Some people seem to be able to bounce back from everything. How do they do it? The good news is that resiliency isn’t a trait you’re just born with, it’s something you can develop.
Accept the cold, hard truth
No one makes it through life without traumatic situations, and caregivers certainly see more of their fair share. I don’t advocate losing all hope right away, but be realistic about the likelihood that life will ever go back to normal. Accept the new normal.
Find the silver lining
When things are going wrong, it’s easy to get caught up in a negative feedback loop. Ruminating on problems just makes me more anxious and upset. It feels a little cheesy to keep a gratitude journal, but sitting down and thinking about everything that’s going well in my life helps me find the bright side of things.
Know what you can do
My first response to a new problem is to research the heck out of it. What’s going on? What are my options? What’s likely to happen? Sometimes it seems like the folks at my local library know a lot about what’s going on in my life just from the books I check out. Knowing everything I can about an issue helps me regain control of my life and make better choices.
And when I can’t get any answers or explanation? I find solace in focusing on the things in my life I can control, so my apartment is exceptionally clean and my paperwork is in perfect order when the rest of my life is going crazy.
Maybe you don’t enjoy cleaning as much as I do (probably, since I’m an outlier with that one). There are other things you can do when your life feels like it’s spiraling out of control. I need to eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of sleep in order to feel like a functional human. Putting extra effort into basic self-care during stressful times is key to making sure I can keep it together.
Use your support network
Reach out to your friends when you need them. My friends and family are eager to help me out during tough times, but they often don’t know how to do it. Asking them for specific favors helps them know how to help out and show that they care.
Remember that maintaining meaningful friendships requires real effort. Asking too much from one or two friends can push people away. Avoid overburdening your friends by building friendships from others facing similar challenges — in person or here at The Caregiver Space.
The larger your safety net, the more people you have to support you. Sure, we don’t really keep in touch with the majority of our Facebook friends, but going through a rough patch is a great time to remind yourself why you’re friends with them in the first place. I don’t dwell on why I’m asking someone to get coffee with me for the first time in three years — I’m looking for a friendly distraction, not free therapy — but it’s a lot of fun to catch up and remember that there’s more to my life than whatever I’m currently going through.
Laugh at it
There have been many times where it felt like there was order to the universe and that order had a wacky sense of humor. Sure, a lot of times the joke is on me, but I try to laugh at it anyway. When things have gone wrong in every way I’d imagined – and then some – I’ve found myself thinking “this is going to be hilarious in ten years.”
My whole family has a particularly dark sense of humor, but researchers have found that laughter has real therapeutic value. Laughing at your troubles is an amazing way to break free of their grasp. In fact, forcing yourself to laugh might be as effective as spontaneous laughter.
Sometimes there’s a lesson
Sometimes there’s a lesson to be learned from a stressful experience — and sometimes there isn’t. After something’s gone horribly wrong, I think about what happened to create the situation, whether or not it could possibly happen again, and if there’s something I could do to prevent it. I try to learn from my mistakes to make the future easier.
There’s not always a lesson to be learned. Plenty of tragedies occur by random chance — or are just outside of your control. Knowing the difference can save us from a lot of undeserved guilt. Even in those instances where good intentions have gone wrong, I’ve learned to do what I can to take responsibility, make amends, and move on. Being overwhelmed with guilt doesn’t do anything to help unless you channel those feelings into positive action.
It’s normal to put life on hold when a tragedy strikes, but then you have to keep going. The longer you neglect normal life, the harder it is to go back to it. Find some motivation and get back to living your life.
Image by Joao Tremoceiro