’s natural tendency may be to think negatively. Instead of ignoring what is going on in life, be patient with yourself as you fight to see the good. Here are three different techniques that can be practiced to help improve your mindset.

JOT THE GOOD – write down a few things you’re thankful for each day.

Studies show that writing things by hand generally helps you retain and understand material better. Think back over the past 24 hours, and make note of a few things that were good during your day. In the attempt to train your brain to see positives first, writing them down will help your brain remember them. And, at the end of the month, you’ll be able to look back over your notes and think back on things you’re grateful for!

Some of you may struggle to come up with what you are genuinely thankful for. You’ll go to write down ‘my family’ but will do so with a ‘but they…’ in mind. This might be the case for every potential item you go to write on your list. Know that there ARE things you can be genuinely thankful for. Try not to settle for writing things that you feel you should be thankful for. If you are still having a difficult time or believe there is nothing you can write down, check out this blog post.

OTHERS OVER SELF – put others’ needs before your own, and do something good (big or small) for someone.

As Caregivers, you are in a unique position. Your job asks you to help, care for, and serve others. You have the opportunity to put others first because, well, it’s your job! It’s so easy to put your own needs in the back burner when your job is to care for the needs of those right in front of you. Caregivers, your jobs are tedious, but your work does not go unnoticed.

Your time spent being there for people may feel like a chore, but you are making a huge difference in the lives of the people around you. That should be encouraging to you! Even when patients may not express gratitude, know that you are making a difference.

Try to not let the practice of others over self end once you leave work. Compliment someone, hold open a door, help someone carry their groceries to their car, etc. Be on the lookout for ways to make small differences in the lives of people around you.

YOU TIME  – understanding that self care isn’t selfish.

However, being selfless does not mean to not make time for yourself. I would argue the opposite. I think that the most selfless people are the ones who know how to re-energize themselves in healthy ways. Meaning they know how to spend their time wisely, doing things that give them the energy to care for the people around them.

So what does “good, healthy, you time” look like? There isn’t really a right answer here. We are all wired differently. Some need quiet time alone with a book, while others need time with their people in a lively setting. Some need exercise while others need a movie. Even then, you may need a movie one weekend, and a packed weekend trip the next. But, if you need some ideas on ways to help recharge yourself, there is a shortlist below to get you started.

  • Mindfulness- practice meditation, do something you love, or simply rest. Maybe this means going to a class like yoga, or practicing breathing techniques at home, just slow down and focus on your mental and physical state of being.
  • Work out- endorphins are great for stress relief, and stress relief helps with overall happiness. Whether you’re going on a walk or going to an Orange Theory class, you’re doing wonders for yourself.
  • Do what you love- Are you a car fanatic? Or maybe you love to dance. Find something in your life that is a hobby, a dream, or something you wish you were better at, and try to spend some time once or twice a month doing it!

Spend some time on you. You give a lot of yourself to the things in your life, but it’s so important to take a moment to care for yourself as well!

Happiness is not impossible, just be patient with yourself! Being happy can come from a shift in perspective, and these techniques aim to do just that, shift your mental perspective. Aim for 30 days, then reevaluate, and remember:

Jot it down. Others first. You time.

Aim for J.O.Y!