The Ability to Rebound and Heal

By Louise Lubin, PhD.

 “Once you choose hope,

anything is possible”

-Christopher Reeves

“We must not let our fears

hold us back from

pursuing our hopes”

John F. Kennedy


Resiliency is adapting well in the face of difficult life events. Resiliency is ordinary, not extraordinary. Being resilient does not mean that you do not feel distress or have hard times. It is not a trait that you either have or don’t have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn.  So, what are the important points to help you on your road to resiliency?

Build Caring Supportive Relationships within and outside of your family. Having people you can trust who encourage and support you builds your coping ability. Seek out people or groups that provide social support who are positive and hopeful. Consider if you are able to try to support others through volunteering. Read my blog post The Helper’s High for more info on the value of giving to others.

Make Realistic Plans and Take a Small Step to carry them out. You may think that you can’t make long term plans because of the uncertainty of cancer, but you can focus on the present. Just beginning to move towards a small defined goal builds your sense of control. I speak more about this in Taming of the Dragon of Fear video. If you haven’t seen it, sign up in the subscribe box for your free copy.

Build a Positive and Confident View of yourself and your abilities. Instead of focusing on what you have lost or can no longer do, try to write a short list of specific behaviors that you can do. We all judge ourselves too much by external accomplishments. Cancer can force you to look at yourself and redefine goals and define what is truly important. What skills and behaviors have you developed that you never thought you could accomplish?

Accept that Change is a Part of Living. As much as we all want things to stay the same, nothing does. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of your cancer. Accepting those things that cannot change can help you focus on what is possible and what you can change.

Find Positive Ways to Reduce Stress. Exercise is a great way to release tension. You may have to alter your exercise based on your physical condition, but moving your body is vital. Choose whatever works for you- it may be walking, yoga, or dancing to some great music . You may have to sit to stretch, but the goal is to MOVE. It is a wonderful metaphor to move your life force forward. Humor and laughter also reduce stress. Look for funny movies or notice the funny wonderful things that children and pets do. Humor is the shortest distance between two people. Laughter is good for your health. It can stimulate the immune system, relax muscles and help you refocus when in pain. It is a form of exercise- an inner jogging. But remember you still need some physical activity!! You also need positive ways to relax your mind and body- remember focusing on your breath is the easiest quickest way to slow down both your mind and body.

Take Care of Yourself. This involves not only taking care of your body, but paying attention to your mind and spirit. Life can be like a bank account. If you do not make some deposits, you can’t continue to make withdrawals. Taking care of yourself is not selfish – it‘s finding ways to manage your needs in order to live more fully, honestly and full engaged with those around you. It may mean learning how to say no and setting limits with others. You may need outside help in learning how to do this, but it is an important part of your healing journey.

Build A Hopeful Outlook. Hope is essential to life. Although you have had cancer and life has changed, there still is room for hope. Hope needs to change as the circumstances of our life changes. Take some time and write down what you hope for now at this point in your life. It may be different than before Cancer, but having a hopeful vision builds meaning and purpose. Make sure you look at the article on the website on Understanding Hope

Look and Learn from the Past. Because each of you is unique with your own experiences and sources of personal strength, it may be helpful to ask yourself some of these questions. By looking at the past, you can discover what has been effective in helping you cope before in your life. Consider:

  • What kinds of events have been stressful for me in the past?
  • How did these events affect me?
  • Who has been supportive of me in the past when I had a difficult time?
  • What have I learned about myself and how I relate with others during difficult times?
  • How have I overcome obstacles in the past?
  • What has helped me feel more hopeful about the future?

Finding the Right Balance for Yourself and Decide- 

  • When you need to experience strong emotions or when you will need to avoid them to function
  • When you deal directly with problems or when you need to step back, rest and renew your strength
  • When you need others around you or when you need to be alone to take care of yourself
  • When you need others or when you need to rely on yourself to get through a tough time

Know When you Need Professional Help. There is no need to feel you must be on this journey alone. There are many resources available to you. Some of you will find support in cancer support groups in your local community or online. There are many books available which can motivate you to find the coping skills you need. There are also licensed mental health professionals who can provide assistance in helping you if you are struggling to find your emotional balance. Contact your doctor or local mental health association for a referral. See the information on this website for the kinds of therapy that are available. Knowing what you need will help you find the best person to help you navigate this Journey Beyond the Diagnosis.

Resiliency is a Skill that can be learned. Start with one small step.

Clinical Psychologist