The Importance of Mental Pliability for Caregivers

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by Jaime Christmas |

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I returned to the gym this week to work out. The last time I hit exercise classes and equipment was in 2016, shortly before my husband’s liver transplant, and three years after he was diagnosed with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis.

Looking back, I have always been a gym junkie. I love the adrenaline rush, the challenge of pushing my body through pain, the muscle aches afterward, and the firm physique it brings my body. I only ceased going back then because supporting my husband, Aubrey, through his recovery period, plus other extenuating circumstances, made it difficult for me to commit the time.

Five years later, I am back to my regimen and am willing my now older body to get fit, both physically and mentally. I am fortunate to live in New Zealand, where we do not need to take rigorous safety measures in light of COVID-19. We can still congregate for workout sessions, as long as we disinfect the equipment afterward. I never want to take for granted the freedom we have in this country, and my prayer consistently goes out to the countries currently suffering the plight of the virus.

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Since resuming this activity, I’ve recognized the importance of mental pliability, especially for patients and caregivers.

What is mental pliability? You may have heard of mental agility, which refers to the ability to adapt and shift your thought process at a moment’s notice. It’s being able to apply an idea to changing circumstances and confidently figure out an answer, without stress.

Mental pliability, on the other hand, is the ability to look at the bigger picture and discern what is in front of us without bias or judgment. It’s the ability to consciously contemplate a concept, evaluate its merit, and ultimately accept or reject it without the process taking an emotional toll. Mental pliability allows people to see things as they are and accept future change.

As a caregiver, I have been challenged by the ideas and opinions of others around me regarding what’s best for my husband. Amyloidosis is such a little-known condition in this country that many well-intentioned people feel the need to provide advice and recommendations, which often don’t help my husband.

I grew up a people-pleaser, so training myself to mindfully engage with others out of curiosity and discern the value of their judgment has been a long journey. It takes practice and involves intentionality.

Just like I push myself at the gym to develop my core muscles, to be mentally pliable, I must always push myself to consider rather than reject ideas or experiences that differ from mine. This includes opinions from the healthcare professionals that tend to my husband, friends we spend time with, family members who mean well, and even my husband himself when he tells me what to do.

As you finish reading this column, I hope you will consider how mental pliability can equip and prepare us as caregivers for what lies ahead. Rigid thinking only leads to shutting others out and shutting ourselves down.

We must take care of our physical and mental needs. This is the only way we can be fair to ourselves and our loved ones.

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Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.

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