I need to engage in non-negative thinking. I choose to engage in ways of thinking that help me become more resilient. I am proud of what I have accomplished and I can use the lessons learned to take care of myself, my buddies and my loved ones. I can help others and myself “win the war within” and address any “invisible wounds.” I can share positive coping skills directly with others.
The “5 C’s” of “stress hardiness,” as identified by Salvatore Maddi and Suzanne Kobasa, consist of:
C—Commitment—What brings purpose and passion to my life? Do I get fully involved, evidence vital engagement, a zest for life, set new goals and undertake steps to meet them? Do I maintain an ongoing engagement with potentially stressful situations? Instead of “turning off,” I can “tune in.”
C—Challenge—Do I interpret difficult situations as opportunities for change and learning? Do I view challenges as an invitation to learn and master new skills and make new connections?”
C— Control—Do I focus most of my time and energy on factors over which I have influence? Or am I still waiting for others to change their behavior first? Do I have a sense of personal agency that I am the ‘Captain of my own fate’, an ‘orchestrator of my life’?” Do I feel that the locus of control is within me?
C—Confidence—Do I have a sense of self-efficacy that I can meet this challenge? Do I have the ability and confidence to make do with whatever is at hand in order to solve this problem? Do I have the ability to improvise and evidence ingenuity?
C—Connected—Do I have others (“Recovery Capital”) whom I can call upon for assistance?
Remember that calm thinking and coping with stress are learned skills that become strengthened through repeated practice.
Summary of Emotional Fitness Strategies
All situations you encounter during post-deployment or following a traumatic event can be broken into four components that can be summarized using the imagery of the framework of a clock. Consider:
12 o’clock represents triggers or activating events, both external and internal events. This is what someone does or does not do – some event that occurs. This perception will likely trigger some emotional reactions. Some Triggers may be Internal like a flashback or perception of a threat or a craving.
3 o’clock represents a set of primary and secondary emotions. This is how you may feel immediately (for example, anxious, depressed, angry, and the like). These Primary Emotions may in turn contribute to Secondary Emotions. You may feel humiliated then get angry, or you may feel depressed about not being able to control your fears. A “chain reaction” of emotions may be set in motion and cascade.
6 o’clock represents the accompanying thoughts and self-talk or what individuals say to themselves in the heat of the moment and the deeply held beliefs (“mental icebergs”) that drive out-of-proportion emotional reactions. This covers your expectations and attributions (causative explanations). For example, to get from being angry to becoming aggressive, you need to believe that the other person slighted you or upset you “on purpose.” This belief or self-statement contributes to further distress. It is not just events, but how we view such events or what we “tell ourselves” that influence how we react.
9 o’clock represents what you do (behaviors and actions) and how others respond.
- 12 o’clock = External and internal triggers (“What started this?”)
- 3 o’clock = Primary and secondary emotions (“What am I feeling?”)
- 6 o’clock = Automatic thoughts, self-talk, expectations, beliefs (“What am I thinking?”)
- 9 o’clock = Behavioral reactions and responses of others (“What am I doing?”)
These four components may operate and become a vicious cycle. Sometimes you may go from 12 o’clock (triggers) to 9 o’clock (behavioral reactions) and then to 3 o’clock (feelings) and then to 6 o’clock (self-talk) which influences how you view future 12 o’clock events. Sometimes you can generate further stress so this can become a “vicious cycle.”
Consider how you now attempt to break such vicious cycles in your life. What are the events (12 o’clock) prompting your reactions? What are your interpretations, assumptions and thoughts (6 o’clock) about these events? Can you find better ways to break the cycle? Can you view perceived “threats” (12 o’clock) as “problems-to-be-solved”? Can you control, tolerate, accept, share your emotions (3 o’clock)? Can you change your self-talk (6 o’clock)? Can you behave differently and elicit different reactions from others (9 o’clock)? As you can see, there are many entry-points to break the vicious cycle. Doing these things will help you become more resilient.