We’ve all had moments we’ll never forget, when life changed in an instant. A doctor’s downcast eyes while he delivers news you never expected, or a phone call that shatters an otherwise normal afternoon. We don’t get to choose when or how those difficult situations enter our lives. But we can choose how to respond.
The answer to facing life’s challenges head on is resilience. The Oxford English Dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” Being resilient does not mean that you don’t feel pain, and it’s not a trait that you either possess or you don’t. Resilience is something you can cultivate through thoughts and actions, including some of the ideas below.
Don’t let fear run your life—accept it; maybe even embrace it
A week ago, you couldn’t imagine living without your job, or a parent, or your health. And yet, here you are, still living despite the absence of that element. The sooner you accept the reality of your situation – the pain, disappointment, frustration, and anger – the smaller your fear will become.
Set small goals and share them with others
During challenging times, the tasks that you usually accomplish without a second thought might feel impossible to do. Set a goal that you feel 90% sure you can complete, even if it’s something small like getting dressed for the day or making a meal for yourself. By sharing your realistic goals with someone else, the sense of accomplishment you feel is doubled.
Be kind to yourself and practice gratitude
No one feels good when something bad happens. If you are upset or down, take some time to recognize what you are and are not capable of changing in the current situation. Focus your energy on the aspects you have control over. Spend time on something you enjoy or with someone who cares about you, and be grateful for those small moments of joy. Once you start looking for things to be grateful for, you may just start seeing the world in a better light.
Never, never, never give up. – Winston Churchill
If a legendary world leader could gather the strength to say those words in the midst of a world war, we can do the same for ourselves. There’s no use denying the difficulties of our current situation, or in trying to pretend an easy path lies ahead of us. But, we have to remember to acknowledge what’s getting better, even in the smallest ways. Recognize what you’ve done well and what you can look forward to in the future, and try your best to focus on that.
With time comes acceptance. While you will never forget this difficult time in your life, you will remember the perspective it provided you with and you may even be thankful for the wisdom and resilience gained from it all.
Janette Foley is the Administrator of Dementia Services at Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services (CMSS) and the Director of The Hartwell, a residential memory care facility run by CMSS. She also provides guidance in dementia care for Wesley Place, Covenant Home of Chicago, and the Home Care divisions of CMSS. Janette credits her educational background and personal experiences with aging family members as influences on her lifelong devotion to senior care. She is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator (LNHA), holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northeastern Illinois University and is certified in Dementia Care and Programming.