Last month we began a discussion about how important having a positive attitude is to being a good caregiver – and feeling good about yourself. Remember, life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. That may be a hard concept to internalize, but if we are successful, it can make a big difference in our lives.

I’ve been trying over the past month and like Stan experiences in living with Parkinson’s disease, I have good days and bad days. Good days translate to being able to concentrate on avoiding negative thoughts and people and focusing more on positive attitudes and feelings and bad days mean I have not been able to feel in control of the situation and myself. Some days it is a real challenge to think positively about anything. Those bad days are equally as frequent as the good days now but I’m working on upsetting the balance. I really think it is something you have to train yourself to do if it does not come naturally and easily. In the past my attitude was usually positive and I am striving to regain that state of mind. Of course, the disease was much easier to deal with in the past and it was easier to feel positively about how things were going. Do you ever long for the ‘good old days’ like I do?!!!

A great incentive for change to a more positive attitude should be to improve our self-esteem and gain control over our life. Remember thoughts, feelings and actions are all intertwined. It’s self-reinforcing because if we can change our negative thoughts, then our feelings will change. If our feelings about what we must do change, then our thoughts and feelings about ourselves will change. I like myself a lot more when I am able to control the anger/frustration I sometimes feel about events – or better yet sometimes I find that I don’t get angry or frustrated over those same things. I guess that is progress.

What techniques can you think of to help develop a more positive attitude? Here are a few more:

  • Create some time for yourself EVERY day. Solitude allows us to develop our inner resources and feelings of independence.
  • Focus on the humorous aspects of daily caregiving – and I know there are many if we allow ourselves to look at things that way. Laughter is therapeutic.
  • Talk to yourself in positive ways with upbeat messages instead of the negative thoughts that make you feel lonely and depressed.
  • Try hard to let go of what was so you can appreciate what is.
  • Be patient with yourself. It’s hard to change patterns of thinking – especially when we have so many reminders of how tough caregiving can be. Keep working on it.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise!!! Your brain benefits from exercise the same way your body does. Exercise produces endorphins in the brain – those lovely natural antidepressants. Walking is the best exercise you can do for this.
  • Spend time with positive friends. What a treat that can be!
  • The stress of caregiving can’t always be eliminated, but your reaction to it can be minimized. Take a deep breath and think before you react.
  • Be in touch with what really matters to you. Make plans to accomplish what is important for you to feel joy, satisfaction, peace and good about yourself.
  • Buy yourself some flowers.

Editors Note: Susan was caregiver to her husband Stan, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1980. He passed away on August 12, 2008 at the age of 73.

About the Author
Photo: Susan HamburgerSusan Hamburger earned a Bachelors Degree from the University of Wisconsin in Elementary Education, and two Master’s Degrees, in Educational Psychology and Biostatistics / Epidemiology. She has been a kindergarten teacher, a school psychologist, and retired as Bio-statistician at the National Institute of Mental Health.Susan has served on the Board of local Parkinson’s disease support group organizations since the early 1990’s. She has served Chair of the Patient Services Committee, Vice-President and President of the Washington DC area chapters of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Susan has also spent many hours on Capitol Hill, lobbying our Senators and Representatives to increase the funding for Parkinson’s disease research.
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