Collectively, it seems like we are faced with more daily challenges than we’re used to. The social and societal impacts of COVID 19 alone have added more stressors to everyone’s life. From kids navigating e-learning, parents schooling and working from home, limited available options for socializing, having to learn new tools to do everything in a remote environment and just general increased tension from being shut in… It’s a lot! In addition, many areas are also facing extreme weather events and political strife and division. All these circumstances can be hard to adjust to.
If you are caring for a spouse with cancer, then these stressors may feel like they are too much to bear. Your options of getting relief from the daily challenges of caregiving are more limited and even just seeing friends and family is now more difficult. Your inside world already felt crazy, and now the outside world does too!
Lacking Tools To Cope
We all know that adversity and hardship are part of life. World wars, famine, genocide, political oppression…. The history books are full of these events. Still, we often feel like it shouldn’t be this way. Adversity is particularly hard to handle when we don’t have tools to cope with all these stresses in our life. They can weigh on us to the degree that we get depressed, suffer health problems, and really struggle to get through each day.
Resilience Is A Skill
Thankfully, resilience is not an inborn trait. It is not a case of either you have it or you don’t. Many, many studies have shown that it is a skill you can develop. Some people may develop it more naturally, while others need to learn and practice. Either way, you CAN become more resilient.
The 3 Pillars
There are a ton of different methods for becoming more resilient. Just Google it and you’ll see. That is great because we all learn differently and it’s nice to know there is more than one way to crack this nut!
From my training as a coach, I teach resiliency skills from the perspective of mind management. I like to think of this as an inside out approach, meaning you will start becoming more resilient first in the way you think (inside) which will lead to changing the way you act (outside).
I break resiliency down into three pillars representing the core skills required to build your resilience. The three pillars are: awareness, acceptance, and deliberate action. Let me explain each in turn.
The first pillar of resiliency is becoming aware of how you view your current challenge. When you face hardship, it’s important that you gain some perspective. Many things can feel overwhelming and all encompassing when we don’t see them in the context of a bigger picture. We need to see that there is a separation between us and the challenge we face. Put another way, there is this challenge that has occurred in our life, and then there are our thoughts and feelings about it.
Our thoughts about this challenge become the story we tell ourself. This usually happens subconsciously, which is why we need to start becoming aware of ourselves and our story. We may be telling a story in which life isn’t fair, it’s not right, or it’s too much. Without realizing it, we are creating a story where we are a victim and have little control over our life.
Seeing our own story requires us to pay attention to our mind and observe what is happening in there.
It is important during this phase to be curious and compassionate with ourself. We are learning about ourselves and learning requires curiosity. Judgement doesn’t help the learning process.
The next pillar of building resilience is cultivating acceptance. We have to be willing to accept our current situation and the circumstances of our life. We have to be willing to accept ourselves including all the thoughts and judgements we have. We also have to be willing to accept ALL the emotions we feel – even the ones that we don’t like. Finally, we also have to be willing to accept other people and start to see that we can’t control them, no matter how much we want to.
Acceptance may seem simple, but most of us want to resist negative things when they happen. We want to argue with our reality. Bad things are hard and we don’t want them to be, so our natural tendency is to argue with it, resist it.
Arguing with reality takes energy and gets us nowhere. In fact, it keeps us stuck. That is why practicing acceptance is a key part of building resiliency. Once you have accepted your situation, you can get to work on deciding how you want to handle it and who you want to be in the face of it.
Acting deliberately is the third pillar and it requires that we first have awareness and acceptance.
Most people want to solve their problem with action, but this doesn’t work long term. Actions can work, but the solution often won’t be lasting because it usually doesn’t address the cause of the problem. It’s like putting on a bandaid on an infected wound. We may stop the bleeding, but we still need to treat the cause of the infection.
Instead, our most powerful actions will come when we first understand our thinking and have allowed and processed our emotions (acceptance). Then we can get to work on taking action. When our actions are fueled by conscious and empowering thoughts and come from a clean place, they will be so much more powerful!
Think of your challenge like a mountain you need to climb. Awareness is recognizing that you are on a mountain, but it’s a climbable mountain, and lots of people have done this before so you can too.
Acceptance is seeing that it’s going to be tough to climb, you may be out of shape, your muscles might get sore… but that is all normal and part of the process. You expect it to be hard, so you don’t judge yourself when you stumble.
Deliberate action is mapping your course in advance and taking your time. It means you tune in to your own needs and take brakes for rest and recovery when you need it. It also means staying present with where you are in the journey so that you don’t miss the beauty of the climb. It’s understanding that even when you scale this mountain, everything won’t magically be better because life is full of hills and mountains.
If you are on your own caregiving mountain, then you have to watch my free video. In just 10 short minutes I teach the three most important things to know about caring for a spouse with cancer. It will literally change your perspective and your experience of what you’re going through!
Don’t wait! Click the link below and sign up for your free copy.
The 3 Secrets I Wish I Knew About Coping With My Partner’s Cancer