Overcoming sadness

Whether you are caring for a loved one with dementia or helping a relative with cancer, sometimes the sadness of it all feels overwhelming. Especially at the holidays. The sadness is natural, of course. But you don’t want to get paralyzed by it.

Pivoting from the sadness

As family caregivers, we need to learn how to acknowledge the sadness. But we also need to allow for joy at the same time so we have the energy to continue providing care. It’s not self-centered to be happy. In fact, researchers have found that the “happier” we are, the more we tend to give to others.

The type of happiness that nurtures our giving nature is not the thrill of winning the lottery. Quite the opposite. It’s the little smiles and chuckles of every day that create an internal reservoir of contentment. It’s the frequency—not intensity—of positives in our lives that fills our personal well.

Cultivating contentment

  • Be selective with your attention. What we focus on—or don’t focus on—has a huge impact on our mood. Ignore the things that make you feel hopeless and focus on what can be done.
  • Give yourself two or three pleasure moments a day. What feeds your soul? A walk in the park? Listening to music? A relaxing bath? It doesn’t have to be a whoop-de-do.
  • Connect with a confidant. Research shows that a visit or talk with a close friend absolutely boosts mood and confidence. It also strengthens your immune system and improves your thinking!
  • Ease up on your expectations. Your relative may simply be in his or her natural decline. Provide the softest landing possible. Find out what they would like to do in the time that remains. Keep them as comfortable as you can and create moments of joy whenever possible.