Using Hope to Combat Stress and Trauma

Different people have different responses to stress and trauma.

I experienced this first hand during one psychological intervention program we held in Camotes Island, Philippines. The people we helped out were all survivors of a huge shipwreck. I imagined how devastated these people were, since some of them even had family who died or were still missing.

People were lining up to join our booths, waiting for their turn for psychological trauma assessment. True enough, most of these people clearly suffered a huge deal. After my group had finished the first batch of survivors though, we came across an unusually cheerful old man. He smelled of rum and sweat. I thought, “Maybe he’s going alcoholic because of the horrible event.”

After further interview, the evidence points that he’s living as he normally did. Heck, we interviewed a tough and resilient man. Before the interview, he mentioned he was having a drink with his friends nearby. I couldn’t help but notice his absence of worry, which I saw as a strength.

Furthermore, we were sent to identify traces of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among the island inhabitants, but this man barely had any. Most of the interviewees had clear traces (such as nightmares and avoidance of specific places).

Nonetheless, whatever the reason for this man’s strength, we want to be that man when bad things happen. Do you have stressors in your life that seem unsolvable? Resilience refers to your capacity to bounce back from difficulties.

Building Resilience Against Stress

Here are some tips to build resilience during your struggles, whether it involves passing your exams or dealing with relationships. I have created this shortcut hoping it would be convenient for recall. With that in mind, always remember to have HOPE:

H-elp yourself

Take care of your mind and body. This means caring enough to exercise, maintain hygiene, and getting enough sleep (I’m guilty with one of the three). Also, be gentle to yourself in difficult times, and find time to relax when you can.

O-ptimism

This allows you to expect that good things will happen to you in the future. A study by Dr. Shapira and Mongrain tested whether writing positively about their future for one week can increase their happiness in the present. They found out people became a lot happier even after 6 months of writing. Interestingly, these positive emotions help you better cope with stress.

P-erspective

Maintain perspective when things seem out of hand. How will this situation matter in the greater scheme of things? The opposite of keeping perspective is blowing things out of proportion.

Having a belief in a higher spiritual source can help us keep perspective. When we believe things will fall in place in their own time and place, this helps us better cope with stresses that bother us in the present.

E-mpathy

Acting on empathy is often overlooked when battling depression associated with stress. Interestingly it is one of the most effective, according to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence. Understanding and caring for others not only increases our social support group, but also bears with it emotional rewards. We become happier and more fulfilled in the process.

Of course, there are longer lists for building resilience like the one from the American Psychological Association. Nevertheless, remember to have HOPE in times of great stress.

What are the ways you build resilience in your life?

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