Our fight-flight-or-freeze reactions are deeply embedded in our body and brain. In intense situations, they take over. As a family caregiver, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the many decisions that must be made. And the responsibility. This is especially true in times of great stress and uncertainty. We become emotionally flooded and enter a reactive “hot” state of mind. It’s not the best for making wise decisions for yourself or for loved ones you care for.
Fortunately, we can use our mind to bring ourselves from a physical “red zone” into a cooler mental state. Even if time is of the essence, a few minutes to find calm in the center of the storm can give you confidence and mental clarity. Decisions made in this state are more robust and stand the test of time.
The first step is to notice and recognize that you are revved up, emotionally “hot.” Then, make the internal commitment to shift to a calmer state. Here’s how:
- Breathe in for four counts and exhale for eight. Repeat this for 5–10 breath cycles. Feel your heart slowing down. This type of prolonged exhale engages your parasympathetic—calming—nervous system.
- Imagine a situation where you felt supported, that you deeply belonged. Kindle that feeling inside. Let it glow and become stronger. You’ve felt this before. You can feel it again, generated now from within, simply by remembering.
- Relax your body. Notice specific tight places. Give them a stretch and breathe the tension out with each breath.
- Address your basic physical needs. When was the last time you ate? Had some water? Went to the bathroom?
Feel the difference? Ah. Now that you’re out of the red zone, you are better able to take the broad perspective on your dilemma and focus on what most needs to be done. Such calm will also extend to others around you.
Are you a primary decision maker?
Decision making is integral to family caregiving. From the big decisions to the little daily ones, you will make wiser choices if you consciously leave the hot zone and teach yourself to operate from that calmer inner knowing. As the Roanoke and Lynchburg experts in family caregiving, we at Gentle Shepherd Hospice can be part of your team so you don’t have to feel so alone. Give us a call at 1-800-789-0586 (toll-free).