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Fighting Caregiver Burnout with Resiliency

By Lisa Weitzman | 08/15/2022

A caregiver helping an older adult with an arm band exercise

Have you ever wondered why some people can seemingly cope with any life stressor while others seem to falter in the face of any adversity? Do you admire people who handle the ups and downs of the caregiving journey with apparent ease and grace and do not allow moments of failure to consume them? These individuals most likely have developed resiliency. The good news is that anyone can cultivate resiliency, too.

What is resiliency?

According to Partners on the Path, “resilience is your ability to withstand, recover, and sometimes grow when faced with adversity; it is an active process of enduring and successfully coping. Resilience is bouncing back after a crisis. It’s also bouncing forward to adjust to a ‘new normal.’” 

Resiliency is not a genetic trait that we do or do not inherit. It is not something that simply comes to us. Rather, it is the culmination of behaviors, thoughts and actions that we can develop over time with focused, intentional work. Moreover, developing resiliency should not be equated with “becoming tough.” Resilient people show emotions, but are able to control them, move past painful feelings and remain positive. 

How can you build resiliency?

Professionals often focus on strategies to avoid the negative consequences of caregiving, encouraging caregivers to create a positive framework within which to examine their experiences in a conversation which highlights building resiliency as a means to cope with and adapt to the realities of caregiving. Resilience is what makes the overwhelming seem bearable, transforms the senseless into an opportunity for growth and creates lasting stamina and strength along the way.

Self-help articles are full of advice on how to build resiliency. They encourage caregivers to practice mindfulness, be optimistic, expect good outcomes, find purpose and meaning, embrace flexibility, adapt easily, build perseverance, practice self-care and even “enjoy solid self-confidence and self-esteem.” For many, this to-do list may seem as unobtainable as resiliency itself. More realistically, we can:

  • Focus our energies by prioritizing what we need to address and letting go of the distractions.
  • Connect with others, allow ourselves to be supported by family and friends and reach out to them when we need help. 
  • Talk with a counselor or therapist who can help us to think about ways to better cope with difficult emotions
  • Experiment with taking small risks or try a creative approach to solve a recurring problem.
  • Take time each day to recognize what we have learned and accomplished.
  • Seek acceptance of – rather than resistance towards—our role as caregiver.
  • Find humor in the day and time to laugh.
  • Engage in a caregiver support program, such as WeCare…Because You Do, or a peer-to-peer group to help us access community resources, encourage us to connect with others and enable us to benefit from collaborative problem-solving. 
  • Challenge ourselves to find hope, meaning and possibility, even amidst the adversity.
     

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