Courtesy, Michael Edelstein
Source: Courtesy, Michael Edelstein

Michael Edelstein is a psychotherapist and my friend. I have been amazed at how well he’s coping with his wife having serious cancer and cardiovascular disease. In hopes there might be lessons for us all, I asked him how he does it. He described seven keys:

1. Loving her. I’m lucky I married someone I came to deeply love. There are so many things about her that I find lovable: We have a perspective on life that is different from most people’s: We’re so in sync about politics, the generations’ culture, music, literature, and movies.

2. Acceptance of the situation. As the Stoics urge, I accept rather than rebel against reality. That helps me deal with it rather than give myself a hard time. Of course, I don’t like that Janice has lymphoma and is living with the aftermath of a stroke but I think of them not as problems but challenges: What can I do to help her cope and even improve? When I help, I feel good and that adds to my resilience.

3. Looking forward. I don’t allow myself to dwell on the past, like “This is what Janice used to be able to do and now can’t." Rather, I think of each day as a baseline and about how we can move forward from here.

4.  Daily, writing 3-minute exercises  Per Albert Ellis’s Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, you identify the thinking that’s dragging you down: “I must solve this. It’s going to be a catastrophe. My whole life is a mess.” Then I write why such demands, awfulizing, and too-global evaluations are wrong. I don’t feel better as I’m writing those three-minute exercises but over time, the positive ideas become more top-of-mind.

4. Scheduling my time with Janice. Each morning, I tell Janice, “I can give you two or three hours today but I also need hours to do my work."That starts a conversation. As a result, I get a sense of what Janice expects of me that day. If, instead of that, I just play it by ear, I end up spending all my time with Janice and don’t get my own stuff done.

5. Home care. I hire people who specialize in home care of people with limitations. I find them using I just put up a little blurb like, “I’m seeking someone to help my wife with household chores, cooking, and shopping.” I don’t find working with agencies at all useful.

6. Support from friends and relatives. I find it very helpful and supportive to have friends who are interested and I can talk with about the situation.  It helps to feel I’m not in this alone.

7. Keeping myself healthy. If I had significant physical or mental problems, I couldn’t be there for Janice. So I get enough sleep, exercise, and eat a plant-based diet. I regularly step out of my situation with Janice so I’m not constantly immersed in it. I speak with and get together with friends. As a couple, we get together with other couples. I go for a run daily, listen to lectures live or on YouTube, and engage in my passions: political economy, nutrition, and music, mainly classical.

The takeaway

None of this is magical or even surprising but sometimes being reminded of common-sense tactics can be more effective than esoteric models.

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at

You are reading

How To Do Life

Thoughts on Action Versus Reflection

My answer to a relative's question.

Foiling Dishonest Job Seekers

Advice for employers and job hunters.

A Fresh Start Yet Again

A short-short story about passivity, resilience, and change.