Caring for a parent or family member can be a fulfilling experience and can create a unique bond. But, as with any role, it can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, or worry (to name a few). Between preparing meals, administering medicine, and driving to and from appointments, you may feel like there’s not enough time in the day.
The accumulation of these tasks and responsibilities can make it hard to find a moment to think about all that you’re grateful for. In fact, on days when things aren’t going well, you may even wonder if there’s anything to be grateful for. However, the small act of practicing gratitude is a beneficial way to remind yourself to appreciate all the good in your life.
HarborChase Senior Living believes in the power of practicing gratitude and the benefits it can have—especially for those caring for a parent or family member. We’re sharing why it’s important to practice gratitude and how you can implement this simple, yet powerful, habit in your life.
Why is Gratitude Important for Caregivers?
As a caregiver, not only do you have to take care of a family member, but you also have to take care of the other responsibilities in your life. Not being able to find the right balance between all these roles can lead to stress and, if unmanaged, caregiver burnout. Caregiver burnout occurs when the stresses of caregiving take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional health, and can ultimately affect the one you are caring for, as well.
Practicing gratitude can allow you to thrive emotionally, mentally, and even physically. It can give you the tools you need to manage stress and prevent caregiver burnout. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude aids in improving relationships, enhancing empathy, increasing mental resilience, and more. By taking a few moments every day to cultivate gratitude, you can become a stronger person and, ultimately, a stronger caregiver.
How to Practice Gratitude as a Caregiver
Living your life with an “attitude of gratitude” can feel unfamiliar, and you may not know where to start. The good news is that everyone has the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude in their lives!
Find Good in Every Day
Some days, you may feel like nothing is going right. Mom is having mood swings, the kids are at home sick, and you don’t have anything planned for dinner. Practicing gratitude starts by recognizing that even if it doesn’t feel like it, there is something to be grateful for every day. Even though caring for Mom was more challenging than usual, maybe the two of you bonded over shared stories of you being sick as a child. Even though you didn’t have dinner planned, maybe you were able to pick something up from your favorite restaurant.
These small moments of joy amidst a bad day can make you appreciate all that you have. This simple shift in mindset can make you realize that even when days seem hard, there is always something to be grateful for.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Once you realize that there is good in every day, write it down. It doesn’t need to be an in-depth, eloquent post—you can simply take a few moments to yourself each day and jot down a few things that made you grateful. It can be simple or significant; anything from “the sun was shining” to “mom [with dementia] remembered and shared a wonderful story from last Christmas.”
The purpose of a gratitude journal is to not only think about what you were thankful for that day but to physically write it down into something tangible. Doing this will allow you to visit your journal on bad days and remember good things that happened and the positive feelings associated with them.
Thank Others in Your Life
Finding gratitude involves being thankful for the things in your life, but also the people in your life. Whether it’s an old teacher, a friend, a sibling, or a boss, think about who has had a lasting impact on your life, and how thankful you are for them.
You can even take it a step further and let them know how thankful you are for them. It could be a phone call, a thank you card, or a simple text message saying, “thank you.” By showing your appreciation of the important people in your life, you can shift your mindset to one of constant gratitude.
This can be especially powerful as a family caregiver. On days when caring for Mom or Dad is more challenging, remember that he or she was there for you during your ups and downs. Reflect on the gratitude you have for their love and support; it’s what can make caregiving such a rewarding experience.
Spend Time Doing What You Love
As a caregiver, your time is devoted to caring for your loved one, your family, and the other responsibilities in your life. By focusing on everyone else, you can quickly forget to focus on yourself. As you practice gratitude, also focus on your own health and well-being by doing what you love. Get back to your gym routine, meet a friend for coffee, or go on a date night. Taking the time to check-in with yourself, have fun, and relax can not only help you become more thankful, but it can also make you happier and healthier so you can be the best caregiver you can be.
Being a caregiver can have its challenges, but it can also remind you of all that you have to be grateful for. By following these strategies for practicing gratitude, you can strengthen your emotional, mental, and physical well-being while becoming a better caregiver.