Channel Your Thoughts
Are you finding pennies on your path?
Are you walking through a difficult or dark part of life? Are you finding pennies or some other talisman as you journey on? When my life was turned upside down, I struggled to remain optimistic and find something positive among so many painful circumstances. The pennies on my path raised my spirits and helped me to see the mixture of good and bad in my life. How are you viewing your life right now? One powerful way to remain optimistic in the face of caregiving challenges is to think in positive ways…and look for some “pennies” of you own!
What are optimism and pessimism?
Optimism and pessimism are the lenses through which you look at the world. They color the stories you create to explain events. Whether you realize it or not, these stories are active thought patterns that you control. They become habits that determine how you respond to life events, who you become and how others respond to you.
How do pessimists think?
Pessimists think positive events are unlikely to happen again, and that negative ones are likely to continue or be repeated in the future. They believe that good situations are isolated events or flukes that have nothing to do with other aspects of their lives. In contrast, they think negative circumstances are experienced in many aspects of their lives and expect that more of the same is inevitable. Finally, pessimists believe that good outcomes are brought about by others or other factors beyond their control, and the bad outcomes are usually their own fault. Pessimists emphasize the negative no matter what the facts of the situation.
How do optimists think?
Optimists think in the opposite way. They view positive events as likely to continue or be repeated in the future and negative ones as unlikely to happen again. They believe that good situations are experienced in many aspects of their lives; more of the same are inevitable. Negative experiences, on the other hand, are isolated events or flukes that have nothing to do with other aspects of their lives. Finally, optimists believe they bring about good outcomes and think the bad ones are caused by others, or by other factors beyond their control. Optimists emphasize the positive no matter what the facts of the situation.
What are the benefits of being an optimist?
If you adopt an optimistic outlook, you are likely to experience:
Strength to handle adversity: to persevere and adapt in times of trouble.
Decreased stress: a positive frame of mind, more success, and less mental strain.
Good physical and emotional health: positive mood, good morale, aging well and experiencing fewer physical ills.
Successful relationships: others react well to a contagious, positive outlook.
How can I become more optimistic?
Choose to change: Pessimistic patterns remain in place until you choose to replace these negative practices with positive ones.
Stop and listen to your thoughts: Pay attention. As soon as a negative thought comes to you, replace it with a positive one. The more you challenge negative thinking and reinforce your positive thoughts, the more automatic optimism will become.
Don’t be a Pollyanna: Unrealistic optimists, Pollyannas unwisely plunge ahead, ignoring real needs or threats that can increase their stress and risk of health problems. Choose realistic optimism, a lens that promotes clear thinking. Realistic or cautious optimists:
• Have a positive outlook without denying reality.
• Appreciate positive elements in a situation, while also acknowledging the negative.
• Hope for positive outcomes without assuming good results will automatically occur.
• Accomplish positive outcomes with hard work, planning and effective problem solving.
Affirm yourself: Affirmations are words, brief phrases or sentences that reprogram your mind to more optimistically see, explain and respond to situations in your life. Affirming yourself is really quite simple.
Choose an event or behavior: a positive one to encourage, or negative one to eliminate. Choose words carefully. For a positive: Describe it as caused by you, likely to continue and affecting your entire life. For a negative: Describe it as an isolated incident, not your fault and unlikely to occur again.
Affirm this as the reality in your life, right now. Use first-person and present tense to imagine this as a reality you are experiencing now. For example, “I am capable, confident and compassionate. I find meaning and joy in being a caregiver.” Select words that are vivid, and that stir up positive feelings within. Write affirmations and post them where you will see them throughout the day.
Regularly repeat positive affirmations silently or aloud, until you know them by heart. Savor the positive image and feelings the affirmation creates. Frequent repetition reprograms your mind.
Visualize: Visualization is daydreaming with the positive purpose of relieving stress, overcoming obstacles, or becoming more optimistic. Follow these three guidelines.
Vividly picture a positive scene in your mind’s eye like vacationing on a tropical island, completing a marathon, or experiencing a joyous birthday or holiday celebration. Use all your senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Detail is most important. The more vivid the image, the more helpful it will be.
Envision this as the reality in your life, right now. Create images in the first-person and present tense to picture this as a reality you are experiencing now.
Savor that scene for several moments, several times each day. You can visualize virtually anywhere, but in bed each morning and just before sleep at night are relaxed, easy times to practice visualization. Choose a time that works best for you. Regular visualization actually creates your new reality.
Avoid pessimism in the world around you: Emotions are contagious. Take a break from violent images, depressing stories, and people who are downbeat. Seek out people and situations that create positive energy and reinforce positive messages for you.
Contain the damages: When negative events do occur, create an optimistic explanation in your mind. Think of all the extenuating circumstances that might have created the negative events. Name what outside circumstances contributed to this situation. Remember that problems in a given instance neither suggest nor confirm your personal weakness. Remind yourself that there will be many opportunities to do better in the future.
Jane’s Story: Pennies on My Path
I am drowning! My husband is in constant pain. Dad is going blind and can hardly breathe. Mother is losing her mind. My mother-in-law had a stroke and can’t care for herself anymore. I have a four-year-old son who never stops moving, and I just moved into a house that polite people would call a fixer-upper. The stress is getting to be so much that I wonder if I will lose my mind, too. My life feels like such a wreck; I’m even dreaming about debris.
Last week I dreamed I was walking on a rainy, windy night. My coat collar pulled up and my head down, I was leaning into the blustery, bitter wind. Looking down at the sodden leaves and dirt in the gutter, something caught my eye. I bent to see more clearly what it was. There in the puddle atop some muddy decaying leaves, I found a shiny penny. Into my mind popped the old saying, “Find a penny pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck.” Then I noticed more coins among the rubbish in the gutter: nickels, dimes, and quarters! I felt ecstatic, and then abruptly woke. Lying in bed, for some reason I smiled and felt happy. Trash and cash in the gutter, what could this mean?
The following evening a remarkable thing happened. While walking after dinner to clear my mind, I was deep in thought, head down, when something caught my eye. I leaned over to see what it was. There among the leaves and dirt in the road near my house was a penny! Returning home from my walk that night I smiled and felt happy like after my dream. Amazingly, in the past five days I have found four more coins in the road, and they each filled me with some inexplicable delight.
Being happy about pennies makes no logical sense, yet every time I find one I am reassured. There are many ways of interpreting my dream, but I feel as if God is talking to me through these coins, encouraging me during these tough times. He seems to be saying, “You can see me amidst the rubble in your life; just look closely and keep walking. Your life may seem to be in the gutter, but some shining moments are mixed in. I will help in ways you might overlook, because they may seem as small and insignificant as a penny. But I will provide just what you need no matter what the circumstances of your life.”
Practical, resilience-building strategies that help you bear up under adversity; face up to change; and adapt to the "new normal" of being a caregiver.
Manage the stress of caregiving, cope with anger and anxiety, avoid burnout
and maintain a sense of balance in your life.