A client (“Sue”) was recently telling me about how frustrating it had been taking care of her grandmother in her declining yeas. As she slowly descended into the abyss of dementia, her behavior became erratic and the result was, to put it mildly, stressful for Sue.
She shared one incident in particular that occurred in the middle of summer in Cincinnati. I don’t know if you are familiar with Cincinnati, but the summers there can be brutal: hot, humid, and generally miserable.
Sue was going to help her grandmother with her grocery shopping and when she arrived to pick her up she was astonished to see her dressed in her heaviest winter clothing. When Sue told her that it was summer and it was very hot and uncomfortable, her grandmother insisted that it was, in fact, winter. She could not be dissuaded, even though Sue was wearing a tank top and shorts.
So, off they went to the market, Sue in her tank top and grandma in her heaviest winter coat, gloves, scarf, etc. They did the marketing and the grandmother was obviously very uncomfortable but she refused to admit that she had been wrong and that she was not dressed appropriately.
At the time, Sue was extremely worried about heat stroke and other effects of being dressed like that in summer, so she kept a very close eye on her grandmother. Needless to say, it was very stressful.
Now, however, she was relating this to me as a funny story.
That’s when it occurred to me that this may be a good technique for coping with some stressful situations. Remind yourself, “Some day this will make a funny story.”
Obviously this isn’t appropriate for all stressful situations, but I’m sure you can think of events in your past that were stressful at the time but, looking back, are remembered as humorous.
I think that we can identify those stressful situations that will seem funny someday. The trick is to remember to consider that possibility in the heat of the moment.
If Sue had thought of it that way while watching her grandmother stubbornly refusing to at least take off her coat, perhaps it would have helped her deal with it.