stress management

Enhancing Resilience

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resilience-pic (Photo Credit: Danielle Kambrey)

By Dr. Jennie Lorena Thomas

Most of us may not like to be reminded of this, as being human means we will face pain at some points during our journey through this world. Unfortunately, we cannot avoid this life’s truth no matter who we are. Fortunately, we now know that the sooner you internalize this truth and grieve your losses, the happier, less stressed, and healthier you will feel and live.

Thus, while you journey towards this truth, let me reinforce the truth of the strength our resilient spirit is capable. This spirit or energy essence can allow us to stand up to, and breathe through any adversity; it allows us to shine both inside and out. In fact, Change Basics (Russell and Russel, 2006) contains resiliency tips that solidify this point.

  • Proactive people actively engage change and shape their own vision, keep their locus of control focused internally, preserve their self-efficacy, have a strong self-confidence and self- assurance, and are aware that their choices influence their response to challenges
  • Develop a personal meaning and vision so they have a clear belief and vision of what they want to create. They allow that purpose to propel them forward, so when adversity approaches, they can see it through hopeful eyes as a possible opportunity and stay focused on the larger more realistic view of life beyond it
  • They nurture interpersonal competence, our ability to truly empathize with others, thus magnifying their social awareness and interpersonal efficacy
  • They remain flexible and adaptable by staying aware of what’s happening around them so they can then make sensible adjustments in response.
  • They take a moment to think before acting. The more you practice the skill of organizing your thoughts and feelings; the result tends to yield an inner focus and outward stability. (Prioritizing to-do lists, and then following that prioritization, will enable you to manage your time effectively)
  • Strive to problem solve by analyzing and breaking down complex challenges to discover and explore their root causes. Recognize and clearly define the interdependence of these challenges within the larger system, and then set manageable goals.
  • Connection with community is important in attracting healthy caring and supportive relationships that create love and trust, provide effective mentors, and offer encouragement and reassurance. This is a foundation for continued personal efficacy.

 

Ways to Strengthen Resilience

After reading through these examples, perhaps select one tip a day and work with it a bit. For example, take the flexibility concept and consciously work on growing your awareness of your surroundings for a day. See the ways you’re less flexible and perhaps choose to let that some of that rigidity go. Alternatively, be that problem-solver for a day by taking a problem and breaking it into its constituent parts, then analyze how the parts fit together, and see how your various responses can be part of the problem and solution. Just observe how things can become more manageable. And add an extra kick of self-confidence to your day. Speak from your belly, look people in the eye, straighten your spine and put your shoulders back a bit. Feel yourself grow taller.

What everyone needs to know is that we actually have access to everything we need for a balanced life: awareness, determination, vision, creativity, love, passion, faith, and intuition. These human endowments begin to be realized when we focus on them, and they come into full bloom when we let them ripple through us, further building our innate resilience.

Admittedly, the journey as life students is sometimes arduous, often working full-time, and/or going to school while taking care of our families, maintaining ourselves, working to complete our degrees, get that position, that promotion, or that bonus. Let me now acknowledge each of you—great job for your hard work and continued effort. Keep smiling and know you are not alone.

 


References

Mary K. Alvord, PhD, Director, Group Therapy Center at Alvord, Baker, and Associates, LLC, Silver Spring, MD

Robin Gurwitch, PhD, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Russell and Russel, (2006) Measuring Employee Resilience, Published in the 2006 Pfeiffer Annual Training

Jana Martin, PhD, private practice, Long Beach, CA; (2003) President of the California Psychological Association

Ronald S. Palomares, PhD, Assistant Executive Director, Practice, American Psychological Association

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Self Compassion

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beyourself (Photo Credit: Thich Nhat Hanh, Calligraphy)

By Christine Brady, MA

When was the last time you recall hearing something like the following; “I can’t believe that you did that, what an idiot, you are so stupid, you always mess everything up.” Would you be surprised to know that many people speak to themselves like this on a daily basis?

While most of us would never dream of saying something so toxic to others we may have no problem speaking to ourselves this way. It may seem natural to respond with compassion and empathy to others that may be struggling while at the same time we may choose not to extend that same consideration to ourselves. It’s as if we believe that by coming down hard on ourselves we will somehow improve our performance.

Life naturally includes challenges and setbacks. We can add to the impact of intense events in our lives by colluding with an internalized bully. Constantly ruminating about past mistakes, current errors, and potential future gaffs keeps you out of the present moment and can exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship problems, and difficulty in recovering from setbacks.

Developing a sense of self-compassion isn’t merely positive thinking or repeating mantras in an attempt to quiet your internal bully, it is based in the relationship that we have with ourselves. Self-compassion is the willingness to treat ourselves with the same caring support that we extend to others.

Self-compassion balances the truth of a situation such as “I made a mistake” with the ability to realize that making a mistake does not diminish your worth and value. This allows you to both acknowledge what happened directly while avoiding the feelings of shame that can lead to feelings of hopelessness, thereby increasing the level of difficulty in finding solutions.

Self-compassion is a skill that allows us to navigate our humanness with objectivity, empathy, understanding, and kindness. It is a way in which we can relate to ourselves both when we’re struggling and when things are going well. This compassionate view of ourselves brings light to the dark places, soothes the soul, and provides a safe space for imagining creative solutions to everyday problems.

The following is adapted from KimFredrickson.com (2015) We All Need Kindness, Identifying Self-Compassionate Ways that we can relate to Ourselves.

Truths We Can Share with Ourselves

    • You are valuable and precious, no matter what is happening
    • Even in the suffering you are going through, you are valuable and of great worth
    • Most people do the best they can with what they have. It is true that we want to live as healthy lives as possible, and it is also true that there are deep reasons why we make choices that can cause us harm
    • It is ok, and normal to be angry, confused, sad, and all jumbled up inside. These feelings are a normal and necessary part of the process of adjusting to what you are going through
    • Allow yourself to have and express your feelings if possible, because this expression cleanses and will subside
    • No matter what is happening, you can be a good friend to yourself
    • Take this time to allow your body/mind/spirit to heal. This is just as important as other things you need to do. Make sure care of yourself is in your schedule
    • Listen to yourself (your heart, feelings, thoughts, body, and spirit). What do you need right now? What would a really good friend do for you right now? You can be that friend
    • You are going through such a difficult time. What would the kindest person you know say to you right now?
    • Give yourself time to have a good cry and sleep. This may be just what you need
    • Breathe….and Rest…and be Kind…to You!

References

Fredrickson, K. (2015, November 19). We all need kindness. [web log post] Retrieved December 4, 2015 from http://www.kimfredrickson.com/we-all-need-kindness/

Fredrickson, K. (2015). Give yourself a break turning your inner critic into a compassionate friend. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

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School Refusal Solutions for Parents and Teachers

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school kid

By Christine Brady, M.A.,
Intern of Marriage & Family Therapy

What parent among us has not experienced the plaintive pleas of little ones, their little voices crying out, “I don’t want to go to school!” Sometimes these requests are due to vague physical complaints such as, “I don’t feel good”, or “My tummy hurts”. Other times, the range of reasons can vary from mean teachers to lack of friends, or perhaps an exam is scheduled for that day. For a lot of children these occurrences are few and far between. For others, this is a pattern which seems to happen almost daily, increasing family stress, and causing harried parents to count down the days until graduation (a daunting task if your child is in elementary school).  School refusal, if left unchecked, this pattern can escalate lead to chronic lateness, repeated absences, and consequences from truancy officials at school.

Consistently truant children often attempt to conceal their absence from parents and spend their day away from home while children typically termed as school refusers tend to stay home during all or part of the day with parental knowledge. School refusing children commonly become upset at the prospect of going to school and may show signs of fearfulness, crying, temper tantrums, unexplained physical symptoms, or other behaviors, such as stalling, missing the bus, or oversleeping. Children who are refusing to attend school may be attempting to avoid a fearful experience. Being bullied, the structure and discipline of the school setting are common reasons for avoidance. Another motivation for school refusal could be pursuing a positive experience like staying at home with access to video games, access to the internet, or gaining parental concern or attention.

School refusers can have anxiety around specific situations such as the bus ride, cafeteria, restrooms, or locker rooms thereby increasing the desire to avoid school. A child may or may not be able to identify their specific fear, only knowing that they don’t want to be at school because it makes them feel awful. Another group of school refusers may find the social or performance aspects of school such as interactions with peers, writing on the board, being called on in class, tests, or performance classes such as PE make the prospect of attending school frighteningly unbearable. Some children experience school as a place where they are constantly reminded that they are not good enough to achieve at a normal level, let alone, excel.

Dr. Haarman further relates in his book, School Refusal Behaviors, that the most important factor in increasing the likelihood of success with children who can’t or won’t go to school is to return to school as soon as possible. The longer the child avoids a normal school day routine, the more difficult and traumatic it will be to return to school.  A viable starting point for the effective exposure therapy of the child returning to regular school attendance may be to build tolerance to the anxiety provoking activity by attending some portion of the school day whether attending particular classes for a limited time period, or certain days until the child’s anxiety returns to near normal levels. This may require cooperation of school administration, such as a modified schedule change, a teacher change, or allowing the child to arrive late or leave early.

Treatment of School Refusal

This chart is adapted from research conducted by Kearney and Albano, identifies a number of possible intervention strategies most suited for each of the four types of school refusers.
Function Treatment Components
(crying, nausea, distress, sadness, and various phobias, i.e. bathrooms, cafeteria, teachers, bullies, etc.) Somatic control exercises such as breathing retraining and muscle relaxation

Gradual re-exposure to school

Reduce physical symptoms and anticipatory anxiety

Self-reinforcement, self-talk, self-esteem

To escape aversive social and evaluative situations (social phobia, test anxiety, shyness, lack of social skills) Role play restructuring of negative self-talk

Gradual exposure to real life situations

Social skills training and reduction of social anxiety

Coping strategy templates

To get attention  (tantrums, crying, clinging, separation anxiety) Parent training in contingency management

Clear parental messages

Evening and morning routines

Use of consequences for compliance/noncompliance

For positive tangible reinforcement  (lack of structure or rules, free access to reinforcement, avoidance of limits) Family contingency contracting to increase rewards for attending school and decrease the rewards for missing school

Curtail social and other activities for nonattendance

Alternative problem solving


References and Further Reading:

Albano, A.M., Chorpita, B.F., & Barlow, D.H. (2003). Childhood anxiety disorders. In E. Marsh and R. Barkley (Eds.), Child psychopathology (279-330).New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

Berg, I. (1996). School avoidance, school phobia, and truancy. In: M. Lewis (ed.), Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins.

Berg, I. (1997). School refusal and truancy. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 76, 90-91

Bernstein, G.A., Helter, J.M., Burckhardt  C.M., & McMillan, M.H. (2001). Treatment of school refusal: one-year follow-up. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40, 206–213.

Broadwin, I.T. (1932). A contribution to the study of Truancy. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2, 253-259.

Coolidge, J.C., Hahn, P.B., & Peck, A.L. (1957). School Phobia: Neurotic crisis or way of life? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 27,296-306.

Dube, S.R. & Orpinas, P. (2009). Understanding excessive school absenteeism as school refusal behavior. Children and Schools, 31(2) 87-95.

Duckworth, K. & deBug, J. (1989). Inhibiting class cutting among high school students. High School Journal, 72, 188-195.

Evans, L.D. (2000). Functional School Refusal Subtypes: Anxiety, avoidance, and malingering. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 37(2), 183-191.

Fremont, W. P. (2003). School refusal in children and adolescents. American Family Physician, 68, 8, 1555-1560.

Haarman, G.B. (2012). School Refusal: Children who Can’t or Won’t go to School, Foundations: Education and Consultation Press. Louiseville, KY.

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The Compassion Door: 5 Steps to more LOVE!

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love-lines

By Leona Kashersky, Psy.D.

For the last year I have deepened my study and practice of compassion, using embodiment practices to integrate  “Lovingkindness” or “Metta” into my daily life and physical being.  My personal experience mirrors what research in the fields of transpersonal and mindfulness psychology is saying about the overall health benefits of the practice. This practice actually enhances immune  function, cardiovascular health, glucose regulation, and even improves social skills!

Metta can be loosely defined as love and compassion for the self and others. Researchers are learning that practicing lovingkindness or metta has objective and observable emotional, physical, social benefits. Donald Rothberg, whose work spans over 30 years as a leading teacher and writer on transpersonal psychology, meditation, and socially engaged spiritual practice, wrote “The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World.” Both Donald Rothberg and Barbra Fredrickson have been influential in conducting and participating in research to establish evidence for the health benefits of meditation, self-love, and compassion in modern society.  Fredrickson teaches what she calls “micro-moments of love” or  “positivity resonance” in scientific lingo and in everyday language. As Fredrickson points out, compassion generates loveand love feels good! Start with yourself, and it will naturally radiate out to others near and far.

In my most recent experiences with meditation on love, compassion, and kindness I have used Metta mantras such as “rest in an awakened heart”, “safe and free from harm”, “the body supports the practice”, “surrounded by love and kindness”, in combination with movement. The pairing of movement, breath, mantra, and human connection help to assist in the integration of the compassion practice into the entire mind, body, and spirit.  Movement can include yoga, walking, and dance, including 5 Rhythms; Included are a couple of links to local favorites! The practice of movement meditation has assisted in my personal journey to embody the practice of loving kindness.

The following  techniques reduce burnout and increases positive emotion and LOVE on many different levels in the lives’ of individual people, families, and communities.  A brief and concise description of how the mantras are used are outlined below:

for HP Blog

Step 1:

Cultivate self-compassion: First, focus on the easiest person to grow compassion towards, the self. This is done by not merely reciting words or phrases, but by allowing one’s self to feel the meaning of the phrase or words during the meditation.

  1. I rest with an awakened heart
  2. May I be safe and free from harm
  3. May my body support my practice
  4. May I be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 2:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘dear one’, someone you love dearly. This may be your child, your parent, or a romantic partner, or even a pet!  This is the second easiest form of compassion to grow. As you concentrate on the meaning or feelings of phrases or words, picture the face of the dear one; allow yourself to really experience the face of this dear one. Then slowly use  following mantras. One meditation session may only focus on one of the phrases for each of these steps.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 3:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘neutral person’. This neutral person can be someone you see at Starbucks every weekday morning; however you don’t really know them. You don’t usually talk or say hello, you may just see each other in passing. You have no strong feelings towards them, neither positive or negative. Allow yourself to really imagine them in your presence, see their face in your mind’s eye. Begin the following mantras for them.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 4:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘difficult person’, someone you find challenging to feel compassion for at the moment.  The difficult person can be someone  close to you, or a someone you’ve never met, such as a political leader. Sometimes the ‘difficult person’ and the ‘dear one’ can be the same person depending on how you feel at the time. Really allow yourself to feel the presence of the difficult person before using the following mantras.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 5:

Cultivating compassion for all beings is a meditation focusing on humans, plants, animals, and the entire living planet. We continue to use the four focused mantras or phrases to do this with the following.

  1. May all beings rest with an awakened heart
  2. May all beings be safe and free from harm
  3. May all beings be free from pain and suffering
  4. May all beings be surrounded by love and kindness

 

References: 

Cultivating self-care and compassion in psychological therapists in training: the experience of practicing loving-kindness meditation. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol 7(4), Nov 2013, 267-277 Boellinghaus, Inga; Jones, FergalW.; Hutton, Jane
Effect of Kindness-Based Meditation on Health and well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Galante, Julieta; Galante, Ignacio; Bekkers, Marie-jet; Gallacher, John Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Jun 30, 2014, No Pagination Specified.

The nondiscriminating heart: Lovingkindness meditation training decreases implicit intergroup bias. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 143(3), Jun 2014, 1306-1313 Kang, Yoona; Gray, Jeremy R.; Dovidio, John F.

Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlations, and interventions. Barnard, Laura K.; Curry, John F. Review of General Psychology, Vol 15(4), Dec 2011, 289-303.

Effects of intranasal oxytocin on ‘compassion focused imagery’.  Rockliff, Helen; Karl Anke; McEwan, Kirsten; Gilbert, Jean; Matos, Marcela; Gilbert, Paul Emotion, Vol 66(8), Nov 2011, 1388-1396

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