"Stuff gets tough sometimes and we have difficult feelings and thoughts or rigidity. This process is a pretty normal brain reaction, but it is important to pay attention to when these experiences feel overwhelming, debilitating or are impacting our ability to engage in the life we want. If things are tough and you"re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out for support.
Difficult feelings are just our emotional system telling us that certain needs, expectations, or desires are not being met and we desire change, or we feel unsafe. Emotions can motivate action and help us connect with others, but sometimes can lead to responses that do not match our rational plans. When stressors hit a certain threshold, our brain flags them as a threat and our fight, flight or freeze system kicks in. We may feel a fight (anxious, rumination, difficulty disengaging or rigid in interactions), flight (avoidance, depression, engaging in numbing activities and/or isolation) and freeze (zoning out, disengagement from things you enjoy, indecision and dissociation). Additionally, in social contexts there may be another stress response, appease, which presents as ignoring your personal needs to accommodate someone else for feelings of security, decreasing the treat of harm, rejection or abandonment and intimacy. Sometimes we do this in the spirit of compromise to support someone, but if you feel like this is a pattern and has been impacting your relationships, this may be a stress response.
Grit helps us use many tools, be able to change perspective, tolerate this challenge and take steps to move forward. There may be some real threats that you may need to address. What can you do to help create safety in these situations? Find some finite options that can address the areas of threat and help you connect with your sense of autonomy. Some examples may include; calling a loved one you are worried about, making time to care for your physical health and any ailments, make space for your mental health needs, make an emergency bag, plan an evacuation route, wear a face-mask, wash your hands, vote, engage in self-reflection to address biases, support to local businesses, donate to causes, etc. Once you connect with these activities, remind yourself that you have done what you can and try to disengage from ruminating on stressors. This is where resiliency and grit begin to intersect. Each of us has a toolbox of different coping strategies. During on-going challenges, we may become aware that some of these tools may be unhealthy or, the healthy strategies may not be helping. Additionally, if you experienced trauma or hardship and overcame it, there may be certain strategies that feel connected to our larger identity. When these strategies don"t work, we may feel increased self-doubt, anxiety, depression, panic and sense of failure.
Resilience and grit can help us dig down, make space and try new approaches - which is super difficult if you are in a state of scarcity or feel unsafe. A therapist can help you reflect on your current strategies, explore their effectiveness, help you address barriers, negative self-talk and develop new tools.
While working with a therapist is an effective way to help with this process. Some may feel reservations to getting started (finding a therapist can be a lot of work and feel scary sometimes), there may not be resources available or you don"t have a confidential space for telehealth. So, these are a few suggestions to help have perspective, connect with grit and resilience.Overall, if we can be flexible in our approaches, compassionate with ourselves when we try something new - especially when it doesn"t go as anticipated, make space to address feelings of guilt/shame or self-doubt, prioritize some moments to ourselves, and be flexible in our expectations, then we can be kinder to ourselves and face these ongoing challenges and manage distress. My next blog will address some more specific steps to take charge and address distress."