We share 6 practical tips that stop the unfair self-judgement that happens inside your head and help retrain your thoughts so you’ll treat yourself more kindly.
Most of us have run across unpleasant know-it-alls who question your caregiving decisions or criticize things you’ve done. That’s terrible, nobody should speak to you that way! But what’s worse is when we speak to ourselves that way. Many of us unfairly judge ourselves and focus on the few mistakes we’ve made rather than on all the good we’ve done. What you’re doing deserves praise, especially from yourself.
1. Notice when you’re speaking negatively to yourself The first step is to notice when you’re talking to yourself negatively about caregiving. Next time you have a negative thought, take notice and write it down. For example, you might think “I snapped at Mom again today. I can’t even be patient for 5 minutes. I’m the worst daughter in the world.” or “Ugh! I forgot to buy more of Dad’s oatmeal. I’m so stupid!” Even though you’re noticing when these thoughts happen, it’s important not to beat yourself up just for having them. Too often, these thoughts automatically fly through our brains and we hardly notice how harshly we speak to ourselves. The goal of this exercise is to help you realize that you’re doing it.
2. Distract yourself from negative thoughts After you’ve been noticing your self-criticism for a little while, it’ll get easier to recognize when you’re being too hard on yourself. Then, when you realize it’s happening, stop and take a few deep breaths. Redirect your thoughts by thinking about something positive, finding something to praise yourself about, or listing a few things you’re grateful for.
3. Avoid comparing yourself with others Comparing yourself to other people only makes you feel bad. On top of that, you’re usually comparing your worst moments with their best moments – the ones they openly share with others. Instead, focus on what you’re doing right. Keep in mind that everyone makes different choices based on their own unique circumstances. This doesn’t make one caregiving decision better than another.
4. Look at the big picture So what if the house is messy? Who cares if Mom wears PJs all day when she’s at home? Does beating yourself up about these details help the situation? Do these things really matter? Instead of automatically criticizing yourself, think about what you truly value. The house might not be spotless, but maybe it’s because you choose to spend quality time chatting and listening to music with Dad to keep him engaged in life and boost his mood.
5. Talk to others in similar situations Sometimes hearing from others gives you new perspective. Caregiver support groups are a great place to hear stories from other people in similar situations. Talking with and getting advice from fellow caregivers helps you realize that you’re not alone in this, everyone is doing their best under difficult circumstances, and there’s no such thing as one right way. 6. Keep a success journal Recognizing your successes also helps you overcome negative thoughts.
Every day, take a little time to jot down the things you did well. Seeing your wins on paper is proof that you’re successful a lot more often than you might think.