Five Ways to Find Joy as a Caregiver
Finding joy is not always easy when you are responsible for the care, safety and finances of an older loved one. Now, add in a global pandemic, civil unrest, wildfires and hurricanes. Truly, it can be a real challenge to find joy.
It’s difficult to simply find joy — we have to work for it. Joy is what gets us through the tough times. It can help when we are feeling anxious, scared, frustrated and exhausted. We can rely on our grit and tenacity, but joy plays an important part in getting us through those challenging caregiving moments as well. Finding joy in our daily lives is essential to maintaining our overall well-being. Being open and willing to adapt to the ever-changing demands of caregiving is key in finding that joy. Building a reserve of joy increases our resiliency as caregivers. Every moment of joy fills our tanks a bit more.
During my caregiver years, I learned to take notice of the inherent joys throughout my day and create joyful moments for myself. Small things often made the biggest difference.
Here are some ideas to keep joy in your life:
1. Surround yourself with friends and family
Research shows the happiest (and often the healthiest) people have quality relationships in their lives that include a network of family, friends and community. These are the ones you trust to have your back when things get rough. Unfortunately, caregivers often lose touch with their network amidst their caregiving responsibilities. Reconnect! If you don’t have a network, it’s never too late to build one.
Connecting with friends and family can:
- Increase your self esteem
- Enhance your mental health
- Promote healthy behaviors
- Help you handle stress better
2. Seek the simple things
The world seems big and scary right now, and there are so many things out of our control. We need to look inward for the simplest everyday pleasures: things that are attainable, require very little effort, are convenient and are inexpensive. We just need to slow down and be aware of what’s around us.
A few ways to enjoy life’s simple pleasures:
- Watching the sunset
- Listening to music
- Snuggling with your pet
- Writing, texting or calling an old friend
3. Create a daily gratitude practice
Take time each day to write down or say aloud the things you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be fancy or involved; just think of one to three simple statements a day such as, “I’m grateful for my friends and family.” By doing this, even during the most difficult times, your gratitude practice will help keep things in perspective, create joy and keep you grounded.
- Will never be about what you don’t have (items, accomplishments, success)
- Is not sold in stores (you cannot buy gratitude)
- Is found in humility
- Is about appreciating the simple things in life (see #2)
4. Listen to the music
Studies have shown music can make us feel uplifted and helps increase our social interactions. It decreases anxiety, pain, heart rate and blood pressure. Music provides an escape from the day-to-day grind and can bring joy back into your life. Is there a song that brings you instant joy? Play it, then dance like nobody is watching.
Here’s why music is important in our lives:
- It’s universal, crossing generational and cultural lines
- It helps us focus on a task at hand and enhances brain function
- It improves our memory
- It’s one of the simple pleasures in life (see #2)
5. Set realistic expectations
Caregivers want to be everything to everyone, but that’s just not possible. We set ourselves up for disappointment when we don’t consider the reality of the situation and what our true capabilities are. Often, we end up blaming ourselves. We need to be truthful with ourselves about what our boundaries are, how much we can do and what we are willing to do.
- Keep us motivated
- Help us to stay focused
- Define our limits
- Provide a sense of control
Now more than ever, it is important to take notice and find what brings you joy in your day-to-day experience. Happiness and joy are possible even in difficult times. You just need to look for it.
Stay well, stay healthy, stay connected,