The Road to Resilience

BY AYESHA KHALID

I recently had a chance to view part of a documentary in one of my psychology classes entitled “This Emotional Life,” which originally aired on PBS. The film is a 3 part series that looks at how we can cope with emotional stressors and become more positive and resilient people. The documentary explores the stories of many people who have overcome great challenges in their life, and demonstrates how resilient we are capable of being.

For example, there was the story of Bob who became a prisoner of war after being resilience-cartoonkidnapped and held captive for 8 years in Vietnam. He was put into solitary confinement and faced brutal physical torture. During this time, he would spend hours each day envisioning the house he wanted to live in with his family, designing every last detail in his imagination. He also used a tap code to communicate with other prisoners through walls. Once he was rescued, he reunited with his family and built the house that he had spend all of those hours picturing in his head. He remained optimistic and believed he would prevail, which helped him cope with the isolation and physical pain.

Then there was Mike, who grew up with an alcoholic stepfather. He became involved with dealing and using drugs. After being arrested by police, he later got a job installing furniture, and was working in a doctor’s house when the doctor began to ask Mike about his life. They became friends and the doctor became a mentor to him. Mike is now a thoracic surgeon, and credits mentors in his life for guiding him through the tough times.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Anxiety and Avoidance Behaviours

BY AYESHA KHALID

Despite my struggles with anxiety, I am lucky to have a strong support group around me – people I can reach out to when I am feeling stressed or in pain. I know that this is not always the case for some people who do not have social support and become very isolated; their road to recovery is much more difficult than mine.

But even with this support available, when I am struggling, it can be hard for me to reachf486b16e222ac0aa_dv1080013.preview.jpg out to others. I do not always take help when it is offered. There are a lot of reasons why I hold back. Partially, it is because talking to others means that I have to confront whatever is causing me distress, and I would rather avoid thinking about it. Another reason is because I feel bad for dumping all of my problems onto someone else. I know I shouldn’t feel bad, but I imagine it’s kind of exhausting to listen to someone talk about their problems all the time. I don’t want to be that person who is constantly complaining, so I hold a lot in.

So instead of reaching out if my anxiety/pain is getting worse, my first instinct is to retreat. To run away, to get into bed, to pull the covers over me and block out the rest of the world. A part of me thinks that maybe if I avoid my problems they will disappear, and by the time I get out of bed everything will be okay again.

Continue reading

Coping with Stress at School

BY AYESHA KHALID

There are only a few weeks of the semester left, and I have entered into full-fledged panicbooks.jpg mode. My reading week was not exactly as productive as I had hoped. I’ve had insomnia, which prevented me from getting up in the morning and caused me to be pretty exhausted through out the day – making it really difficult for me to focus on work. I did try to get as much done as possible, but I am still behind in a lot of things.

It doesn’t help that every week from now to the end of the semester I have tests, deadlines, and quizzes I have to prepare for. I made an attempt to plan out my week today, but had to stop because I realized I was trying to fit too much in. Despite this, rather than avoiding work or giving up, I always try to focus on strategies that can help me out and reduce some of my stress. Here are a few strategies I use when I am stressed about school:

Continue reading

Managing Perfectionism

BY AYESHA KHALID

Being a perfectionist doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Setting high standards can drive us to work hard to achieve our goals. However, the problem comes when those high standards are unrealistically high for us. For example, maybe your goal is to get an A in a class – this goal makes you focused, and you work hard to be organized throughout the semester. But then you might start having thoughts like, “I must get an A on this exam and if I don’t, then I am a failure.” When we add that last piece – the negative label we attach to ourselves if we fall short of our expectations –  we can be discouraged from trying again next time, and this type of thinking can really destroy our self-confidence.

The-Perfectionist-Scale-3.jpg

I would say that I can be a perfectionist at times, particularly around academics. I have always had high expectations for myself around grades, which worked for me because it pushed me to study hard. But I notice that even after I write a test, for instance, I constantly tell myself that I didn’t do good enough even though I haven’t gotten a mark back yet. And even if I get a good grade, I focus less on the fact that I did well and more on how I could do better next time. I don’t take the time to give myself credit for doing well because I am always focused on what I did wrong rather than what I did right.

Continue reading

How to be Your Own Health Advocate

BY AYESHA KHALID

One of the biggest struggles once diagnosed with a mental health disorder is trying to find doca team of medical professionals who are supportive and non-judgemental. This can be challenging because while some doctors are very knowledgeable and kind, you occasionally run into some that are not. For example, my first physician who diagnosed me with anxiety simply gave me a diagnosis without offering any suggestions or treatment plans. Her advice was basically, “learn to live with it.” She told me that I had nothing in my life to be stressed out about so I shouldn’t complain. I didn’t seek out a second opinion because I thought that there was nothing I could do to get better. I also ended up feeling guilty because I thought she was right – I hadn’t gone through any type of trauma, so I felt like I did not have the right to complain.

Another time, I had an appointment with a psychiatrist because I was worried about my sleeping patterns. As soon as I mentioned that I had some issues sleeping, he immediately began to write a prescription for sleeping pills. I quickly told him I did not want to take anything for sleep but just wanted to know some of my options. I thought that was a little risky just to be handing out medication like that without taking a proper medical history first.

Continue reading