Fight or Flight? You decide…
When encountering difficulty, is your first thought to crawl back in bed under the covers, or meet the situation head on? The good news is, regardless of how you’ve responded in the past, you CAN change.
Have you heard of Post-Traumatic Stress?
I’m thinking most of you have, but a term you might not be familiar with is Post-Traumatic Growth. (PTG). With COVID and everything that’s happening in the world right now; I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about Post-Traumatic Growth and how by having an understanding of it, and being willing to make a few changes, you can positively impact your future.
The term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder came into use in the 70’s in connection with diagnoses of Vietnam War veterans. PTSD is a real thing and isn’t limited to veterans. My understanding is that PTSD is a condition that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, or when something or someone surfaces as a threat to a person’s life. You might have heard it said when we’re in danger, the “fight or flight” response kicks in.
From experience, I’m confident that the impact of these types of events play a major role in how we think, respond, and make decisions, on both a conscious and sub-conscious level for many years to come. Also, from experience, I know that each of us has a choice in determining what effect those events have on us.
This is where Post-Traumatic Growth comes in.
It starts with how we view the trauma or adversity. We may not believe it, or be skilled at it yet, but we can learn to control our thoughts. We can learn how to frame or reframe our thoughts in a productive way, decide how much energy we want to give them and whether or not that energy is positive or negative.
When faced with a traumatic event, it seems there are a couple of different avenues. If Post-Traumatic Stress becomes the overarching of the two; the outcome can be one of succumbing to the stress or learning to live with it, but being negatively impacted by it.
On the other hand, if Post-Traumatic Growth is the overarching direction; we can not only survive, but actually thrive, by reflecting on what we learn and then applying it. No one is saying it’s easy, but it is possible. Think about it, some of our best lessons learned came out of adversity… learning to ride a bike, drive a car, become proficient at your job, learn a new skill, losing a job, having your heart broken…
The outcome of Post-Traumatic Growth is being able to function at a higher level. Some of the qualities/characteristics that contribute to PTG are reflection, resiliency, optimism, being willing to ask for help, and having an open mind. I first became aware of how important our mindset is when a beloved mentor, Dr. Peter Rea introduced me to Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”.
Two ways to see it.
My take-away is that there are two different ways of looking at things; one can be called a Fixed Mindset which I would describe as “This is as good as it gets”! The other way can be referred to as a Growth Mindset. A person with a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure and difficulty as opportunities for learning and growth.
With COVID 19 taking front and center in our lives today, we are facing real challenges. Although the war we are in is a different kind of war than Vietnam; it is war nevertheless. The good news is we are not fighting one another. However, we are very much fighting an enemy that is presenting a threat to us and our very existence.
Challenges are something we all face.
When I’m working with an organization or individual who is experiencing difficulties, I ask them to reflect on a couple of questions: “What are you supposed to be learning from this? How can you take what you’re learning and incorporate it into who you are and make yourself, or the environment better on the other side of this?”.
By asking ourselves these questions, we can shift from “Oh God, ain’t it awful?”, to “What can I do about it?” Questions that help us focus on solutions, rather than problems. These questions serve as the gas needed to get us moving from a state of paralysis, to the recognition that an opportunity exists, to action.
So, here we are in the midst of the COVID 19 war. What mindset are you letting take center stage? Is it a mindset of “It is what it is, and I can’t do anything about it” or will it be an opportunity mindset? Today is the day to be thinking, making plans, and preparing for the many opportunities that will be on the other side of this war we’re in. Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug…the choice is yours! Make it a good one!