But caregiving has many benefits too. Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of The Upside of Stress, says caregiving can be a source of resilience, not just strength. I spoke with McGonigal recently as she was preparing to speak at the Simmons Leadership Conference.
Realizing the upsides of caregiving, despite the very real stress that is part of the package requires us to hold opposite thoughts at the same time. “It’s a skill we need to cultivate,” says McGonigal. “It’s possible to feel overwhelmed and empowered at the same time.”
Most of us have heard a lifetime of messages that stress is bad and something we should avoid or reduce. “We are sold by the stress reduction industry to soothe ourselves,” McGonigal says. “That’s okay,” she says, assuming we’re choosing adult coloring books over alcohol, “but it’s an escape. Try turning towards the stress.”
Embracing stress isn’t simple, especially when its counter to what we’ve been conditioned to do. “Let’s be clear that’s hard,” says McGonigal. To start, she suggests, “You need to know what you care about.” Caregiving can be a source of resilience. Learn how. #workingdaughter Click To Tweet
When you are clear about what matters to you (Click here to access our worksheet on identifying what matters most.) you can use stressful situations to connect with your values. “Use it as a time to check in about who I am and what I care about,” says McGonigal. “It might mean taking care of yourself so you can continue to do this incredible task.”
And there it is again, caregivers. Self-care. It’s one of our greatest challenges but critical if we want to continue to do what we do.
But that’s just the beginning says McGonigal. “Be heartful – give yourself permission to care, and let it be a driving force.”
So what do you think? Can you get better at stress? Can you hold two thoughts at once? Caregiving is stressful – but that’s not all bad.
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