It gives us great pleasure to share the seventh blog post in the series for rare disease caregivers entitled, "Building Resilience" by Vanessa King.
As patient group leaders, we can often feel under pressure - especially so when things don’t always go to plan! When this happens, what are your typical thoughts about why that problem occurred? Do you generally jump to what you did that might have caused it or feel that it’s typical – these things always happen to you? If so, you could be undermining your own resilience.
Science is showing that the way we interpret the events that happen day-to-day in our lives has a significant relationship to our ability to cope and deal effectively with problems, and on our physical health and persistence in the face of adversity.
So which ways of interpreting these events are the most resilient?
Let’s look at three factors:
1. Is it me? - When bad things happen, resilient thinkers tend to focus on causes outside of themselves. For example if they are late they will look at the delay on the trains or heavy traffic as being the main cause of the issue rather than getting stuck on beating themselves up for not leaving the house earlier.
2. How long will this problem last? - When things go wrong, resilient thinkers see it as transitory, perhaps thinking “It didn’t work this time, but next time it will be better.” In contrast, someone with a thinking style that isn’t resilient might think it will always be that way, e.g. “It didn’t work this time, and it’s never going to work.”
3. How many different aspects of my life will this affect? – When something goes wrong in one area of a resilient thinker’s life, they put boundaries around the issue limiting it to that specific area, for example: “I took the wrong turn, I find map reading hard.” Whereas someone with a non-resilient way of thinking will see the problem as spreading out to everything, e.g. “I took the wrong turn, I’m no good at anything.”
It isn’t about being unrealistic or just kidding ourselves when day-to-day problems occur. It’s about being realistic and flexible in our thoughts about why these issues happened. If we are tired and stressed, we can all too easily fall into the trap of thinking we are the cause of all things that go wrong, that problems will always be that way and that they spread out to everything.
So next time something goes wrong for you. Pause for a moment and think realistically: How did I, others or the situation contribute to this? What can I do (or ask of others) now or that will help stop the problem occurring again? What strengths do I have that I can draw on to help? (We’ll look at strengths in more detail in an upcoming blog). More resilient patterns of thinking really can be learned.
You may also find it helpful to have a look at the attached guide called “Check Your Thinking” which can help us manage our emotional responses.
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