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Dave Balch: Make Plans - A Coping Method

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Of all the coping ideas I’ve seen and heard, this one is probably the most effective and, also, the easiest one to do.

Give yourself something to look forward to.

Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? So simple and basic most of us don’t even think of it, but it’s there for the taking.

Here’s a great example from my own experience. When my wife was feeling pretty punk after chemotherapy, we received a postcard from a friend on vacation in Tahiti. It depicted a beautiful lagoon with hotel bungalows stretched out over the water; pretty dreamy.

Feeling the way she did (and me too, because she felt so awful) we found it hard to believe that a place like that could even exist in the world. I told her that some how, some way, when her treatment was over I was going to take her to Tahiti, and we put the postcard up on the refrigerator.

Guess what happened.

It gave us hope.

Seeing it there and thinking about it every day allowed us to focus on something besides her treatment, which seemed to be going on forever. It’s really amazing how much better you can feel when you just think about something wonderful or fun that’s going to happen in the future.

You can accomplish the same thing without going all the way to Tahiti; just setting a date to go to the movies next week ought to do the trick. Or plan a special night together with candles and soft music, or invite some friends over . . . whatever it is that you like to do, something that would be a treat for you.

Remember that it isn’t about doing something that someone else thinks is cool or fun, it’s about what YOU think is cool and fun. Some people like to go to the airport and watch the planes land. If that’s what floats your boat, DO IT!

This article is one in a series on coping strategies for patients and caregivers alike. For more thoughts on caregiving, coping strategies, and just plain fun subscribe to my free monthly newsletter at www.CaringAndCoping.com

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My husband has to travel often for his job. So on a much smaller scale, I can relate. As a woman who has ongoing anxiety and abandonment issues, I have found that making plans is the best way to deal with it. I am blessed to have good friends and a sister closeby who are understanding of this (I call it backup). I have explained to my husband that I need notice so I can use my coping strategy and have plans for while he is out of town. If I don't have the advance-notice and don't make plans, I can get especially overwhelmed with our boys unpredictable behavior, adding to my stress level. Having plans allows me to focus on the important things, like spending positive time with my boys, and looking forward to my husband returning from his hard work.
Thanks for your article, and best of health to you and your wife.

August 13, 2009 - 8:26pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.