Go With the Flow to
Reduce Caregiver Stress
Learning to “go with the flow” isn’t something that comes naturally to most caregivers. It can actually feel like the first thing we should do every morning is strap on a pair of boxing gloves in order to get prepared for the numerous battles we know we’ll be facing throughout the day.
As I may have mentioned before, I like to be in control. The problem with wanting to do something to fix, change or improve any given situation is coping with your feelings of frustration and disappointment when things don’t work out.
We have to accept that there are progressive diseases for which there are no cures, and that we cannot change the behavior or control the actions of other people – especially those who are stubborn, narcissistic, demented or just plain mean.
Over the weekend I was thinking about strategies that might help me release my desire to make things bend to my will, and I recalled a snorkeling adventure I had last winter at the Molokini Crater, which is close to the island of Maui. The sea was pretty rough that morning, and we were warned to not swim too close to the wall of the crater, as we could easy get thrown into the rocks and coral.
When I got into the water, it didn’t take long to figure out that when the ocean surge was behind me, I swam really fast. When the surge was retreating, I didn’t go anywhere regardless of how hard I stroked my arms or kicked my legs. After I while I decided to not fight it and just let the water take me where it wanted to go.
Here’s the thing that amazed me – when I became still on the water I saw so many more fish. I learned I didn’t have to go looking for them. They were there, and when I relaxed and just observed, I saw an amazing variety of different sizes and colors of fish. There were yellow ones and multi-colored striped ones. There were large iridescent blue/green fish that swam by themselves on the bottom and huge schools of small black fish with thin white stripes that swam close to the surface.
After a while I noticed that the fish didn’t fight the current. When the surge came they were swept up and away with it. When the surge receded, they were swept in the other direction. I made a commitment to remember the visual impression and the physical sensation of truly “going with the flow”.
I don’t need to tell you that life as a caregiver isn’t always “another day in paradise”. However, if you can accept the idea that there will always be forces more powerful than you are, and that there will always be people, situations and events over which you have no control, you may be able release your feelings of stress, relax a bit and just allow yourself to go with the flow.