Enhancing resilience within the family during the coronavirus crisis
If you are caring for someone in your family with mental health problems during the coronavirus crisis it is very likely by now that you will be feeling the signs of real strain. Research has shown that while some people seem to be naturally resilient, this behaviour can also be learnt. You cannot control the course of your relative’s journey, but you can make changes to lessen the impact on your own wellbeing.
The following are ten techniques to work on in order to enhance your own resilience, whether or not you are caring for someone. By developing your own resilience you will be modelling positive change for the whole family over the coming months.
1. Nurture positive beliefs in your abilities
Self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stress and recovering from difficult events. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. Becoming more confident about your ability to respond and deal with a crisis will be a great way to build resilience for what is to come.
2. Develop a strong social network
Having caring, supportive people around you will act as a protective factor during this ongoing crisis. It is important to have people you can confide in. While simply talking about a situation with a friend or loved one will not make troubles go away, it allows you to share your feelings, gain support, receive positive feedback and come up with possible solutions to your problems.
3. Accept that change is a part of living
Certain goals may no longer be attainable because of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on the ones you can alter. Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning how to be more adaptable, you’ll be better equipped to respond during this difficult period.
4. Maintain a hopeful outlook
An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualising what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Staying positive during the coming months will be difficult, but maintaining a hopeful outlook is an important part of resilience.
5. Consider your own needs
When we are stressed, it can be all too easy to neglect our own needs. Losing your appetite; avoiding exercising, socialising and leisure activities; and not getting enough sleep are all common reactions in a crisis situation. Focus on building your self-nurturing skills, even when you are troubled. Make time for activities you enjoy. By taking care of your own needs, you can boost your overall health and resilience and be fully ready to face the challenges ahead.
6. Allow your family member to face the consequences of their actions
If we keep rescuing the people we are caring for, we may inadvertently create a dependency and be helping people to keep on with their self-destructive behaviour and not find the help they need to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. This idea comes from Alcoholics Anonymous, where people have to hit rock bottom before they themselves decide to get well.
7. Look for opportunities for self-discovery
People often learn something about themselves and may find they have grown in some way as a result of their struggle with loss or change. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, an increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and a heightened appreciation for life.
8. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems
You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present moment to after we have come out of this crisis and how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with current day-to-day events as they unfold.
9. Establish goals and take decisive actions
Crisis situations are daunting. They may even seem insurmountable. Resilient people are able to view these situations in a realistic way, and then set reasonable goals to deal with the problem. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses. Simply waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs the crisis.
10. Keep working on your problem-solving skills
People who are able to come up with potential solutions to a problem are better able to cope with problems than those who cannot. Whenever you encounter a new challenge, make a list of some of the possible ways you could solve the problem. Resilience may take time to build, so do not become discouraged if you are struggling to cope with the current situation. Just remember to build upon your existing strengths.
This article is largely extracted from Richmond Borough Mind’s The Mental Health Carers Handbook which was developed with the support of South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust.