I don’t have a lot of social media accounts, and I rarely post anything myself, but when I saw the types of post that @lizlistens was making, I quickly added her. She has a way of creating actionable, meaningful, and easy to understand content. The one that caught my eye recently was about helping our loved ones through stress. The strategies that she was suggested were clear and direct.
Helping loved ones through stress
What Not To Do
What To Do
These are great strategies that I continue to practice when speaking with a stressed family member, friend or co-worker. But sometimes, I run into this issue: I’m not able to find a person who can offer this to me when I’m the one who is in a stressful situation.
A few weeks ago, I was experiencing a personal stressor. I was doing pretty well with dealing with it but I still felt off balance. I decided to go to a friend who I felt would understand the most because they know my story and have offered good support around this topic in the past. Instead, they began to escalate the situation and offering their opinion that had nothing to do with how I felt or what I was going through. It just added more stress and made me feel even less stable than before I spoke to them.
I’ve experienced this scenario with other people enough to know that whatever was motivating my friend to act that way had nothing to do with me or my situation. That is something I’ve noticed - that often, when my bids for support and connection are not answered, it’s usually because it’s triggering for the other person or they simply don’t know how to help but attempt to anyway.
I get it, though, because I’ve been that person who wasn’t in a position to help because the situation was too much for me. When someone else’s stress is pulling out strong emotions from me and my feelings are becoming muddled with their experience, I’ve had to say (in non-emergency situations) “hey, this is really hitting too close to home for me right now, I need a little bit of a break. I’m so sorry I can’t help right now.”
So what do you do when the people you reach out to can’t offer the support described in the first post above? How can you help yourself through stressful times?
Self-Talk Tips for Helping Yourself Through Stressful Times
If you’ve recently reach out to someone for support and received a response along the veins of the second post above, first acknowledge the fact that you were brave to reach out, go you! You took a risk and it just didn’t pay off this time. That is okay. While it adds to our pain when we do not receive the support that we are reaching out for, we can learn how to acknowledge our attempt and the outcome without it being the final straw. Instead, we can move on to help ourselves.
When my ask for support has gone wrong, I ask myself what was I looking for that person to help me with. Get perspective? Say it’s okay? Validate my decision? Give me a hug?
And then I try to offer that to myself. It might sound strange, but I have hugged myself before and you know what, it’s better than no hug at all. It works and it’s self-soothing :)
Most of the time, I had been looking for validation. So I’ve learned to validate myself in those moments. If I was worried that my joke that bombed during a staff meeting, I remind myself that I’m not required to be “100%” all the time. If I needed them to validate a personal decision, I remind myself that my way of doing things (as long as I’m not hurting other people) is valid even if it’s not the mainstream choice.
If I needed perspective on the situation, like being paranoid about having a less than stellar conversation with someone and thinking that they hate me now, I put myself in the “observer seat” and I give myself perspective from the outside - what would a reasonable person who is on the outside of this situation say?
And most of all, I check my inner dialogue. Am I speaking to myself in the way that the first post above describes or the second one. I talk to myself and say things like:
“I have a point.”
“It makes so much sense that I’m furious.”
“What do I think about this?”
If I hear myself criticizing myself, shaming, or minimizing my problems, I know I’ve taken a wrong turn. I need to make a U-turn and go back to the phrases above and reach out to my inner resources.
We are social by nature and we all need a social support network that can answer our bids for support and connection. There are times, however, when we can’t get that and we need to be able to help ourselves. Good news is that we can all learn these skills and improve our inner dialogue.
Let’s practice, follow this link for a short meditation for inner peace.
Till next time,
Wishing you ease, joy and safety.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.