Being a caregiver to a senior is a demanding responsibility that requires not only caring for someone else but caring for yourself as well. It’s important to ask for help from others when needed, spend time with friends, and keep up with other interests. One more item to add to the list? Realizing the importance of humor for family caregivers.

Why Humor is Important When Caregiving

Finding something humorous while caregiving may seem impossible, given all the weighty decisions and details you must attend to. But believe it or not, humor may be the most important defense you have against depression, exhaustion and frustration.

People facing great physical and emotional challenges become aware of the value of laughter. For example, a research study involving cancer patients facing a terminal diagnosis concluded that maintaining a sense of humor was almost as important as being pain-free.

Laughter has been shown to improve both mental and physical health. It helps with conflict resolution between caregivers and those for whom they are caring, as laughing together can dissolve disagreements and eliminate animosity.

In addition, the positive emotions brought about by humor can enhance creativity and problem-solving abilities. Both of these abilities are extremely important when it comes to caregiving.

How to Find the Humor in Caregiving

Though it may not always seem like it, the potential for humor is all around you. For example, when was the last time you laughed at yourself?

Self-deprecating humor may help with self-acceptance. Laughing at yourself does not mean putting yourself down. It means accepting yourself as you are. Many people take themselves way too seriously, adding enormous performance pressure on themselves.

Here are some tips to help keep humor for family caregivers in mind:

Accept yourself. Nobody is perfect. Separate yourself from your performance. You didn’t meet a goal you set for yourself on a given day. You forgot something that needed to be done. The meal you prepared didn’t turn out well. You are human. You’ll make mistakes. This doesn’t define who you are.

In a world that puts a premium on high-performance, people are encouraged to be awesome at just about everything. Stop trying to control things you can’t control. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Listen more. Be fully aware of the present. These will help you gain a perspective on why a present moment might really be humorous when you think about it.

Be mindful of others. When you are laughing at yourself in front of others, be aware that they may have made similar mistakes and might believe you are making fun of them.

Avoid too much self-criticism. Although laughing at yourself can be beneficial, too much self-criticism can result in a downward spiral into depression.

Finding little moments for laughter and joy can help caregiving feel easier, and can help you refocus on the things that matter most.

As a family caregiver, remember that there are all sorts of ways to look on the bright side and laugh with your loved ones.

To learn more about finding humor in caregiving, visit Bethesda’s Caregiver Tips blog.