The Power of Small Steps, by Vanessa King

Annamarie Dillon | December 17, 2015

It gives us great pleasure to share the tenth blog post in the series for rare disease caregivers entitled, "Building Resilience" by Vanessa King.

As patient group leaders and carers, looking after yourself will help you look after others. It is very easy with all the demands on you to say “I just don’t have time.” In this blog series we’ve explored lots of small and quick things we can do, which can make a big difference over time – for ourselves and for others.

Taking control
Taking action, even the smallest of steps, has important psychological benefits. We’ve looked a number of small actions, for example taking a moment to breathe, focusing on the good things, or moving more, that will benefit us directly.

Taking action gives us a sense of control, which is vital for our well being. There will be many areas in our lives where we don’t have that much control – for example, the routines of the loved ones we are caring for, children’s school times or rules at work, etc. Focusing on the areas that we do have control is important.

In this way, it doesn’t so much matter which action you decide to take to boost your own resilience and well being, simply the act of doing something regularly will have a positive benefit. It will boost our self-confidence in our ability to make a difference for ourselves (what psychologists call “self-efficacy”). This then tends to have a positive ripple effect to other areas of our own lives and that of others.

Small steps
Recently psychologists discovered that one thing that makes a big difference to whether we have a good day or a bad day is feeling a sense of progress. This doesn’t just mean achieving big goals we may have set ourselves, but tiny micro steps on a day-by-day basis. For example, many of us will recognize the good feeling we get from ticking things off our to-do lists.

So, as a carer or patient group leader or both, even if you don’t have much time or head space, think what could you do in 10 minutes, 5 minutes or even 1 minute that will help you maintain your wellbeing and building your resilience. After all, we don’t get to the top of the mountain without taking small steps.

The attached guide gives some more ideas on taking action and a planning sheet to help (writing goals down make it more likely you will do them!).

We hope that these blogs have given you ideas and tips to try that will make a genuine difference to how you feel and how well you function in the short and long term. We’d love to hear what small steps have you tried so far and what you will take going forward.

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