Medical and psychological illness affects more than just the sufferer. When I heard about my brother’s diagnosis I felt like I was going 90 mph down a hill, straight into traffic, and my breaks suddenly stopped working. Hearing serious health news can be shocking, confusing, overall emotional, and extremely challenging to deal with. How do you find your emergency break in the midst of chaos?
“CHATS” has been my emergency break during this unpredictable and terrifying journey. I have worked hard to implement and practice these tips in my daily life. I have found using CHATS to be a helpful tool when managing my family and even personal health obstacles. I am optimistic it will be useful for you too. Give it a try and leave me a comment below with feedback and comments.
1) COMPASSION. Have compassion for yourself. Don’t expect to be able to solve their medical issues. Leave that for the doctor. Unless you are the treating clinician your job is to be there for your loved one. This is a difficult time for everyone and being present can be a challenge in it of itself. Sit and be there, get really good at doing that. Try to resist judging yourself for things that are out of your control.
2) HUMOR. Laugh as often as you can. Laughter is the best medicine. Research suggests that it actually reduces pain and helps the body tolerate discomfort. Give yourself permission to laugh, even if it’s about the illness. Remember, your loved one is not their disease. Allow yourself to make light of a dark situation at times. It could be healing.
3) ACCEPTANCE. Actively accept the situation for the way it is, even though it may not be the way you want it to be. Acceptance and being mindful of the situation does not negate the power to change or adjust the outcome. However, accepting the circumstances allows you the opportunity to gain new perspective and awareness.
4) TALK. Allow yourself to talk about the situation, whatever the situation may be. It’s common to have intrusive thoughts: “If I talk about it, it will get worse” or “If I don’t talk about it maybe it will go away.” Although thoughts feel powerful they are not facts. Just because you think something does not make it come true. When you talk and express yourself in an effective way it increases the likelihood of producing adaptive and healthy behaviors. So if healthy talking leads to healthy behaviors then talk as often as you can!
5) SELF-CARE. Take short breaks throughout the day and give yourself time to collect your thoughts. Check in with yourself and make sure you’re eating, sleeping, and staying hydrated. There is nothing selfish about continuing to take care of your own needs. You will need to keep yourself healthy and strong in order to help others stay healthy and strong.