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Developing effective coping skills and perspective for stress and hardship.

Man in yoga pose smiling.

What causes a person to harden and thrive during a stressful encounter while another person softens and folds under the same circumstances? It’s all about what the person is made of right? Maybe this is an oversimplification. Everyone throughout their lives is exposed to the same types of circumstances. The human experience isn’t unique at all.

The contrasting effects of boiling water, our metaphor for stress, on eggs and potatoes can be looked at as a perspective, or a point of view problem. It all boils down to, no pun intended, how you view the stressful situation. Is it viewed as a challenge you will undoubtedly make it through or as a hopeless situation where the only option is to give up and make matters worse in the process?

Some of us are naturally happy people and suffer from perspective problems at baseline. This perspective is gained from life’s experiences and exposures that provide a baseline against which to compare. When you’ve been to combat twice and witnessed some of the worst living conditions imaginable in India it becomes hard to get overly stressed by too many things in life and you develop an incredible amount of stress resilience. The good news is that you don’t have to join the military and travel to India to develop this.

Stress isn’t all bad, it’s actually categorized as positive and negative stress. Yes, there is a such thing as positive stress – a job promotion, birth of a child, and buying a home are a few examples. Negative stress is not harmless and is now recognized as a modifiable risk factor for heart disease. This results from the harmful effects of hormones released over time and from adopting poor coping mechanisms for stress such as tobacco abuse and unhealthy eating habits resulting in overweight and obesity.

American psychologist Albert Ellis developed a model that uses 3 variables to describe stress and our reaction to stress: 1. An activating event, 2. Your beliefs about the activating event, and 3. The consequences resulting from the activating event and your beliefs. This model teaches us if we assign low emotional value to stressful events then our resulting stress will be lowered or potentially nonexistent.

Sean Bannister, PA-C Sean Bannister, PA-C Sean is a Physician Assistant and a retired US Army officer with over 30 years of clinical medicine and leadership experience. He earned his Master of Business Administration degree from The George Washington University and a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center with an emphasis on Family, Cardiovascular, and Thoracic medicine. He also has over 15-years experience as a cardiovascular surgery PA and certifications as a health coach and personal fitness trainer. While in the military Sean served as the senior healthcare provider and administrator for multiple medical and urgent care clinics and was the director of a military Physician Assistant Training Program. He has performed duties as an Emergency Medicine and Trauma Physician Assistant in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Sean has also served as the director of workplace wellness programs, weight loss programs, and preventive health initiatives to keep people healthier, happier, and more productive.

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