A wise man once said, “It’s not a matter of if you’ll have trouble in this life, it’s just a matter of when and what kind.” And how true that is. Even in the most blessed families, there are heartbreaks, challenges and crises that come up sooner or later. So how do you cope when trouble knocks on your door?
If you, your spouse, or one of your children is coping with a long-term or chronic illness, you endure a level of stress and fatigue that few will ever know. There are some keys to making it day by day until things improve. Here are some helpful tips to consider:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. News flash: all of those well-meaning people who say, “Is there anything I can do to help?”…they mean it. They just don’t know what you need. Is it help picking the kids up from school or activities? Ask. Is it an occasional home-cooked meal to lessen the work load for you? Set up an account on Take Them a Meal and direct friends and family to it. If dealing with the different tasks and helpers is overwhelming in and of itself, designate a good friend or family member who loves to organize as your “volunteer coordinator.”
2. Lean on your spiritual life. It’s not just our imagination: research shows that people of faith and prayer cope better and recover faster than others. Take some time out of every day to focus on your spiritual life and pray. It’s a cathartic and stress-relieving exercise to pour out your concerns and sorrows to your Heavenly Father.
3. Be patient. Recovery from a serious illness takes time. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes longer than you expected to get your life back. Instead, try to look at your sick time as a journey on which the travel is just as important as the destination. Try to focus on what you’re learning about yourself and life as you take it one day at a time. If you’re physically restricted by your illness, take up a new hobby that you can do in bed to pass the time.
4. If you’re the caregiver, take a break. If you’re the primary caregiver to a sick spouse, a special needs child, or an ill parent, you must come up for air occasionally. It’s not selfish—if you’re physically and emotionally tired, you can’t care for your loved one as well as you could if you were well-rested. Let a trusted friend or relative fill in for an afternoon while you get some fresh air, or just take a nap. Everyone will benefit.