Food for Thought: Secrets of Inner Strength

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Have you ever noticed how some people manage to stay on track despite suffering a serious illness, financial setbacks or other problems that would derail other people?

In her book “Minding The Body, Mending The Mind,” Joan Borysenko, Ph.D talks about emotionally resilient individuals and their secrets of fostering inner strength.

There are three basic attitudes they share.

These are:

1. Challenge - Emotionally resilient people view crises as opportunities for problem solving - as challenges not threats to survival. These challenges are learning experiences in which they become better people.

2. Control - Emotionally resilient people recognize while they cannot control everything that happens to them, they can control their responses to the events. They also know when to stop struggling.....and when to just let things be. They personify the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

3. Commitment - Emotionally resilient people believe there is a higher purpose for even the most painful event. That doesn’t mean they view problems as intrinsically good. They recognize some good often does come from even the most traumatic events. The late psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel maintained that it is the meaning we ascribe to negative events that allows us to endure suffering without giving in to despair.

Resilience Can Be Cultivated

Emotional resilience doesn’t always come naturally. It can be developed in the following ways:

• Observe your usual response to emotional stress. Do you “catastrophize?” Believe nothing you do will make a difference? Blame Yourself? Simply noticing these responses is often a starting point for change.

• Learn more productive ways to respond to problems. Whenever you feel worried or annoyed, ask yourself, “How does this situation challenge me? What can I learn from it?”

• Take care of yourself. When we’re under emotional stress, we tend to abandon our healthy habits. That is precisely when we need them the most. No matter what else is going on in your life, always eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.

• Feed your soul. Each day do something you find pleasurable - whether it’s walking, listening to music or reading.

• Find social support. Sharing your problems with understanding friends or family is the best buffer against stress. If you lack close relationships, join a support group.

• Practice gratitude. Spend a few minutes each morning and evening listing five things for which you are grateful. This will help you focus on life’s gifts instead of its burdens.

— Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist practicing in Thompson Falls.

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