bridges are designed to bend with the wind for resiliency

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.

Keep going

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

Written by Cori Carl
As Director, Cori is an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for people providing care.

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  1. Just do your best, one step at a time, one day at a time. That’s all you can do. And ‘good enough’ is ‘good enough’…. ” This WILL end, someday ” – that was my mantra.

  2. Thanks for sharing June. Information to be kept for a time when I or someone near me – who knows! – will need/appreciate it.

  3. I leaned on my faith in God and took time to breathe if it meant 5 mins outside in yard looking up in sky or 30 mins while he was in a hospital test.
    You cant be strong all the time, so let the tears flow then wipe your face and start again ❤️

  4. I try and smile and laugh and push my way through it.

  5. Exactly, people think, “how do you do it?” You just do, no time to consider anything else but just doing it and continuing to move forward. Each day runs into the next.

  6. You have no choice but to be strong. Cry in private so your loved one doesn’t see you suffering and continue on no matter how tired and exhausted you are

  7. I saw how resiliency is something some are born with — as in the very young foster children who just kept going and kept a good attitude.

  8. I am pretty resilient but I do have moments when the unexpected arises and overwhelms me. Having developed health issues due to stress and eating the same food as my son has given me problems. I have to adjust and be super aware of what I eat.

  9. this is really great. I wish I could apply this to my life but I am doing this all on my own. Hubby has Fromtotemporal Dementia and we cannot afford to pay anyone to help me. I asked his son and his wife if the could take care of him for the weekend just so I can get a brake and was told no.
    I know my husband will just get worse and this is something I have to live with. My middle daughter lives with me and can watch him for short runs to get his prescriptions or something special he needs from the store but I keep it at 45 minutes or less. I feel so sad for my daughter as she, her husband and two children moved with us to help out. But after a year her husband left her. So now she is still with me but has no car, no job and now no husband. He gave us 5 different reasons why he left but I think it was because of my husband. He never said as much but he has kind of hinted it to my daughter through messages.
    Since we just moved here a year ago I only know two neighbors but not that well where I would ask for help from them. I really don’t ha e a support network. I went to my first caregivers meeting last month and had to leave early as my husband had fallen and my daughter could not get him up. He gets very agitated if I am not around, so I do not go anywhere. If I shower or get dressed he gets agitated and cries a lot as he thinks I am leaving. So there are days I do not shower or get dressed so I can have piece. There are weeks where I only go as far as my mailbox. That is the extent of my life for now.

  10. Great article! Remindsme if how I choseto live my cancer journey!

  11. Sometimes finding the poignancy in a moment is as important as finding the humor. When caregiving for my mother and my husband at different times, what started out looking like a soul-draining chore turned into a poignant memory. I was often too tired to record those moments on paper, so I sometimes just scribbled a two or three word note. Later…much later…came the time when I could flesh out what those moments meant.

  12. Thank you so much for this, and I’d like to share it with my group, with your permission! Much love and be well! John

    • We’d be happy for you to share it. Thanks!

  13. Thank you!


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