The last day of our summer vacation with all the family came to a sad ending with my husband’s accident. He’s been more reflective as he recuperates from knee surgery that will keep him off his feet for the next few months. He’s always been able to do it all, and now suddenly there are limitations – just like for the older baby boomers who are coming face to face with the realities of the aging process. But it’s not as bad as it could be, especially when it comes with a certain amount of wisdom, the opportunity to enjoy our grandchildren and lots of great memories to savor. And there are lessons to be learned:
Focus on what you can accomplish, not what you can’t. When your wellbeing is compromised, it’s hard to feel at risk and dependent especially if you’re someone who’s used to doing everything for everybody. Give yourself an emotional break and recognize the treasures that are an integral part of you. Honor your body by exercising, eating and sleeping patterns that make you feel better. Minimize the situations that cause stress while increasing the ones that give you pleasure.
Find ways to lift your spirits. Call on your inner strength, wisdom and past experiences. Turn to your religious faith or spiritual practice that gives you comfort. Sit outside, enjoy the sun and get your daily dose of vitamin C. Take a nap or two and don’t feel guilty about it. Connect often by having friends and family come over and visit. You can create rituals that give you peace of mind and help you relax – journaling, meditation, inward focus, deep breathing.
Build resilience. Although we can’t prevent what happens to us, we can have some control over how we handle it. Work on changing your mindset. If you reframe your negative thoughts into neutral or positive ones, you can turn anxiety into energy. Release tension through laughter – watch a sitcom, tell jokes, see a funny movie – and you’ll begin to bounce back. Look for the lessons in what you’re going through because a good attitude can make a difference in how you navigate your present situation.
All of our thoughts are mental products although they don’t necessarily reflect an absolute reality. However, they do represent how we feel. And there’s no way around how we feel about the challenges of coping with health issues. Be patient and hang in there. The very act of putting one foot in front of the other can lead to a new perspective. Gaining strength from adversity is called post traumatic growth. This crisis may even lead you to feeling more empathy for others and a greater appreciation of what you have.
Despite the strain you’re going through, you will find hope. Relish your small feats and set goals for the future. Plan beyond the present and use my husband as a role model. He’s making the most of what he calls house arrest and already mapping out our next vacation.