One of the most challenging aspects of both life and caregiving is change.

Change is a constant for all of us, and yet, many of us resist it. We wish things could stay the same, and yet nothing can. Watching a child grow up is a testament to that. No matter how you wish that loving five year old could reappear and beg you for another story, once a kid has turned six, that five year old is gone forever.

With caregiving, the challenges of change multiply. Your loved one may have an illness that both evolves and deteriorates. They might not like change and experience panic at the thought of you stepping away for even an hour. Sudden crises in the middle of the night or during your work day may cause dramatic shifts that affect your health or your finances.

Over the last 18 months, the whole world has been thrown into an ever-changing landscape where even a trip to the grocery store requires accepting change. So what can you do to ease the stress of change? How can you think about these unexpected shifts in a way that provides you pleasure instead of tension?

It’s not easy, but sometimes a change in outlook is the key. Here are some tips to help you navigate the thorny changes in your life:

1) Observe and Breathe

When change hits, take a moment to feel it and notice those feelings. Describe what’s happening on paper or to yourself. For example, you might think, “I am experiencing a change. My muscles are tightening. I feel worried. I don’t know what is going to happen next. I’m scared.” Just acknowledging your stressed feelings can help. Then breathe in and out three times. Feel those breaths, slowing them down and counting to five as you inhale and again as you exhale. Repeat until you feel calmer. Simply by being present to what is happening and then giving yourself a moment to relax will be a great first step to adjusting to a new change.

2) Appreciate Its Gifts

The saying that “every cloud has a silver lining” may be corny, but it’s also true. There is good amidst even the most difficult events. So if the health of your loved one is suffering, consider how this change allows you to spend more time with them, or better appreciate them, or slow down the pace of your life. Make a list of the good, even if it seems impossible that anything good can be found. You may have to search hard, but there will be something. You might have met someone you would never have met or learned something about yourself or your loved one that you wouldn’t otherwise know. Take time each evening to appreciate one or more things that you feel grateful for that day, even if it’s only laughing at a silly meme a friend sent you.

3) Choice, Goals, and Support

When change happens, it can feel like choice evaporates, but it doesn’t. There may be new life circumstances to accept, but your life still has myriad choices. So, if a stroke or dementia has invaded your family circle, realize that while you might not be able to do anything about that, you can choose how to live with it. One way to begin is by creating goals to help you handle the changes. Start with small goals, such as making time to eat dinner with your loved one or scheduling a call to the doctor to ask questions. Keep in mind that goals provide an opportunity for choice and a sense of control. Make certain that all of your goals don’t revolve around caregiving. Take time to connect with people who are important to you. Include them in your plans and let them help you. Allowing others to help is a blessing to both you and them.

So the next time something unexpected occurs, try to relax and remember that change is part of life. Sometimes, it’s even the best part, although it often doesn’t feel that way while it’s happening. So take a breath and remember, you can do this!

Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well!  —KK

P.S. Thank you Mary W. for the nice things you said to me recently about the KKF blogs when we ran into each other! It meant so much to me to know that the pieces helped you and your family. I hope that is the case for others too!

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