Episode 63 Cope Ahead

May 26, 2023

Good morning from New York City. I’ve been having many conversations of late with friends who are dealing with parents whose lives have been turned upside down through illness, the loss of their spouse, the loss of mental faculties, their ability to drive, or the residual artifacts from Covid that can be isolation or paranoia about allowing people into their home.So I hear a lot of different stories about how people are coping, how they’ve gotten support, how they’ve managed tough conversations with a parent or a sibling, and I try to share them with other friends, right? That can be anything from how to introduce a helper into the house, someone who comes to do some chores and sort of nudging along, or bringing along a relationship that can serve as the parent begins to need more help.

There are many examples I can give, but the one I’m going to share today which I think is really great is this language my friend Dana uses. She talks about coping ahead and I just love that. Cope ahead. It’s a terrific hack and it doesn’t have to be about an aging parent. It’s really about when we go into those situations that can be – I don’t know –  summer holidays, a Sunday lunch, visiting family, or getting yourself into a conversation or situation with someone who you know is going to ask a question that irritates you. Whatever it may be. She talks about coping ahead and it’s a terrific awareness practice. It’s like when you know in advance that something’s going to irritate you and frustrate you, or send you reeling, coping ahead is about thinking in advance how you want to behave, what your options are, and how you’re going to respond. I just think it’s such a great one.

When I say it’s an awareness hack, what I mean is that it reminds us that we have a choice about how we respond. We can be intentional about how to change the dynamic in a fraught situation and sometimes that can be removing ourselves from the table, or simply anticipating whatever it is. It’s about deciding in advance or remembering that we have a choice how we respond, and/or consciously choosing to redirect our energy and avoid victim mode or blaming and bringing the locus of control back. It really can help us lighten up and reduce the anticipatory frustration or grievances or whatever it is.

So, what is it that triggers you that you can use this hack of coping ahead? What are you facing? It could be your child coming home from college, or a trip or a Sunday meal with your family. Coping ahead gives us a greater sense of agency, more resilience, and sometimes simply more calm.

So where can you cope ahead? I’ll leave you with that thought. Until next time, from my heart to yours.

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