What are your thoughts when you open your eyes in the morning? Are you aware of them?
When I was at the height of my caregiving, after both of my parents were diagnosed with terminal illnesses, one of my first thoughts after I woke in the morning was, “I can’t face today.” I would think of my overwhelming to do list and I would immediately feel defeated. I’d power through my days exhausted. And I’d fall into bed at night, dreading having to do it all over the next day.
Then, while researching Working Daughter: A Guide to Caring For Your Aging Parents While Making A Living, I discovered there was very good reason I felt so overwhelmed. Based on the American Time Use Survey, which documents how much time daily tasks take, I learned there truly aren’t enough hours for working daughters, especially those who are also caring for children, to complete their to do lists. Armed with that information, I decided to stop beating myself up at night for what I couldn’t get to, and instead I started thanking for myself for all that I did accomplish. It felt good.
The power of self-talk
The thoughts we think, and the words we tell ourselves have a big impact on how we feel and act. Psychology Today calls this self-talk. Self-talk can be beneficial or detrimental. What’s your inner voice saying?
If, like I once did, you wake up and immediately start thinking about how exhausted you are and how defeated you feel, chances are those thoughts will become your reality. But what if you woke up each morning and told yourself something more positive and uplifting? What if you woke up in the morning and said, “You’ve got this! You are strong and capable and you can do what needs to be done?” How would you feel?
Well, research says you would feel pretty good. According to Medical News Today, “Positive self-talk can benefit mental health, performance, and relationships.” That’s because our thoughts/internal dialogue, trigger our feelings and our feelings impact our behaviors. When I woke up and told myself, “I can’t face today,” I felt defeated. That feeling led me to choose sugar snacks over healthy meals, drink wine instead of tea before bed, turn down invitations to see friends that might have made me feel loved and less alone. It was a vicious cycle.
So, if negative self-talk leads to feeling bad and acting accordingly, then the good news is, positive self-talk can lead to feeling good and behaving in ways that enhance your life. Yes, even when you are a busy caregiver. Self-talk won’t make your caregiver duties disappear, but it can help you approach them with a more positive attitude.
How do you flip the script?
So how do you flip the script and talk to yourself more positively?
1. Start by noticing your internal dialogue. To begin with, tune into your thoughts. What are you telling yourself? Are your thoughts helpful or hurtful? Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself?
2. If your self-talk is negative, challenge the thought. Is it true that you, “can’t face the day?” No, it isn’t. You faced the day before and the day before that. And if you think about it, you probably accomplished more than most mere mortals do.
3. Next, choose a better thought. Using the example above – you can face the day and you most likely do accomplish more than the average person, what different and better thought can you choose? Why not tell yourself? “I’ve got this,” or, “I have a busy day ahead and I am ready for it.”
4. Practice! Shifting from negative to positive self-talk takes practice. Don’t give up. Try out different thoughts and see how they make you feel. Try to catch yourself when you have stinking thinking and replace defeating thoughts with more uplifting ones. Why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
To help you, we developed some positive self-talk starters for Working Daughters:
- I am strong and capable.
- I am reliable and compassionate.
- I make a difference in this world.
- I am proud of who I am and all that I do.
- I have what it takes to care for myself and others.
- I am a superhero.
- What I do today matters. I make a positive difference in other people’s lives.
- I am refreshed and ready to start my day.
- Today will be a good day.
- I’ve got this.
You’ve got this!
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