The ability to face adversity and “roll with the punches” is a skill that people can strengthen.
That was the key message from Dallas Dralle, a therapist with Infinite Mindcare, at a free talk at Books & Books on Oct. 20.
“Resiliency doesn’t lessen the actual stressor,” Dralle said. “But if we change our resilience, we can lessen their impact.”
THE ROLE OF STRESS
When a person’s expectations are not being met in a situation, it creates stress, Dralle said.
She said there are two types of stress: “distress” is negative, such as when a person experiences anxiety or suffering; “eustress” is positive, such as when a person rises to the occasion and learns a new skill.
Dralle said there is also difference between risks and protective factors. For instance, a person may be born with a predisposition to health risks such as heart disease. By being aware, that individual can prepare for that potential risk. The same thing applies to mental health. The more aware we are, the better we can manage the risks.
People should also be aware if a stress is short term and acute, such as being stuck in traffic, or if it is long term and chronic, such as not having a positive work environment.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is another concern for those who have suffered from trauma and abuse. It can take the form of flashbacks, destructive thoughts and bad dreams. However, growth is possible. Post Trauma Growth is a theory that positive psychological change can be experienced as a result of adversity.
Adverse Childhood Experiences can also have an impact on how individuals cope with stress. Such experiences can take the form of verbal, physical or sexual abuse; neglect; or in creating a dysfunctional household that has toxic stress in the environment.
LEARNING HOW TO GROW AND THRIVE
Dralle asked her audience how they dealt with stress. People cited a number of ways, including meditation, exercise and journaling. One woman said she dances with her dog. These methods are all good, Dralle said, explaining however that one of the most protective ways to deal with stress is our perspective and mindset. For example, one way to change our perspective is to consider what we might say to a friend in a stressful situation and apply that to ourselves. Another is to be aware of what is actually in our control and what is not.
“If we are expecting to have more control, we may be frustrated.”
It is also very important to have self care so that we can be positive for those around us, Dralle said. “Parents need to be the healthiest, happiest version of themselves for their kids.”
Being positive does not always mean ignoring negative feelings or experiences; it means though that we seek out lessons or positives within the situation while still validating our experiences, thoughts and feelings, Dralle said. She encouraged the audience to look at every adversity as an opportunity.
“What are you able to learn? How can you use this as a time to develop some skills? How can I use this to help myself?” she said. “This approach will help us grow and thrive.”
Our relationships and having someone we trust and can turn to is also critical. Having a strong, stable, nurturing person around children, for example, helps enable them to be resilient, Dralle said, adding that it is perfectly fine if a person’s inner circle of trusted people is small.
“It’s not about quantity; it’s about quality.”
Having self-esteem can also be important. Dralle said one of her favourite images is that of a cat looking in the mirror and seeing a lion.
“This is an amazing image. It represents resilience and self-esteem.”
Getting exercise, adequate sleep and good nutrition makes a huge difference as well.
“There is a link between our gut, mind and mood,” Dralle said. “We all go for comfort food at the end of a busy week, but using food as a soother for stress is not a healthy way to deal with stress in the moment.”
Laughter is another way to change your mood. Dralle encouraged her audience to find excuses to laugh, to watch funny videos or take a laughter yoga class.
People should also be aware when their coping strategies are not positive. For example, if having a drink after work or binging on Netflix with drinks in hand is our go-to strategy when we are stressed, we should look at other ways.
Dralle emphasised that being resilient doesn’t mean we don’t have negative feelings or need to be numb to everything. Rather, it is going through the emotions and it is a conscious mindset shift. She said that dealing with stress is something most people have to face on a daily basis, whether it comes from work, being stuck in traffic or a bad situation from our past. The good news, she said, is there can be a positive outcome from dealing with stress if we learn to roll with the punches.