By Richelle Gregory
Issue: September 2022
In this issue of Strictly Business which focuses on Restoration Health, I would like to concentrate on the behavioral health term “resiliency” which means to recover or to spring back into shape. Similar to physical health, behavioral health is a spectrum that can fluctuate throughout your lifetime. There may be moments when you may need to “spring back” from a stressful situation such as a deadline or a temporary change in circumstances. There may be other times when you may need a period of recovery, after the loss of a loved one or a traumatic event. Some experiences may create a behavioral health diagnosis that needs management, where symptoms or treatments need to be adjusted or monitored throughout your lifetime.
Stress, an everyday part of our lives can have a major impact on us. Since it is something we all have to live with it is important to build resiliency. Some stress may be helpful and can provide motivation to meet a deadline, be on time or change our behavior. At the other end of the spectrum, stress can be toxic and detrimental to our well-being if we are continually exposed without intervention. The constant exposure to stress leads to a buildup in our body of stress chemicals. Long-term exposure to these chemicals is what is called toxic stress. If you experience toxic stress over a significant period, you may experience negative impacts on your physical health, your ability to learn and overall life potential.
There are regular practices and activities that can strengthen and improve your mental/emotional well-being and overall ability to cope with all stresses in your life. These practices are known to decrease stress chemicals in your body, buffering their long-term negative consequences. With continued practice and incorporating these activities into your routine, you can create a greater sense of well-being. You will see fewer negative impacts from day-to-day stresses and recover sooner from life-altering trauma.
Daily buffering practices that are helpful in managing stress include:
• Breathing (slow and controlled)
• Mindfulness (being present)
• Body-based practices such as yoga
• Breaking a sweat (anything that releases energy such as dancing)
• Structure and routines
• Filtering of stress (limiting expose to negative influences, for example, the news)
In addition, there are important areas that may take longer to cultivate and maintain that are important for resiliency. Developing and maintaining emotional regulation, healthy relationships and community connections are all foundational to long term stress reduction and better mental health. Developing these areas of your life and being cognizant of the overall influence they have on your well-being makes it worth the effort to take time to develop these areas in a meaningful way.
Emotional regulation is the ability to control your emotions and not let your emotions control you. It is about taking the time to understand what triggers you and planning healthy responses. The first step is to identify the emotion: Are you angry, frustrated or experiencing anxiety? Maybe you have more than one emotion. Once you identify the emotion, you can spend some time understanding it by asking questions such as:
• Where is the emotion coming from?
• What is the purpose of my emotion?
• What is it trying to tell me about myself?
• Is this emotion helpful?
• How does my body respond to this emotion? (Anger: pounding heartbeat, sweaty palms)
After you have answered some of these questions, you can go back and utilize some of the daily buffering techniques you have been practicing. When the emotion has subsided and the moment has passed, you can explore even more long-term changes that will mitigate and create sustained regulation. The more you practice, the better you will become. You will find the little things no longer stress you out and you are building your skill to tackle bigger issues.
When building relationships, we need to spend time and cultivate connection with those who are in our inner circles. As you spend time with those close to you, avoid negativity and engage in conversations or activities that boost self-worth. Equally important is our relationships with ourselves. Practice and model good self-care with rest, breathing, mindfulness, good food, and exercise.
We need to connect to our community and create a sense of belonging. We need to check in with each other and take the time to create social supports. Social support could be found at your workplace, an on-line group, face timing with friends, donating to charity, or volunteering. The important thing is to feel connected and that you are contributing in a meaningful way. Being connected will help create perspective and give you purpose.
Richelle Gregory is the Director of Clinton County Mental Health and Addiction Services