As we left the Consultant Psychiatrist’s room, Mum and I were reeling as we tried to absorb the worst of all possible news. That she had dementia, just the same as my dad had, when he was alive.
As we knew from hard experience, dementia is a progressive disease and eventually greater and greater levels of care and support are needed. Not something Mum was keen on at all.
Keeping her as independent as possible was going to be key to slowing the advance of her disease. And staying independent for longer would give a her a better quality of life, something she could still enjoy.
The big and on-going uncertainty for me was, when would be the right time to organise more help. And when that time came, how could I persuade Mum to accept she needed it. This was a question that never went away for as long as she remained living in her own home.
This was one of those times I was glad I had a meditation practice, whose comforting arms I could sink into. It could soothe the stress I felt, because living with uncertainty was just something I had to learn how to cope with.
How do you take control of the uncontrollable?
Uncertainty creates feelings of being unsure and anxiety. It definitely leads to feeling like you’re not in control, a combination that feels seriously stressful and uncomfortable.
Here’s how meditation helped me cope with the uncertainty:
At the start of my meditation I did my mindful shoulder relaxation routine:
- When I’m feeling fearful, one of the most obvious ways it grabs me is as tightness and a deep ache right between my shoulder blades.
- By going through a familiar sequence of stretching and letting-go movements I was able to undo the tension and drain away the tiresome aching.
Next, time to say ‘hello’ to any fearful storylines in my mind.
- Fear is a disabling emotion that can paralyse you, but as the main carer for my Mum, paralysis was not an option.
- Instead, I needed to look past fear and uncertainty, so I could break the situation down into smaller steps, focus on taking action and making progress:
Recognising what my thoughts were, and saying to them, ‘hello, I see you are there’ was an important step in stablising myself.
- It moved the wobbliness of feeling unsure towards a more certain feeling of stability.
- Now I could look at the situation calmly instead of feeling like I wanted to run away.
Recognising feelings is a meditation skill
Our feelings are a reflection of what our body and mind are experiencing. Being able to recognise them, but not feel stuck with them, is one of the results of regular meditation, particularly if it’s a practice that includes safe and easy ways of doing it.
- The key to not being emotionally stuck is relaxing your body and mind together.
This is a skill you acquire pretty quickly once you start practicing it, with an end result of feeling like you can think clearly. Once you’ve got to there, the next steps are these:
- Not resisting what’s happening, no matter how wrong or horrible it feels. Resistance keeps you stuck in uncertainty as your thoughts will keep going round in circles, highlighting your discomfort, but not moving you forward.
- Once you’ve let go of resistance, a go-with-the-flow feeling can arise.
- Work out what the worse-case scenario could be. Then get things in place to either to prevent it from happening or to help you get through it if the worst should happen.
- Accept that no matter how much planning ahead you do and no matter how hard you try, you will mess up, make mistakes and just plain fail. The person you want to help may not want to be helped and there will be nothing you can do to change their mind.
- Mistakes will happen, and if you’re trying to influence someone else, they may not want to change.
- Cultivate a mindset that accepts these circumstances when they happen. When you do, you’ll be able to quickly learn and apply a better way of dealing with the situation.
Being adaptable in your approach and your attitude is the opposite to having uncertainty paralyse you and keep you stuck.
Adaptability and its associated open-mindedness are two of the benefits of a regular meditation practice. Having those mindsets equips you to see your way to diverse and unexpected solutions to your problems. And that makes life a whole lot easier!
I’m here for any questions, so please feel free to leave a comment, I will read and reply to them all 😊