Knowing how to make tough decisions quickly and effectively is an essential skill every spousal caregiver needs. When you’re caring for your sick partner, you’re constantly making decisions. You are faced with everything from deciding what to tell friends and family about your spouse’s illness to choosing doctors or treatments to figuring out how to support your partner. It can be exhausting! You want to make the best choice, but how do you know what that is?
When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, we faced many decisions. We felt scared and overwhelmed. How could we know the right choice, and what if we made a mistake? Throughout our journey, I learned some key secrets to help build the skill of decision making, and I’m sharing them with you today. So, keep reading to learn how to make tough decisions as a spousal caregiver.
Why Building the Skill of Decision Making is Important When Caring for Your Partner
You are making decisions constantly, from what to eat in the morning to how to spend your time. Many of the choices you make are out of habit or conditioning. Other times, you may make decisions motivated by stress, fear, pressure, or obligation. And yet sometimes, you may not do anything and stay stuck in indecision without realizing that is also a choice.
Not all decisions you make are deliberate–made with conscious thought and a desired effect in mind. That’s okay sometimes. But when it comes to important decisions, it’s essential to be very conscious and deliberate about making them.
The decisions you make shape your life. If you act out of habit, you’ll live a life on repeat. If you decide out of fear or obligation, decision-making is stressful and not effective. If you are stuck in indecision, it will cost you time, energy, and brain power. But when you learn how to make tough decisions, it saves you time and mental energy so you can live the life you want despite the circumstances.
How to Make Tough Decisions as a Spousal Caregiver in 6 Steps
Step 1: Get in the Right Mindset
When making tough decisions as a spousal caregiver, it can be easy to let negative emotions fuel those decisions. If you are feeling scared, worried, stressed, or tired, it is not the time to make an important decision. It is difficult to think clearly and rationally when you’re stressed, which isn’t what you want. You want to be in a calm emotional place.
Of course, getting to that place is easier said than done when your spouse is sick, but it’s possible. Start with getting a good night’s rest. Never make any important decisions when you are tired! EVER! Then, take an experimental approach. We often feel like every decision is final, but we always have the option to make another decision. So take some pressure off yourself and think like a scientist.
Step 2: Identify Your Options
Do you feel limited when it comes to making decisions? Like you have to decide between one choice or another? This is binary thinking, and it can limit you when you’re making an important decision. In reality, there are many options available to you if you simply sit down and think of them. If you’re facing a decision, brainstorm a big list of all your options. Even with treatment decisions, there can be options. Be creative here and think outside the box.
Remember that deciding to do nothing can also be an option. You want to include options that you think you would never take. Why do this? Because your brain needs to recognize that you have choices. Challenge yourself to come up with at least 5 options per decision. Then, narrow them down to the 3 best ones.
Step 3: Know There Are No Wrong Decisions
When it comes to how to make tough decisions as a spousal caregiver, remember this: there are no wrong decisions! There is no such thing as a good or bad/right or wrong decision. Society teaches us otherwise–as if the goal in life is to make all the “right choices.” This viewpoint does not serve us because anyone who has experienced failure knows it’s how you learn and grow the most.
“Right” or “wrong” is only a judgment you make after the fact. When something doesn’t turn out as you expected or wanted, it doesn’t mean it was wrong; it just means it went differently than you thought. Thinking there is a right or wrong choice is simply not useful. Instead, realize there are only choices and outcomes.
Building the skill of decision making requires you to be able to recognize and strip your judgments about your choices or the outcomes. Then you can learn from your decisions instead of beating yourself up over them!
Step 4: Identify Your Result
What result are you trying to achieve? You need to know the destination before deciding which course to take. So get real clear and specific on what you want. Think about what you value most in this situation to help guide you. This can be particularly helpful when thinking about treatment options with your partner. You and your partner should think about what you want and what you are willing to forgo. Get specific!
Step 5: Decide
Remember in step 3 when you reduced all your choices to your top three decisions? Not the “right” ones; just the best options for you? Now it’s time to decide. The good news is that you don’t have to maximize every decision. Think good enough or good for now. You can always make another decision!
I also recommend you get perspective. Imagine how you will feel about this decision in 10 days. What about in 10 months? How about in 10 years? Thinking this way can give you the perspective you need because it helps you keep the bigger picture in mind.
Step 6: Commit
Second-guessing and changing your mind wastes time. When you commit, you move forward and get new information. If you notice a little doubt coming up after you’ve made a decision, don’t worry about it! It’s totally normal for your brain to go there. You don’t have to eliminate doubt; you can commit despite doubt (just let it be there). When you commit to a decision, you focus on making it work versus finding evidence for why it was a “bad” decision.
Finally, have your own back so you don’t judge yourself later. This is super important when making treatment or care decisions. You can’t know what will happen; all you can do is choose from a calm emotional place (not from fear or scarcity) with the information you have.
Become an Expert at Making Tough Decisions as a Spousal Caregiver
Learning how to make tough decisions is the key to living the life you want, and especially important when you step into the role of spousal caregiver. This skill puts YOU in control, despite the circumstances you face. However, you don’t have to do it alone! As a caregiver coach for you when your partner is sick, I can help you build the skill of decision making in 1:1 sessions. Whether you’re currently working on a difficult decision or want support throughout this journey, I’m here for you! Schedule a free coaching session, and I’ll help you work through whatever decision you are facing.