Written by Doctor G

What if you changed the pattern?


For the month of March, we’ve been talking about how to be resilient in the face of a stress just doesn’t get any better. You’ve told me about frustrating family members, money stress, health issues, negative self-talk, global worries – all kinds of things that are out of your control and definitely add stress to your life.

We have walked through an exercise to figure out:

  1. What is the stress that’s unchanging and continuously problematic?
  2. What is your reaction to that stress that you don’t want to continue having?
  3. What warning signs precede that reaction?

And today I have just one last question for you to finish this out:

How could you change the pattern?

I’m definitely not talking about the outside stress – we’ve determined that is something you can’t control. But, as my mom of blessed memory said to me on more than one occasion, “If you can’t change the problem, you have to change your reaction to the problem.” This is an exercise in how you might choose to do that.

Some people use pretty drastic measures to change their body’s and mind’s reaction – like putting their face in ice water or screaming a word out loud. There are a lot of other options – and less likely to attract the attention of everyone nearby – if you’d prefer. The idea is the same though, distract your brain and body from the usual pattern of stress -> reaction by sticking something in between those two.

If this idea of interrupting the pattern appeals to you, there are two steps to follow:

  1. Figure out an interruption that will work for you (that actually makes you feel better)
  2. Practice inserting it after the stress but before your reaction until it becomes a habit

Last week I mentioned that one of my unchanging stresses is the hate I get online. Antisemitic comments are growing for just about every Jew I know and I’m no exception. I mentioned that I feel my reaction to this in my stomach, a sense of being unfairly “in trouble” from someone who has power over me but doesn’t see or understand me or seems to hate me for no reason.

An interruption that I know makes me feel better is to stretch – I love the feeling of moving my body in a way that doesn’t hurt but does make me feel because that sensation reminds me how strong and lucky I am. 

So my plan is to practice – every time I get a hateful DM or comment – just as soon as I get that feeling starting in my gut I’ll breathe really deeply into my stomach, stand up (if I can, it’s awkward on airplanes) and stretch my neck, back and arms up. Every time until it’s a habit.

Is there something you could practice when you start to have the reaction you don’t want?

Sometimes resilience is choosing how to feel ok even in the midst of something that is not ok.

All my best,

Dr. G

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A widely recognized media personality, Dr. G is your go-to expert on resilience. Countless broadcast outlets rely on her contagious humor and illuminating stories to tackle tough topics. She is regularly seen on TV, as well as interviewed for print and digital outlets. Here, she’s answering your questions. Search for the answers you need, or ask her your question now!
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