Sometimes caregiving can be overwhelming, painful
or depressing: No matter what treatment is tried your loved one gets worse.  Your family doesn’t help as you need them to do.  Financial, legal or insurance concerns weigh on your mind.  Balancing your overload of responsibilities becomes impossible. Your health, energy or peace-of-mind gives out.   Some significant problems are beyond your control. 

In the face of crushing concerns like these it’s difficult to stay positive. Pessimistic thoughts and feelings emerge; you say or do negative things and find they only make matters worse. Life looks bleak and problems seem insurmountable.  How can you avoid the trap of negativity when caregiving presents daunting challenges?

Choose optimism 
 Say “No” to negativity by saying “Yes” to optimism.  Optimism and pessimism are ways to look at the world and are active thought patterns that become habits.  Regardless of the situation, a pessimist sees the glass is half empty, or worse: Good events in life are flukes and unlikely to happen again.  Good outcomes are brought about by others, or by factors beyond control.  To an optimist that same glass is at least half full: I have goodness throughout my life and more of the same is inevitable.  It is the result of my own actions and talents.  Optimistic and pessimistic thoughts determine how you respond to life, who you become and how others respond to you.  If you choose, these patterns can be changed.

If you adopt an optimistic outlook, you are likely to experience positive benefits like:
1)  Strength to handle adversity: Optimists have the capacity to persevere and adapt in times of trouble.
2)  Decreased stress: Positive thinking leads to a positive frame of mind, more success, and less stress. 
3)  Good physical and emotional health: Optimism is linked to positive mood and good morale in all areas of life. Optimists live longer, healthier lives...aging well, and experiencing fewer physical ills.
4)  Successful relationships: People respond positively to optimists.  Their view of the world is contagious and can positively influence those around them.    
Pay attention to your thoughts
All change starts with a choice and new action.  Pessimistic patterns remain in place until you choose to replace them with positive ones.  Challenge negative thoughts and substitute positive ones.  Swap the unconstructive, “This is the awful!  I can’t deal with this!” for a more empowering, “This may not be good but I can handle this.”  When something positive happens, stop and think more encouraging thoughts, like “Alright!  Well done!  Keep it up!”  The more you challenge negative thinking and reinforce your positive thoughts, the more automatic optimism will become.

Avoid negativism around you
Emotions are contagious.  Take a break from violent images, depressing stories, and cynicism.  Avoid people who complain, criticize or undermine your confidence.  Seek out situations and people that create positive energy for you.

Practice gratitude
Gratitude is an appreciative feeling about life, a sense of thankfulness and wonder.  No matter how bleak, there are always good things in life; giving thanks for these is the root of peace and joy.  In The How of Happiness, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky tells us that expressions of gratitude are linked to mental and physical health benefits like: feeling more happiness, energy, hopefulness and positive emotions.  Those who are grateful are also less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious or neurotic. 

You already know how to practice gratitude; remember what your elders taught you.  Call, send a note or email when someone has given you a gift or done something nice for you.   Every day, in a small notebook, list 3 things for which you are grateful: the sunset, a phone call, delicious fruit, or the love of family.  Before falling asleep or each morning, count your blessings.  When a group’s conversation turns to complaining, refocus and ask, “Is there anything we are grateful for?”  Small acts make a big difference when they become a regular part of your life.  Check-out Living Life as a Thank You, by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons Practice for many more ideas.  Finally, go to “Word for the Day” at and sign-up to have inspiring quotes about gratitude sent daily to your email inbox. 

Sometimes caregiving can be overwhelming, painful or depressing.  Choose optimism to preserve your resilience, good health and capacity to care.

by Jane Meier

*  “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.”Willie Nelson