Using Humor to Resolve Conflict in Your Relationship

By Roz Jones

As caregivers sometimes conflicts can brew all day between you and the one you are providing care. There are times when as a caregiver the combatants are at a crisis point, and it feels like the entire office is holding their collective breath waiting to see what happens next. At this point, they’re ready for bloodshed, or at the very least, some very strong words. 

The last thing they expect is for one of the key players in the conflict to open their mouth and… make a joke?

Maybe it doesn’t feel like a resolution to the conflict, but actually, laughter goes far beyond being the clichéd ‘best medicine.’  How? First of all, laughter takes the tension out of the situation, which exactly is what’s needed to regain perspective, build stronger bonds, and yes, sometimes smooth over the differences. 

How then do you effectively use humor to resolve conflicts?

1. Make sure that both parties are ‘in on the joke.’ By keeping humor wholesome – not at the expense of the other person, you’re focusing on inviting them to laugh with you, rather than laughing at them. How can you tell if you’re doing it right? Humor is tricky, and so your best indicator of getting it right is to gauge the other person’s reactions. If they’re not laughing, chances are they don’t find it funny. Stop!

2. Check to make sure that you’re using humor as a defensive weapon rather than as a positive tool. If you’re using humor to mask emotions that you’d rather not deal with right now, then it’s time to put a flag on the play. Stop immediately and ask yourself what it is that you’re not dealing with and why. 

3. Work on that sense of humor. Every good comedian knows how to read their audience. The same goes for using humor with another person, especially in a situation that’s already a conflict. Watch the nonverbal cues. What language are you using? Keep the tone positive and light, and mean it. That means don’t use jokes as a means of cruelty. Lastly, consider what you might use as an inside joke. Inside jokes not only keep the situation light but create a deeper intimacy with whom you conflict.

4. Most importantly, be Playful! A little bit of silly fun is a good thing. Not sure how to tap into that kind of fun and crazy side? Explore humor in other ways so that you always have a repertoire to fall back on. Watch things you find funny on TV or in movies. Listen to jokes. Read the funnies. Find that side of you that likes to play and encourage it with creativity and fun. 

And no matter what, cut yourself some slack. It takes practice to be funny. Keep at it, and you’ll find your natural sense of humor, and be able to tap into it when you need to. That conflict won’t know what hit it!

Managing Adversity: The Resilience Mindset

By Roz Jones

In order to move from a place of simply surviving in life to a place of thriving, resilience is a necessary trait. At a basic level resilience is our ability to bounce back from tragedies and difficulties we encounter in life. 

At a more complex level, the resilience mindset embraces the idea that true resilience is our ability to navigate life, adapt to change, learn through adversity, and understand our feelings and emotional responses to situations. In order for this to be achieved, there must be a high level of personal awareness and insight which leads to a deep understanding of self (O’Keeffe, 2019). 

Resilience is an asset when it comes to managing adversity and taking on the role of a caregiver because it helps us to overcome it. Rather than crumbling under the pressure and weight of every challenge we encounter, we become able to assess the challenge, learn and grow from it as we go through it, and then move forward with the lessons we’ve been taught (O’Keeffe, 2019). It is resilience that empowers us to continue moving forward, learning, and growing, and building on the things we are learning in life. 

Keys to Developing a Resilient Mindset

In order to develop a resilient mindset, there are several qualities and practices that can be implemented. The following outlines several of those qualities and practices and their relation to the development of resilience. 

  • Optimism: A strong trait of those with a resilient mindset is an intentional optimistic outlook when approaching challenging situations. The way a person views a situation shapes the approach they take when dealing with the situation. 

A more positive outlook tends to yield a more positive outcome because individuals see opportunities as opposed to obstacles, and thus enthusiastically address issues versus hesitantly avoiding them (Mind Tools, 2020). Leading psychologist Martin Seligman explains that optimism is linked to resilience in that it helps people’s views on permanence, pervasiveness, and the personalization of hardships. 


Optimism leads people to see bad events as temporary rather than permanent, to prevent setbacks from impacting unrelated areas of their lives, and to not blame themselves when bad events occur. Thus, people can better pivot ad recover from challenges they experience (Mind Tools, 2020). 

  • Focus on What You Can Control: Learning to focus on what is within your control and releasing those things that are not is an important part of developing resilience. It is only those things within our control we have the ability to influence, thus exerting physical or mental and emotional energy on things outside of our control is mismanagement of time and energy (Miller, 2020). Individuals who spend their time and energy on what they can control become more resilient because they put their efforts towards those things that will have the greatest impact and produce the most results. This allows them to actually be effective and respond better to situations that arise (Mind Tools, 2020). 
  • Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is critical to the development of a resilient mindset. Self-awareness helps us to assess areas of ourselves and our lives where we need to improve and areas of our lives that are producing favorable results.

Self-awareness offers us key insights about ourselves that we can use to change, adapt, grow, or alter ourselves, our environment, or other elements. This ultimately contributes to resilience by helping us keep patterns and habits that help us adapt and respond to challenges while becoming aware of and purging patterns and habits that work against our goals and pursuits. 

If we can cultivate a resilient mindset our ability to cope with challenges in our lives will be strengthened. Rather than being overcome by negative situations and circumstances we will become empowered to overcome those situations and circumstances. By implementing the practices mentioned and others like it, we’ll be one step closer to better navigating the difficulties we encounter. 

References:

Miller, K. (2020). 5+ ways to develop a growth mindset using grit and resilience. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/5-ways-develop-grit-resilience/

Mind Tools. (2020). Developing resilience: Overcoming and growing from setbacks. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/resilience.htm

O’Keeffe, S. (2019, March 11). 4 aspects of a resilient mindset. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/4-aspects-of-a-resilient-mindset/

Care for Caregivers

By Roz Jones

If you’re caring for an aging parent or facing the challenges of assisting a loved one or friend who is chronically ill, disabled or elderly, you are not alone. You are one of the 22 million Americans who care for an older adult. Caregivers provide 80 percent of in-home care, but unlike nurses and home health aids, they are unpaid for their labor of love. 

“Caregiving is a difficult job that can take a toll on relationships, jobs and emotional well-being,” says Dr. Elizabeth Clark, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers. “Those who care for others need to be sure to take care of themselves, as well.”

Here are some important tips for caregivers:

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help 

We tend to wait until we are in crisis before asking for help and consultation. Seek out the help of a licensed clinical social worker or other trained professional.

It’s Not Easy to Tell Your Parents What to Do 

The most difficult thing about caring for a parent is the day you have to tell them they need to have help, they can no longer drive or they may have to move from their home. Discuss long-term care wishes and desires before any decline happens. 

Take Care of Your Mental Health

It is not unusual to feel frustrated with your parents or children when they refuse your input and help. Seek a referral to a professional who can help you cope with your personal issues and frustrations. 

Stay Informed

We live in a world of constant change. Medications and treatments are constantly changing and the only way to keep up-to-date is to stay informed with the latest news. Attend local caregiver conferences, participate in support groups, speak with friends and relatives, and talk with professionals in the field of gerontology and geriatrics. 

Take Time Out

Caregivers who experience feelings of burnout need to accept that occasionally they may need a break from their loved one in order to provide him or her with the best care.

Laugh

Humor and laughter are tremendous healers.

Hire Help

If possible, you may want to hire help. The most important thing is to find trustworthy people to provide assistance. Use recommended home care agencies, talk with friends about their experiences and interview professionals before deciding on the one you are going to retain.

It’s Your Funeral: Why Not Plan It Properly?

By Roz Jones

Making plans for the future brings mixed feelings. It is right to concentrate on the good things, but sometimes there are things you would rather not think about. A funeral is one of those things. You may not have considered planning a funeral in advance, but there are several reasons why it can bring great peace of mind.

Bereavement usually brings with it emotional and financial burdens. However, you can spare your loved ones much of the burden of having to make difficult decisions at an upsetting time.

The cost of many funerals has more than doubled in the last 10 years, and prices are set to continue to increase in the future.

If you have savings set aside for your funeral, you can never be sure that there will be enough – or you may be setting aside more than you really need to. It makes good sense to guard against unknown price rises.

A prepaid funeral plan is the way to be absolutely certain that the services of the funeral director will be provided and there will be nothing more to pay for these services.

Bereaved relatives usually arrange a funeral and may be unsure what was actually wanted. It helps to do something at times of sadness, but it is not a good time to make important decisions – which, if wrong, cannot be put right later. Planning ahead for your funeral can be a great help in alleviating the emotional and financial burdens that naturally accompany bereavement and those who remain will remember your thoughtfulness.

There is also some quiet satisfaction to be gained from putting your affairs in order and reflecting on the most appropriate arrangements. People worry that their wishes will not be carried out. It is important to realize that any funeral wishes set out in your Will or other letters or documents are only requests. Your executors are under no obligation to carry out your wishes. However, if you own a prepaid funeral plan, your guarantee is with a funeral director and your wishes are set out in your guarantee certificate.

When you pre-arrange your funeral with your pre-paid funeral plan you can: 

  • Decide on your funeral service and select a suitable arrangement 
  • Settle on a method of payment to match your circumstances 
  • Select who benefits under the plan
  • Have comfort, reassurance and freedom from worry and stress  
  • Ensure no hidden extras are charged 

Why not give it some thought? Funerals are a touchy subject, but avoiding the issue won’t help you or your loved ones deal with bereavement.

Caring for Elderly Parents: 5 Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

By Roz Jones

Joanne’s mother, Betty, had rheumatoid arthritis for years.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, Betty was disabled by the pain, fatigue and limited mobility that she had feared since her diagnosis.  

Joanne convinced her fiercely independent mother that living alone was no longer an option.  And Joanne, the eldest of four children, knew that caring for her sick mother fell on her shoulders.  Joanne was a legend in the circles of her family, friends and colleagues for her ability to act with grace under pressure.

Joanne took two weeks of vacation from her job and cooked and froze meals for her husband and three children.  As she flew to her hometown, she wondered how she would coordinate her mother’s care from a distance. Supporting her husband as he built his new business, nurturing her kids and directing a major project at work already made her feel that she was running on empty.  

You may relate to Joanne’s story.  One out of four Americans cares for a friend or relative who is sick, disabled or frail. That’s 46 million Americans who offer unpaid help to a loved one.  If they were paid caregivers’ compensation would exceed last year’s Medicare budget! And if you become a caregiver, you, like Joanne, may try to do it alone, shrouded in secrecy. 

Solo caregiving compromises your ability to nurture yourself and others. Let’s take caregiving out from behind closed doors.  For your sake and the sake of those who count on you, please get some help. Caregivers are competent people who feel that they should be able to do this job.  Yet, many soon find themselves unprepared and ill-equipped to manage the sometimes daunting tasks, such as managing a complex medical regimen or remodeling a house so it’s wheel-chair accessible or even finding someone to stay with their loved ones so they can go out to a movie without worrying their relatives will fall on the way to the fridge.

If you are a caregiver, you know that this act of love has its costs.  You stand to forfeit up to $650,000 in lost wages, pension and social security.  Add to that is the personal cost to your well-being, as your new demands leave you less time for your family and friends.  You may give up vacations, hobbies and social activities.  Finally, caregiving places a burden on your health.  Caregivers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, depressed immune function and even hospitalization.

Instead of reaching out, caregivers become isolated.  Many who assume the caregiving burden fit the profile of the giving family member, like Joanne, who does not want to trouble others with their problems.  Some fear the consequences of disclosing their new demands to coworkers or employers. Caregivers are further challenged by the cultural conspiracy of silence.  Our youth-centered society turns a blind eye to the unpleasant and inevitable reality that all of us age and die.  This leaves both caregivers and care recipients unprepared.  Look no further than the path of Hurricane Katrina to witness the consequences of a lack of planning.

What can you do?   Start talking about the “what ifs” and make a plan.  

1. Start with yourself. What will happen to you and your family if you become disabled or die unexpectedly?  Do you have disability insurance? Do you have a will?  Do you have a living will, and have you identified the person who will make the medical choices you would make if you are not in the position to do so?  

2. Approach healthy family members.  Say, “I hope that you live many happy years in which you enjoy all of the pleasures you worked so hard to create.”  Have you thought about what would happen to you in the event that you cannot live independently anymore?  If some medical event befalls you, who would make your medical choices?

3. Look into community resources that support caregiving.  A day program, for example, helps your loved one by providing social connections with peers.  Your community may even offer transportation to and from the program.  Getting out of the house offers the additional benefit of getting bodies moving.  Socializing and exercise are the two most powerful interventions that help your loved ones stay at their best.  

4. Make specific suggestions to friends, family members and neighbors who want to help. You may even want to keep a “help list.” When they say, “Let me know what I can do,” you have a response:  “Could you take Mom to her physical therapy appointment this week?”  “When you’re at the store, could you pick up some oranges and blueberries?”  “Could you watch the kids for an hour so I can get to the gym?” Your giving friends will appreciate specific ideas about how they can help.

5. Take care of your health.  Get good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise to stay in top health.  Wash your hands regularly to prevent colds and flu.  Manage your stress with laughter, a prayer or even a deep breath.  Nourish your soul with a taste of activities that recharge your batteries such as writing in your journal or gardening.  Finally, talk to your doctor if you feel depressed or anxious.   

The best strategies for effective caregiving include preparation, acts of self-care and reaching out for help. That begins with the courage to start talking openly about caregiving.