You have likely already experienced stress in all aspects of your life: relationships, employment, and family. Hopefully you feel a well-deserved sense of pride and accomplishment as not all individuals, couples, or families are resilient and can endure stress or bounce back from the adversity and challenges of normal, everyday life.
Transition brings many challenges and adjustments at the best of times, and these may not be the best of times.
Being resilient is the key to managing this transition.
You may or may not have had time to prepare for your role as a caregiver. You may feel obligated or even trapped in this role. On the other hand, you may be taking this new role in stride as part of life and your commitment to each other. You may even have one of these outlooks today and the opposite one tomorrow. Either way, transition brings many challenges and adjustments at the best of times, and these may not be the best of times. Being resilient is the key to managing this transition.
Resilience is a combination of both internal factors (you) and external factors (community resources, support services, and personal support systems). Families that move beyond surviving to actually thriving are those that recognize a need and reach beyond their own resources to create a wider web of support.
The following questions can be helpful to you in your reflection on internal and external factors that will enhance your resiliency as a caregiver, and as a family:
- Coping strategies: How have you coped with stress in your life? Effective management of stress is a skill and one of the keys to resilience.
- Self-talk: We can divide our thoughts into stress thoughts and resilient thoughts.
- Stress thoughts are thoughts that resist what is happening. They may sound like “this is so unfair,” “this shouldn’t be happening to me,” or “this shouldn’t have happened.” Stress thoughts may undermine our ability to cope (“I can’t handle this” or “I can’t handle one more thing”) and project both doom and gloom (“My life is over. I will never be happy again.”).
- Resilient thoughts are kind, compassionate, and reassuring. Resilient thoughts may sound like “I can do this,” “I can handle this,” “We can come out the other side of this,” “We can make it through this,” etc.
- Reflect on your self-talk and take note of your stress thoughts and your resilient thoughts.
- Your strengths: What are the strengths that you bring to your caregiving journey? Perseverance? Tenacity? Patience? A sense of humour? Your ability to ask for help? Being aware of and stating your strengths will help bring positivity to your caregiving.
- Missing pieces: What do you feel is lacking in your ability, skills, or circumstances to support your family, the person you are caring for, and yourself? What would be most helpful to you? What needs do you foresee developing over time? What support, information, or skills do you foresee needing?
- Lessons: What have you learned from previous challenges or difficult times? Looking back, what do you wish you had done differently? How can you bring this wisdom into your current caregiving situation?
- Communication: How would you describe your communication pattern? Is there any room for improvement?
- Open and effective communication, while not always easy, is fundamental to successful relationships. Problem-solving and problem prevention are most effective when done in collaboration.
- Support: Which community resources and social supports have you used in the past to assist with challenges and transition? Do you know what services are available in your current community to assist you and your family? Resilient caregivers, couples, and families draw on both social support and community resources. Social support can come from family, friends, neighbors, or other caregivers. Community resources can come from agencies, as well as cultural and spiritual organizations and groups.
Froma Walsh, a family therapist and leading researcher on family resilience, tells us that resilience processes enable people to “…heal from painful experiences, take charge of their lives, and go on to live and love well.” You can draw on your ability to be resilient while caring for someone experiencing a psychological and/or physical illness or injury. Together, you can emerge as a family where living and loving well are still possible.