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Mental Health and Goal Setting

People facing critical or terminal illnesses often find themselves emotionally grappling with their condition.

Confronting mortality is incredibly difficult, especially when accompanied by the aches and pains of physical illness. No one wants to be in this position, but we must confront our mortality. 

In popular discourse, the “five stages” of coping described by psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are frequently invoked.  They include:



Bargaining (i.e., an attempt to avoid the cause of the grief)



Kubler-Ross’ insights certainly resonate with many people.  Yet as she herself noted, the process of coping does not progress in a linear manner. People coping with illness or loss can experience it as a roller-coaster going in many different directions. Moreover, as other mental health experts have noted, many people do not undergo these feelings or experience them as “stages.” Some will not experience all of them while others will feel them to different degrees. Many will feel them concomitantly. Coping with illness is not always an either/or experience. Some, for example, may feel both acceptance and denial at the same time in a way that allows them to build up resilience. 

Most importantly, coping does not have to be a passive experience; we can confront our mortality in a way that allows us to maximize a sense of hope and meaning till our last days.

Healthcare research shows that in all circumstances, including harsh medical conditions, a person’s spirit can be energized by focusing on the present moment to establish plausible goals, create pathways to reach those goals, and set out on such a journey.

When you divide the magnitude of illness this way, the uncertainty of the future becomes navigable. It means living in and being fulfilled by what we have in the present. Some call this “hope.” Others call it finding “meaning” or “fulfillment.”  Whatever one calls it, it’s a critical component to positively confront and experience aging, illness, and end of life. Goal setting can be a critical piece of maintaining one’s quality-of-life and strengthening the mental health of patients and their loved ones.

Ematai encourages people at all stages in the aging process to establish such goals. Our organization collaborates with healthcare professionals and other organizations to provide programming and resources that strengthen the resilience of patients, families, and our broader community. 

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