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How to Use Perspective as a Coping Strategy

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Caregiving related image Photo: Getty Images

My doctor told me during a recent visit that she was shocked when she saw a mid-50’s woman that we both know walking like a little old lady. The woman, who had cancer, had always been full of energy and, well, “spunky,” and the doctor hadn’t seen her for a while.

“At first I was shocked to see her so seemingly feeble, but then I realized that according to the statistics she should be dead by now. Suddenly it didn’t seem so bad!”

That, my friends, is perspective; looking at things in another light or context. When something is stressing you, try to change your view of the problem by looking for different angles. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. In what way(s) could this problem be worse than it is?
2. Do I know of anyone dealing with a problem that is similar but much worse?
3. What can I do to change my interaction with or view of the problem?

Here are more examples of using perspective:

My mother’s brother had polio in the 1950’s, and spent a very long time in an iron lung. (In those days, an “iron lung” was a contraption that helped someone breathe who was unable to do so on their own. Medicine has come a long way since then!) He spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair, with very poor muscle control so that his posture was affected as well as simple movements such as using a fork. I knew him for 30 years and I never saw him complain or act angry or sorry for himself, and my only memories of him are of smiles and laughter and fun. My mother once told me that when she thinks she has problems she just thinks about Mike and suddenly things don’t seem as bad as they did.

In 2009 I was hired as a caregiving expert by Humana to talk with people at the Senior Games about their caregiving experiences and attitudes. The Senior Games is a major national event similar to the Olympics, except that all of the athletes are seniors. It was quite an amazing and inspiring place to be; they are held in odd-numbered years, so do try to follow them in 2011. One of the people I talked with was caregiver for her father who first had cancer, and now has dementia.

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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.


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