“Most Magical” collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

One of the most interesting and most difficult aspect of being a caregiver is that at some point you realize life has changed your identity whether you are ready for it or not. Stories for Caregivers has a wonderful short video on this particular challenge and why we may be reluctant to let go of our old identity.  If we aren’t mindful about this change, we can find ourselves in difficulty, feeling a bit lost.

Kelly McGonigal has a hope filled, wonderful talk given at Stanford University, “How Compassion and Altruism Create Resilience.” She explores new research into how cultivating compassion and practicing altruism can increase our well-being during times of stress, as in suddenly finding yourself in a new, perhaps uncomfortable identity. She talks about how we were able to survive and thrive as a species because during times of stress our “tend and befriend” response kicks in (Shelly Taylor’s concept), that by reaching out to others and forming human connection, brain chemistry (oxytocin) comes to our assistance.

According to Taylor (2000), affiliative behaviors reduce stress responses, thereby reducing stress-related health threats. “Befriending” is shown to lead to mental and physical health benefits in times of stress, whereas social isolation is associated with significantly enhanced risk of mortality.  So social support is tied to positive health outcomes. (This is pretty key for caregivers to understand! And implement.) Kelly believes that we can encourage our positive brain chemistry and health benefits when we choose to have a social response to stress.

This talk may be the perfect answer for caregivers who is feeling overwhelmed, and stressed.



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