Coping with Illness: Building Resilience as a Senior
Becoming ill at any age can come with a great deal of uncertainty. Whether it's a chronic illness or an acute problem, it can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health and well-being. Developing resilience, or the ability to adapt well to stress, trauma, tragedy, or threats, can help individuals at any age cope with illness, helping to bounce back from difficult experiences and overcome adversities.
For seniors, in particular, coping with ongoing illness can be tough. If you have faced an illness, you may have wondered how to cope better and manage ongoing changes. Below, keep reading to learn practical tips and ways seniors can manage the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that often come with illness.
What Is Resilience?
Before you can understand how to cultivate resilience, it's first important to understand what resilience truly encompasses. As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, resilience "is a complex and active process that is influenced by both genetics and environment, with the potential to change over time." Even when faced with adversities, those who exhibit a high level of resilience find a way to adapt and grow.
When faced with illness of any sort, uncertainty can become overbearing and nearly crippling. With so many unanswered questions, it's normal to begin feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed. However, building resilience and managing stress can help you face your illness with grace and positivity.
Find Enjoyment in Life's Simple Pleasures
One simple way to build resilience starts with appreciating life's simple pleasures. Instead of focusing on all the bad that comes with your illness, find time to appreciate the small daily pleasures of life.
This approach can help you to focus on fostering positive emotions and build optimism into your routine. Consider the small pleasures that bring you joy, whether it's sipping on freshly roasted coffee or sitting out and feeling the sun on your skin. These things in your environment may seem small or unimportant. However, they hold great weight and help you remain positive, even when faced with adversities.
Engage in New Activities
While it's normal to want to withdraw when ill, engaging in new activities can bring you more happiness when faced with tough situations. Spending time away from the things you love can make it even more difficult to beat an illness.
Instead, engaging in new activities can bring you a new purpose and fixation, helping you to cultivate resilience. Whether bike riding or knitting, focus on finding a new activity that brings you joy. Activities such as playing tennis can be independent or even enjoyed in a group.
Refocus Worries on Things Within Control
Illness can make a person and their loved ones feel helpless. With helplessness comes worry. However, this worry can soon become overwhelming, leaving long-lasting effects on a person's mental health. Instead, seniors can build resilience by refocusing worries on things within their control.
For example, remind yourself that worrying about something cannot change the outcome. Look for controllable actions, such as how you'll spend your time or with whom you'll spend your time. Rather than spending time worrying, changing things within your control can be empowering and help provide optimism.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one is facing illness, we can help. Building resilience when faced with illness can help seniors develop coping mechanisms vital to their physical, emotional, and mental health. If you are struggling to cope with an illness, your medical team can help. Reach out to your local center for support—we're here to help!