All of us have an “inner voice”. It’s that internal narration on everything we’re doing, thinking, and feeling, moment by moment. That voice in our heads is often referred to as “self-talk” and it is powerful because it can be uplifting or anxiety producing, depending on what messages we give ourselves at any given time.
For those who are caring for a loved one diagnosed with dementia, self-talk takes on a role unlike any other. It can fill a caregiver with guilt, grief, and hopelessness. And caregivers can be especially brutal on themselves with self-talk messages like “I’m failing mom/dad”, “I’m the worst caregiver that ever lived”, “Who was I to think I could deal with this?”
That’s certainly understandable in that the challenges of caregivers can be overwhelming and exhausting, both physically and emotionally.
However, if you are a caregiver, you need to know that an ongoing negative internal dialogue can do real damage to your health.
What if you could turn some of that negative self-talk into a more positive narrative? What if you could catch yourself mid-thought and find ways to disconnect with the negative thought and replace it with self-talk that is more uplifting and positive?
Is it challenging to do so? Of course! However, as with any new habit, it can be learned and used to help you navigate through more difficult days. Here are some tips we’ve collected from a variety of sources to bring more positive self-talk into your day:
- Tell yourself to “cancel that thought”. This takes some practice. It is best achieved by physically changing whatever you are doing at the time. Get up, walk around, and distract yourself by diverting your attention to another task. Take a few deep breaths and empty your mind. Meditation can be a great tool to help eliminate negative thoughts.
- Replace the negative self-message. So, instead of telling yourself, “I’m useless. I can’t even get mom to agree to take a shower” try telling yourself, “I’m doing many things well. Maybe I need to reach out and get some tips on this.” It changes the dynamic from “I’m useless” to “I just need better tools to work with”.
- Talk to yourself in third person. You can even do this out loud. What does this accomplish? It enables you to observe those negative thoughts almost as though they were coming from someone else. Saying, “Sara, you know you’re doing everything you can here. Take a deep breath and stop those negative thoughts,” helps give you more control to change the thought. Why? Because you just told yourself, out loud, to change it.
Of course, replacing negative self-talk with positive messaging takes time. You will find there are days when this is more difficult. That’s why it’s important to reach out to trusted family members and friends and include them in your journey towards better self-care and self-messaging.
We also welcome you to participate in any of our dementia support groups. Contact the Anthem Memory Care community near you. We can provide a supportive environment for you to share your thoughts and concerns with other family caregivers, all in a safe, supportive program format led by licensed therapists who specialize