We will all face tough times, adversity and tragedy at some point in our lives. Resilience is the key to being able to move through these difficult periods and focusing on key, intentional strategies is critical to becoming a victor rather than sinking into the mentality of victim.
It is hard to think that something good can come from even the worst situation, especially if you have anxiety and depression issues. When I was going through major post-partum depression after the birth of my youngest daughter I was at a loss. I wanted to bounce back and be resilient, but I didn’t know how to get there. I had several therapy sessions where I would just cry. It was embarrassing that I did not know how to get out of it. Now on the ‘other side’ of depression, I can understand what a terrible and debilitating mental health issue it is and I have so much compassion for those who deal with anxiety and depression. If there is a ‘good’ that came out of a year and a half struggle, it is that I got stronger. I no longer felt any hurt, anger, or even pity for myself. The apathy and pain that I had holding me down was that I couldn’t see a bigger picture. I had so many great things going on in my life and I KNEW it, but I couldn’t FEEL it. I wrote about it until one day, I started to feel lighter. It was a gradual awakening that I had to keep going…and going…until I felt a little more like myself every day.
Dr. Erica Kosal gives a beautiful reflection on her challenges in “When Miracles Aren’t Enough” that I would recommend any person who is dealing with a crisis to read. Hers was a struggle with a death of her late husband and raising their two children alone after he passed. Yes, that’s some heavy stuff! What’s even more powerful is that the reflection on being able to ‘pull yourself’ out of a tough time is a great lesson to anyone who is at a low point in their life. I still gravitate to positive self help books that show me that there is so many inspirational people who, like the author Dr. Erica Kosal, were able to make the most of their words, focus on their actions and understand how to navigate through a crisis. It takes a strong person to see the good in bad situations and there is a lot of hope in words for those who are facing issues like job loss, financial issues, dealing with a death or illness. I want my two girls to be strong and resilient and I am trying to show them and teach them that, even when things make you anxious or sad, that you are strong enough to overcome those things. I would hate to think that anything in their lives would make them stop in their tracks and lose their way, even for a little while, and Dr. Kosal’s inspiring book is a great way to understand how we can all see the good things in our lives, even when we struggle.
As a mom, I want to understand how to help my kids deal with their own stress. Children are often looked at as not having a care in the world, but that is far from the truth – they know when situations are not optimal and they have their own fears and issues that can be overlooked. Dr. Erica Kosal was a great person to ask about kids and stress, as someone who overcame a very difficult and dark time in her life while raising her kids. Erica’s children lost their father, while she lost her partner and we get to see their imprint on her book, which I completely respect. Braxton (age 9) wrote some songs, a poem and offers insight on lessons learned. Annalise (age 6) was the illustrator. I think it’s so important to talk to children about stressful situations and learn how to manage the stress in their own lives. Life doesn’t give us a guidebook, but people who have dealt with stress in a positive way can give us direction. The beautiful thing about life is that there are people who share their journey and give us some hope on how we can be resilient and overcome stress. I’m including a wonderful Q&A with Dr. Kosal, who shares her insight regarding children and stress as well as a link on how to purchase her book below.
Q&A with Author Dr. Erica Kosal:
- What are some tips to deal with stress? In general it is much better to be proactive in how you approach a potentially stressful situation. If you can talk with your child about a potentially negative event coming up and talk through it you can prepare the child in a positive way. She can become a victor rather than a victim. For example if there is a big exam coming up in school or if there is an upcoming visit from a not-so-welcome guest, you can sit down with your child and remind her this is happening soon and talk about how she wants to handle it. In age-appropriate words you should remind your child that she cannot change the event but she is in total control of how she perceives that event. Her attitude and preparations for this event will make all the difference in the world. In some cases, just talking about the potential stress takes away its power. In other cases, it may be necessary to brainstorm with your child how to break down a task to prepare for the event. If this is something that you end up doing, I would suggest letting your child direct the conversation of “what I can do” rather than you telling her your ideas. Again, the idea is to empower your child and remind her that she can be a victor over the stress.
Another important strategy is to point out to your child (again in age-appropriate terms) on a regular basis that stress is a part of everyone’s life and that it’s alright to feel nervous or anxious about something for a bit, but then to take charge of your feelings and redirect them. Sometimes children get the idea that they have to be happy all the time or that they are not allowed to be anxious. By telling your child that it is alright to have a range of emotions, you are giving him a gift so that he knows it is good to let out his negative emotions as needed and that he is in a safe environment to do so. Again, in this way he can become a victor rather than a victim.
- How can kids manage anxiety? Teaching kids that there is a 90-second time frame involved with releasing an emotion from the context of the story is powerful. A neurobiology research study found that it only took 90 seconds for our bodies to overcome whatever a negative feeling was if you could pause for that time period. Teaching a child to recognize the start of negative feelings and then pausing to take away their power can help your child become a manager of anxiety. Another technique is to teach a child to do something simple when they feel a trigger or a negative thought pop into his minds so that he can shift from focusing on the negative and “snapping out of it.” For example, if a child starts to feel anxious and recognizes it as such, he can shrug his shoulders up and down several times. This simple movement stops the negative thought instantly and reminds your child that he is in control, not his emotions.
- Why can being a kid be so stressful in today’s society? In our society there is much emphasis on external successes – grades earned, sports played, technology acquired. Kids are very aware of each other because of social media and society says “excel, impress” time and time again. There is the pressure to take advanced courses, to enter into college with college credit already earned in high school, and to excel in your year-round travel sports team of choice (among others). Things are constant and scheduled in many of our children’s lives. Kids have to keep up with their peers, balance a very full social and athletic calendar with family and school time, and have to excel in all they are doing. That’s what society tells them – they internalize it and have very high standards and expectations for themselves.
- Do you need to be resilient to overcome stressful situations? Resiliency certainly helps a lot. Resilience is one of those inner human qualities that we all possess, but many of us do not nurture it or grow it and so it withers and stays in the background. Kids who have been called over and over to pull out their resilience card can do so more quickly and tend to handle stress better than other kids who might be exposed to a stressful situation only rarely. But the good news is that all kids have resilience in them. Teaching your child to be resilient would be an asset as stress can be handled more efficiently and more quickly. Being resilient is looking at a tough situation proactively and with an angle of discovering the good that can be found in the bad.
- Do people tend to cause havoc to their own stress levels? The way any person, child or adult, approach a situation will make or break that person. A stressful event is likely to be unavoidable – you cannot change the event – but your perspective and your attitude when viewing that event can turn a potentially very stressful event into a mildly stressful one. The reverse is true as well, a person can feed their negativism and anxiety into an event and the stress increases.
Dr. Erica Kosal Biography: Although many hardships have come her way, Dr. Erica Kosal has used each one to learn and grow, becoming the resilience expert she is today. Just as her first child was learning to walk, Erica’s husband, Jim Young, became very ill. Over the next 7 years they fought for his health, battled the health insurance company and unbelieving physicians arguing neurological chronic Lyme disease couldn’t do the damage they were seeing in Jim’s body. Erica survived an IRS audit, became the primary caregiver for Jim as well as their two children – all while working full-time as a biology professor. Erica’s husband died in June of 2014. She now strives to help other widows and only parents along with educating others on the serious nature of Lyme disease.
Dr. Kosal is the blogger of Traveling Troubled Times, where she writes about her experiences and the strength of focusing on the good that can come from any situation. She is also the founder of Bounce to Resilience, designed to provide information and help to people experiencing extreme stress and adversity. Erica is also a public speaker on Lyme disease and hope, inspiring people to take control of their own situation by adopting resilient strategies.
Erica’s new book When Miracles Aren’t Enough: The Lessons Tragedy Taught Me was just released in December. Her first book Miracles for Daddy: A Family’s Inspirational Fight against a Modern Medical Goliath received much praise. Both books remind us that there is real power in the human spirit.
Having been featured in such various media outlets as Fox and Friends, ABC news, and Inspire Me Today, Erica connects with a variety of audiences. The theme throughout all her writings is belief and empowerment. Dr. Kosal provides simple, but meaningful suggestions to improve attitudes, resilience, interpersonal relationships, and helps people move down the road of their own choosing. Website http://www.bouncetoresilience.com Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/MiraclesforDaddy
List Price: $ 14.95