The hosts of Eugeria! Radio would like to wish all of our listeners and readers a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. As the owners of Griswold Special Care, Sam and I are grateful every day for the Clients, Caregivers and Staff that make our business, and this show, possible. We feel privileged to be able to provide home care for seniors and disabled adults who very much want to remain in their homes, wherever they call home. We also want to say thanks to the army of family and professional caregivers that make that possible. As such, I have written an excerpt from a presentation given to the Parksinson’s Disease Support Group at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Thursday, October 21. Special thanks to Rachelle Carruthers for giving me the opportunity, and encouraging me to write it down! If you would like a printed copy of this article, please send me an email at email@example.com.
Relationships are hard, even in the best of circumstances! Sure, it’s easy enough to make a friend, meet a spouse, hire an employee. What’s difficult is keeping a friend, spouse or employee over a period of years. And it’s even more difficult to preserve a relationship when one or both of the parties don’t feel well, or are suffering from some type of chronic disease or dementia.
Think about a positive relationship in your life. What are the characteristics? Open communication, peace, intuition, sense of happiness. Now think about a troubled relationship: stress, anger, silence, verbal outrage. Which would you prefer? No contest, right?!
So how does one build and sustain positive relationships? Emotional intelligence is one’s innate potential for emotional sensitivity, memory, processing and learning ability. Your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) reflects how that potential is developed over time. And unlike IQ, EQ can be developed! Did you know that Emotional Intelligence is a better predictor of success than grades, IQ, technical skill or cognitive ability. People with a high EQ make more money, have more friends, generally live longer and are happier in life.
Here are the dimensions of Emotional Intelligence:
- Self Awareness – recognizing emotion in yourself, knowing what pushes your “buttons”
- Self Regulation – the ability to manage emotion in yourself
- Self Motivation – learning to change how you act or react in stressful situations
- Recognition of Emotion in Others – each person responds differently, know how your loved one will respond in the midst of stress
- Management of Emotion in Others – recognize that you cannot change another person, but you can change the dynamic of the situation.
So how do you improve your EQ? Think about each of the five dimensions above. First, identify your own areas of deficiency, your “hot buttons”. Learn to manage them, or learn to manage situations you know will test your abilities to control your emotions. Second, when your buttons are pushed, learn to pause – give yourself six seconds.* Take a step back, reduce the energy you are lending a situation, postpone your reaction and try to modify the circumstances. Develop a sense of optimism around your relationship, then practice it – it’s contagious!
Once you’ve addressed your personal issues (dimensions 1-3), then you are ready to develop a plan for managing the relationship. If you are a Caregiver, realize that you will have to take the first step, and will need to drive the process. Your loved one is not likely aware of the impact of his or her actions or words on those around him or her.
There are a number of social skills that establish the union where theory meets action. Consider the following;
- Communication – Will talking help? If so,
- Plan your conversations
- Express your feelings and opinions (without high emotion)
- Invite joint problem solving
- Ask open-ended questions
- Invite your loved one’s feedback before offering your own
- Listen actively: perceptions, feelings, body language
- Clarify and ensure understanding
- Avoid getting defensive
- Be prepared to go back to the listening part
- Just as you modeled behavior for your children, you must show your loved one how to behave properly and appropriately by modeling the behavior yourself
If the preceding points can be thought of as a plan, your next challenge is to implement the plan – to try to change the dynamic of your relationship. Here a few pointers to make that successful:
- Pick the right time – for you and for your loved one
- Before you take your first action, envision the interaction and imagine a positive result
- Monitor your progress over a period of time
- Find a confidante with whom you can discuss the situation
- Be prepared to step back, re-evaluate and try alternative approaches
Again, relationships are hard. But anything worthwhile in life is hard. As a caregiver, you are probably acutely aware of the mortality of your loved one, and of yourself. Following these guidelines can help you make the most of the precious time you have with your loved one. A wise person once said, “people may not remember what you did for them, or even what you said, but the will always remember how you made them feel!”
*The Six Second Pause**
How do you respond when one voice (in your head or audible) gets really loud? Do you allow your feelings to be hijacked? Shouting voices tend to hang out in one part of your brain: the limbic ring. Science has shown that if you use another part of your brain for about six seconds, you create a physiological opportunity to choose a constructive response to your emotions. You do this by using an analytical part of your brain – the cortex. Examples of analytical thinking include: math, language, complex visual or auditory processing.
So the next time you feel like shouting, try one of the following:
- Count to six in a foreign language – learn a new one for this purpose
- Say the alphabet backwards
- Think of six cities in Africa, or Asia or South America
- List the Seven Virtues, or the Seven Deadly Sins
It’s hard to continue to pour fuel on a fire when your mind is trying to process an analytical problem. Give it a try, and see if it doesn’t help you regain your perspective!
Again, from Brad, Sam and Griswold Special Care, Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be blessed with good food, good cheer, good friends and close family!
** The Six Second Pause can be further investigated in The Six Second Pause, by Joshua Freedman 1997-2002