Counting Pennies

Greetings from the lunatic fringe…Or not. Which is sort of the theme of this page. To quote a corruption of an old poem: if you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs….maybe you don’t understand the situation!

What I am trying to say is, life can be crazy! When you are dependent upon others, other people’s late meetings and dead batteries can all make life, well, very interesting. Crazier, in fact.

Yesterday my usual ride from work was staying late. Unless I found another ride, I was staying late. Staying late meant no weekly walk with a friend and no yoga. Went to backup ride. First problem solved.

Then I get a text from my ride home from yoga. Dead battery. The weather has been brutally cold. After some finagling, I actually ended up with three potential rides home (I love my fitness community!) and I was still able to go to yoga. But that is not the story for the page. The story for the page is this: I did not stress out!

How the devil did THAT happen? Gulf Bend Center published a webpage entitled The Four Stages of a Stress Reaction. It is sort of like the diagram we use in DBT to discuss identifying emotions. The first step is what DBT calls the prompting event (also called trigger) and the article calls the demand. You folks know all about demands. In this case my prompting event (demand) was being faced with no evening activities.

DBT calls the next step interpretation and the article calls it ‘appraisal of the demand’. Appraisal has two parts. First you determine if the demand is a threat and then you decide if you have the resources to meet it. These questions are the crux of the matter.

Was it a threat? Yes, but I would only miss one evening of activities. I might be able to do half. That is walk, but no yoga. This variation in my schedule was uncomfortable but not a crisis. I used a comparison skill (could be worse!), reframed and did not catastrophize. That is half the battle.

The other half was my estimation of my resources. Would I be able to meet the demands? Hey, the girl has people! People for whom I am grateful everyday. I could most likely meet the demand. A few months ago I would not have been able to say that, but I have been actively working on developing plans and backup plans for months now.

I had confidence things could be worked out.

Otherwise? I would have bitten the bullet and looked at all of the positives I have collected. This is another DBT skill. Collect positive experiences like pennies in a piggy bank. If things turn to crap, counting your ‘pennies’ can help you realize there is a lot of good in your life. I don’t know about you, but in the positive ‘pennies’ department, I am a millionaire. (Did I mention I know fantastic people?)

The article goes on to discuss the physiological reactions we experience to threats, responses to the demands and a ‘bonus’ item (the title really said 4), returning to baseline. DBT emotional regulations talks about bodily reactions and action urges, so, like I said, they have their parallels.

My opinion remains the second section, interpretation of the level of threat and the strength of your resources to deal with that threat, is still the most important part of the whole thing. Use your skills to compare and reframe. Count your positive ‘pennies’ and amass your resources. It may allow you to understand the situation totally and still keep your head. Make all those other people wonder what your secret is!

Next: Walmart Optical Saves the Day!

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