Life is like a roller-coaster. It is full of ups and downs and at times, we have to deal with unexpected incidents or events. There could be a myriad of issues that may affect anyone, such as having to take care of a loved one with special needs or disability, or the demise of someone very dear. SPD’s senior social worker Junaidah Baharawi tells us that resilience can be developed, and she shows us how.
The ability to face life’s challenges and bounce back from adversities is called ‘resilience’. The good news is that resilience can be learned and developed. Sholl (2011) highlighted that there are five ways to bolster a person’s inherent resilience – pump up your positivity, live to learn , open your heart, take care of yourself and hanging on to humour.
Pumping up your positivity
This is akin to reframing, that is to find some silver lining in the worst of circumstances. This also means challenging one’s reflexive thoughts and engaging in positive self-talk. There was a parent who was initially devastated after doctors told him that his child has autism. He gradually picked himself up and turned to his faith where he found his answers. He came to the conclusion that his child was born to him so that he could work towards perfecting his parenting skills and find true unconditional love in bringing up his child.
Most of the caregivers whom I had met during group work sessions unanimously agreed that it was important to be surrounded with friends who are encouraging and supportive during tough times. This means one needs to be in a company of people, who are positive, shows empathy and can be trusted.
Live to Learn
The more you can leverage challenges as opportunities to grow and evolve, the more resilient you are likely to be. One strategy for cultivating a learner’s mindset is to constantly ask questions – a method of problem solving developed by psychotherapist and executive coach Marilee Adams, PhD.
Another caregiver who is grappling with taking care of her child with special needs shared that she was able to tap on her creativity to make crafts and communication cards to facilitate her son’s learning. Prior to this, she did not realise that she had such potential. She viewed pain as an opportunity to learn and problem-solve, and more importantly, to build the confidence and habit of moving towards and defeating the pain, instead of running away from it.
Opening your heart
Offering kindness to others is as important as receiving it. This is because showing gratitude for the things that are going right in our lives helps put tragedies into perspective. Once, a caregiver found solace in helping others despite the stress of caregiving and she felt good doing it. The more she offered help to others, the more contented she felt.
Take care of yourself
Taking care of ourselves is easier said than done, particularly for caregivers who have to care for their loved ones 24/7. Very often, when a child is diagnosed with having special needs, a parent will spend most of his or her time with the child. In fact, a parent once shared that she treated her son like an idol, until a social worker injected some awareness about the importance of self-care. Having that realisation, she began to look into her own needs and form relationships with other parents.Eventually, her relationship with her son improved. As the saying goes, “a happy person is a happy parent.”
Self-care does not necessarily have to cost a lot. A person can engage in activities that they enjoy for free. These include going to the beach to listen to the sound of the waves, visiting the museum, going to the library or a run.
Hanging on to Humor
There was a parent who thought that she was going crazy when she realised that she was laughing at the hardships that she was going through. According to her, she just felt better doing that. In fact, hanging on to humor is pertinent as it can be profoundly pain relieving, for both the body and mind. It has been said that laughter can reduce stress hormones including cortisol and epinephrine. When laughing, the brain also releases endorphins that can relieve physical pain. Why wait? Laugh it out!
Resilience is something that can be learned and developed.
Things may not always go according to plan. Sometimes, you may fail in accomplishing a task but more importantly, do not give up and keep trying. Forgive yourself and others and move on. Learn to love and care for yourself, only then are you able to love and care for others.
Laughter. (2017, October 30). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughter_Sholl, J.(2011) The Five Best Ways to Build Resiliency, https://experiencelife.com/article/the-5-best-ways-to-build-reliency)