Wednesday, May 6, 2009

De-Crank Strategies Consolidated

As I mentioned in my last post, the next step in limiting my crankiness is to review my "de-crank strategies" from my 10 cranky reasons to recognize trends. If I can distill the reasons down to, say, top 3, it'll be easier to focus my attention on those.

To recap, my cranky reasons and the proposed de-crank strategies, are:
  1. Work and caregiving conflicts - Communicate to Skip about work demands. Joke to defuse.
  2. It's dark outside and patience and energy wane through the day - Check in with Skip before I sit down on the couch to relax
  3. It's a habit - Conscious thought to break the habit
  4. Our priorities conflict - Explain our reasons and feelings to build understanding
  5. I get scared - No good ideas
  6. This shouldn't be happening - Be empathetic
  7. Lack of appreciation - Use humor. Point out great stuff I've done when I need appreciation.
  8. The Red Sox (example of outside influences that have nothing to do with caregiving) - Turn it off. Shut it out.
  9. This freakin' disease! - Remember the disease got us here. Acknowledge all it's robbed from us.
  10. Don't tell me what to do - Take a breath. Collaborate with the other person to turn it into a collective solution rather than being told what to do.

So, I set up a little spreadsheet with the reasons and my de-crank summaries. Then, I created categories such as communication, humor, think and avoidance and put an "X" in each category that my de-crank strategy fell into. The tally:

  • Communication - let's talk to each other, explain ourselves and our feelings - 5
  • Humor - defuse the situation with a joke - 2
  • Think - think before you react - 5
  • Avoidance -turn it off, walk away - 1 (this was for the Red Sox reason)

The results make perfect sense. The keys are communicating and thinking.

Communicating. Because I work from home, Skip and I are together virtually 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I think being together all the time, along with over 27 years together overall, allows us to think we know what the other person is thinking. We can forget that our assumptions can easily be wrong. It's good to check in and get it straight from the horse's mouth. And, I like to hear what Skip thinks and feels about things; she can be pretty quiet, I'm often struck by how thoughtful she is when she does share her thoughts with me. When we do really sit down and discuss things - issues, priorities, beliefs - it always ends up with our feeling closer to each other.

Thinking. To me, the act of thinking to avoid crankiness involves the exercise of control for about 3 seconds. This is the time between the action of another and the reaction you choose to have to that action. When Skip does something that falls into the "this shouldn't be happening" cranky reaction, I can immediately go into a cranky reaction or I can take 3 seconds to pause, exercise some restraint, and come up with a more constructive reaction.

Next up in the "cranky analysis" will be a review of what others do to manage their crankiness to see if I can steal (or, as Andy suggested, appropriate) some of their ideas.


awb said...

That's a great plan, but the only problem I see is that I don't think it is as easy to count to 3 as one would think. If it were, I doubt any couple would ever have an argument, or end up cranky. Jackie can point out 12 things wrong with what I've said in 3 seconds!

Cranky said...

I couldn't agree more. I have a pretty hair-trigger temper, so even getting to 1 will be a challenge. It's so easy just to take the cranky route rather than stop and think. I'm hoping I can do it even a reasonable percentage of the time.

steve said...

The thing that sets me off most frequently is "noisy inputs." BR has always been one to reserve veto power on decisions. However these days, between the MS and all the pain killers, getting a quick, clear decision on anything is very difficult.

For example, we'll be half way to a restaurant that we both agreed upon, and out of the blue he'll suggest two others that he would prefer. We agree on one of the two, and as we are pulling into the parking lot, he asks why we aren't going to the other. All the while, I'm thinking about everything that I still needs to get done that evening.

I'm the kind of person who believes in "good enough" for things that don't matter. If I don't have a taste for something, I'll eat anything from my "not disgusting" list. BR now requires an in-depth investigation into all the options for dinner. Paying lip service just doesn't cut it for him, and leads to some heated arguments.

The only fix I've found so far is to minimize distractions while interacting with BR. And the only way to do this is to separate "Steve time" from "BR time", and make sure "Steve time" doesn't come after "BR time", because "BR time" is likely to go into overtime.

Cranky said...

Steve - I posted a note about your comment last night ... oddly, it's not here this morning.

I think the challenges over restaurant choices would be a whole new "cranky reason" for me. Interestingly, in my MS Caregivers support group, issues around meals are a common theme.

I'm hoping you keep getting "Steve time."