While caregiving can be rewarding, it also has the potential to be physically and emotionally draining. As our population continues to age, the demand for caregivers continues to grow. Many caregivers juggle work, caring for their children, and helping their aging loved one with a variety of tasks that might include cooking and cleaning, as well as bathing and grooming. Burnout is a very real concern as most caregivers are unpaid, untrained, and overwhelmed by the responsibilities they face. In addition to using time-tested strategies to prevent burnout, caregivers may benefit from learning how to become resilient.
What is Resilience?
From a job loss to an unexpected diagnosis, we’ve all had seasons in life where the unexpected has happened. How do you respond? Do you worry, become angry, or overwhelmed? Or, do you acknowledge the hardship, while keeping a positive outlook?
Resilience can be defined as our ability to bounce back after encountering difficult situations. To be clear, resilience doesn’t mean ignoring your difficulties – rather, it acknowledges them while helping you find joy and contentment in the midst of them. While some individuals seem to be born naturally resilient, it is a trait that can be developed with practice.
6 Ways to Become a More Resilient Caregiver
Although there isn’t a subset of resiliency skills specific to caregivers, learning to be more resilient can help you become a better caregiver. In fact, some research suggests that resilience may be a key factor in preventing caregiver burnout.
Here are 6 ways that caregivers can build resilience:
- Find a purpose. Individuals who are resilient tend to respond to unexpected situations by turning a negative into a positive. There are countless non-profit organizations that have been started because of a tragedy or a crisis. For caregivers, finding a purpose might be volunteering to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research, or it could be sharing your experiences with others who are new to caregiving, so they feel less alone.
- Believe in yourself. Doubting yourself is a common reaction to a difficult situation. Inside of wallowing in “what-ifs” those who are resilient remind themselves that they are capable handling whatever challenges they might be facing. You can practice countering negative thoughts by taking a deep breath, believing in your abilities, and acknowledging that you are doing the best you can.
- Seek support. Resilient people understand that sharing their difficulties with another person can be beneficial, even though the problem might not be solved. As a caregiver you might be feeling isolated, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Seeking the support of friends and family can be an effective way to release the pressure you might be feeling.
- Be flexible. Flexibility is a hallmark of resiliency. Instead of dwelling in the past, resilient people are grounded in the present with an eye to the future – allowing them to adapt to challenges and unforeseen circumstances.
- Practice self-care. Crisis situations or difficult circumstances require a tremendous amount of physical and emotional energy. Resilient individuals understand the power of self-care and make it a priority to take care of themselves.
- Practice problem-solving. Feeling like there’s no solution when faced with a tough obstacle is normal – it is also one the reasons why we often feel stuck. People with high levels of resiliency tend to be good problem-solvers. As with resiliency, you can learn to become a better problem-solver.
There are plenty of additional resources available to help you become more resilient, including these from the Greater Good Science Center and the American Psychological Association.
Additional Caregiver Resources
For additional caregiver tips and resources, visit The Bristal’s blog.