NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Resilience: Tips on Coping with Life's Inevitable Ups and Downs

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to talk to a friend's elderly mother about her resilience and I wrote about it in my blog post called Resilience: Bouncing Back From Life's Challenges.

Today, I would like to focus on the topic of resilience and provide some tips on how you can learn to become more resilient so you can cope with life's inevitable ups and downs.

Resilience: Tips on Coping With Life's Ups and Downs

Tips on Coping With Life's Ups and Downs:
Manage Your Stress:  Stress is an inevitable part of life.  It's important that you manage your stress so that you don't become overwhelmed by being in a constant state of stress.  Here are some suggestions:
  • Exercise Regularly: Whether your regular exercise is walking, stretching, running, going to the gym, taking an exercise class or doing yoga, regular exercise that's the right level for you and that you enjoy can make all the difference in managing your stress and elevating your mood.
  • Meditate:  Spending at least a few minutes a day meditating can also help relieve stress.  There are many different ways to meditate.  I usually teach my psychotherapy clients to do a meditation called the Safe Place meditation (also called the Relaxing Place meditation).  See my blog article:  Wellness: Safe Place Meditation for more details on how you can learn to do relatively simple, enjoyable meditation.
  • Use Humor to Have Fun:  Most people don't usually equate psychotherapy with having fun, but in my blog article, Humor Can Be an Effective Tool in Psychotherapy, I discuss how many of my clients, who are starting to feel better, can often see the humorous side of a situation that they might not have been able to see before.  When it's used in a tactful way, humor can be an effective way of managing stress and building a sense of resilience.  A sense of humor can be a great source of inner strength and fun.
  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle:  Eating nutritiously, getting enough sleep, and reducing your alcohol intake are all part of a healthy lifestyle.  In a prior blog article, Tips For Self Care for Caregivers, I discuss the importance of self care. The article focuses on caregivers, but most of the tips that I give can apply to anyone.
  • Keep Things in Perspective:  Ask yourself:  How many times have you worried about a particular problem only to find that the problem isn't as bad as you thought?  Worrying about the problem didn't help, and it might have actually gotten in the way of your being able to problem solve.  Being able to keep things in perspective can help you become more aware of what's really important to you and what's not.  Sometimes, you have to let go of certain things that, in the long run, really aren't that important.  In my blog article, Accepting the Things You Cannot Change and Having the Courage to Change the Things You Can, I discuss this important concept which is a central part of most recovery programs.  In my blog article, Are You Overreacting to Routine Disappointments?, I discuss how you can learn to let go of routine disappointments so you're not constantly overreacting.
  • Find Meaning in Your Life:  In my blog article, A Search For a Meaningful Life, I discuss Victor Frankl, a psychoanalyst who was developed Logotherapy and who has been an inspiration to millions of people.  Dr. Frankl was a holocaust survivor.  Even at the lowest point in his life while he was in a Nazi concentration camp and he thought his beloved wife was probably dead, he found meaning in the every day things of life.  His attitude was that although his captors could imprison his body, they couldn't imprison his mind. Finding meaning in your life is often a matter of becoming more aware of the things you have to be grateful for, even in the midst of adversity.  Most of us have never had to go through the ordeals that Victor Frankl endured, so it's worthwhile to ask yourself what you're focusing on:  Do you tend to focus on the negative to the exclusion of seeing the positive things in your life?
  • Stay Connected With Your Emotional Support System:  Having supportive friends and family can make a tremendous difference when it comes to managing stress.  Talking about things that are bothering you can help alleviate stress.  At the same time, it's important to choose wisely when it comes to talking about your problems.  You want to choose people that you trust and that you know have your best interests at heart.

A Short Scenario of Being Resilient and Coping With Life's Ups and Downs:

Mary is a friend who is a hospital emergency room social worker.  She has one of the most stressful jobs you can have in health care, and she's been doing this job for over 15 years.  Everyday she deals with a steady stream of patients who are in crisis either physically or mentally.

Mary told me that she has seen many other ER social workers with a lot less time on the job who have crashed and burned under the unrelenting stress.  So, I asked her how she has been able to deal with her stressful job at the same time that she is raising a family, and the things she told me are the same tips that I've provided above.

First:  Mary starts everyday by either going to the gym or going for a long walk before she gets to her job.  On the days when she doesn't have time to get to the gym, she gets off the subway one stop before her regular train stop and walks the rest of the way.  It takes her an extra 15 minutes, but she feels it's worth it in terms of managing her stress.

Second:  During her lunch hour, she finds an empty office and listens to guided meditation recordings that help her to relax.  She told me, "I can feel my whole body start to relax as I listen to the meditation and feel myself being transported to a relaxing place in my mind."

Third:  Mary told me that it's very tempting, especially when she's busy, to grab whatever junk food she  might find at the lobby news stand, but she makes sure she brings a healthy lunch with her so she's not tempted to eat junk, which might be momentarily gratifying, but will make eventually pack on the pounds.

Fourth:  Mary and her colleagues spend time, even if it's a few minutes, talking about their day.  They also usually find something funny to joke about to relieve stress.

Fifth:  Mary has a lot of good close friends that she talks to on a regular basis.  She has even maintained college friendships. She has also developed new friendships among colleagues.  She has one of the best emotional support systems of all the people that I know.

Sixth:  Since Mary has been a competent ER social worker for a long time, so she has a good sense of her self worth.  Even when she might be dealing with a difficult administrator, she maintains her cool and keeps her sense of perspective.

There are times when there are fatalities in the ER, which are difficult for everyone.  But Mary has learned to deal with these traumatic incidents by asking herself if she did everything possible that she could to help the patient.  If she knows she did everything she could, she doesn't blame herself.  She and her colleagues also support one another through those difficult times.

Seventh:  Last, but not least, Mary finds a lot of meaning in her personal life as well as in her career.  On most days, she feels grateful for the loving people and good things in her life.  Although she isn't part of a formal religion, she has a sense of spirituality in nature, and she tries to be in nature as often as possible because she finds it nurturing.

Mary has had plenty of adversity in her life, but she has developed the capacity to bounce back because of her resilience and her strong support system.

Getting Help in Therapy
Not everyone is as fortunate as Mary to have developed resilience and have a strong support system.  Many people are struggling on their own and they haven't developed the resilience to deal with life's adversity.

Even people who have a strong support system often find that there are times in their lives when they need the help of a licensed mental health practitioner.

If you feel overwhelmed by your problems, rather than struggling on your own, you could benefit from seeing a licensed psychotherapist who has experience helping clients to become more resilient so they can overcome their problems.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  

I work with individual adults and couples, and I have helped many psychotherapy clients to overcome their problems so they can lead more fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.