Coping With a Medical Crisis
Everyone has a daily routine consisting of family obligations, leisure and recreation, spiritual commitments and work/volunteering. All of these life experiences define us. Our attitude is the most important factor to guide us to make the best choices for ourselves, yet when we are faced with stress in our life of any kind, our fears can get in the way and make things worse.
For example you have just been diagnosed with cancer and the first action you take is to look up medical statistics without any medical explanation; listen to well intended friends tell you their personal journey and yet the comments on their situation might not be your experience at all.
We must create “a new normal” meaning accepting what is in store for you or your loved one and when coordination of care is overwhelming then that is when you engage a professional who specializes in helping people reduce the anxiety of this new challenge.
The important lesson people learn is that if they fall apart and resort to giving up their roles in life (unless they cannot perform them anymore due to severe illness) then depression and hopelessness sets in which exacerbates the diagnosis. You will find that by exploring new possibilities and insights, you and your family will maintain a sense of control.
The idea of recreating and continuing to remain social is foreign to people who have a puritan work ethic that unless you work how can you deserve to play however, leisure and recreation that also includes social engagement is very important when faced with the shock of a diagnosis. Continuing with a philosophy that keeps telling you why should I play when I am faced with this massive responsibility will only create undue stress and many times hardship when someone is trying to save their life in any way possible. Leisure is a way of distracting oneself from the thoughts you cannot control and by integrating, you have an opportunity to explore interests that you might never have thought of before.
People who have never played golf switched to that activity to comply with social distancing as self protection but realized when continuing due to the need to adapt from a team sport to a slower pace how much they enjoyed the game. A grandmother was not device savvy yet learned how to use facebook, zoom and B612 among other apps to establish rituals with the grandchildren while lying in bed recuperating from chemo.
Everyone has ups and downs but some people are facing a more severe medical or mental health challenge. How do you cope with these feelings and not impact your family? Knowing that there are a plethora of activities to explore or adapt will be more promising. Another example is watching “Dancing With the Stars” instead of going to your regular community club to dance; learning an art activity on line instead of going to the recreation center; taking up bridge with a group of virtual players etc. There are an array of choices that will help establish a rewarding routine even when your physical energy is depleted.
It is important to put in an effort and work towards sustaining a healthy self-esteem to help you feel a sense of self control, respect, purpose and significance. Knowing when to reach out for a professional to advocate, counsel, care manage, monitor medicine, find resources or talking to a priest or rabbi will provide that extra team approach to gather as much support as possible. If you don’t identify yourself what makes you feel intrinsically rewarded, you won’t be able to find alternative coping behaviors since knowing what you might be willing to try is a step towards finding peace of mind when you are faced with this difficult time.
Another challenge is financial and that is when professional advice will help you tap into resources in the community that will help you with additional home care support, transportation, food, medicines, volunteers, vouchers for discounts to community establishments like restaurant delivery, cleaners and housekeeping etc. If you want to start doing some investigation on your own, make sure to contact departments in your specific county. If you do not know where to turn that is the actual sign to utilize a professional. Hiring a care manager is another alternative for you and your family so you have ongoing assistance in a variety of ways to work with you. If the stress over finances is insurmountable you need to verbalize your frustration to your family so they understand that sadness, anger, helplessness is a sign you will need more support either from the family or from a professional.
Most important is not to compare yourself to the person you were before circumstances in your life got more stressful. If you compare and look backwards, your expectations of yourself will be unrealistic and pave the way for disappointment. Think about how do you want to be viewed by yourself and others now so you teach the young children coping skills for the future and help the family feel comfortable talking with you about your strengths and limitation and how to accommodate you.
Think one day at a time to help you have a heightened awareness and challenge these intruding thoughts from your reality. Be mindful to look at the future hope while you are enjoying your morning coffee or tea; read a book on tape or incorporate relaxation mantras to get you in a real routine of positivity and thankfulness.
Suggestions: Take a hot bath with candles; write post it notes to yourself to inspire you; connect with friends; create an on line book club; try interactive cooking; oasis classes on line; games with kids; continue family rituals; binge on Netflix, neighborhood listserv for opportunities; kindle on tape; new hobby; crafting; memory picture books for grandchildren to do with you. Try and write a book about your experience to inspire others.
Think of one victory a day and you will find your inner strength that enables you to reframe your negative thoughts to create this “new normal” during these unprecedented times. If possible, keep a gratefulness journal to reflect on why your fight to stay healthy is so important and then you will develop the motivation to pay it forward when you are ready to give to someone else in need.