What’s Good Fit Coping? A Grandfather’s Uvalde Reaction

Please cast an occasional blessing to the therapists you know. As the numbers of those seeking therapy rise, often it’s in these rooms and these professionals’ hearts that people yes, go there. You can talk about events that stop you in your tracks. Like the Uvalde shooting last week. This article covers stress and a grandfather’s reaction.

As a therapist, I get to hear the tentative expressions of fear and anxiety, of the dread that events like Uvalde bring up. Today was a case in point in which a grandfather working on his own delicate health issues digressed. Well, it wasn’t really a digression. I teach stress management as a foundation of therapy tools. Step 1 is to name your current stressors – what’s on your stress plate.

Uvalde was one of this client’s big 3 stressors. His 7-year-old grandson was described as an open, social, crowd-loving child. Grandpa was nervous; understandable right now. Whether it’s about going to school or just the store or… anywhere else a disgruntled AK47-carrying person might be.

Step one is a big step in. What’s going on now, what’s on the plate. We want to avoid stress most of the time; it’s instinctual to look away from pain and stress. But writing these down is active coping – leaning in toward stress. Showing up, being present. An essential pivot in developing stress mastery muscles.

Pick a stressor, any stressor

Step 2 is where you choose one of the stress plate items, and go deeper. You define what exactly is the problem here – what angle of it. This was defined as concerns about his grandson’s safety, since this boy’s nature is to be social and outgoing. Next, you make two columns. Left side – what’s not in your control about the problem, and on the right – what is in your control – anything at all that helps.

My client named re: Situations like Uvalde and concerns about his grandson’s safety

Not in this client’s control:                                           In this client’s control
Other people                                               Information / research about events / outings
Gun laws that currently exist                   His education to grandson re: staying aware
He’s not the parent                                    How he communicates – to kids & grandchild
Current political climate                           His own stress level and self-care
His children’s parenting & requests       Prayer – Giving it to God
  to not overburden child with fear     Distraction – window shopping, people
                                                                        watching – some are kind, some not so much

This is a partial list, but you get the idea. At first, most big problems may feel like there is nothing in your control. But every problem has these two sides. And something we call Good Fit Coping helps you choose THE best coping tools that fit well with the side that is most stressful – whether it’s the side that’s in your control, or not.

“Don’t go there” – entrenches your stress

For this grandfather – to even talk about this issue and his deep concerns and feelings was not business as usual. Like most of us, he would probably not go there. His kids would say, now don’t talk about this with him please… and the discussion would be avoided. And his stress would stay high – 8 of 10. That’s the Fight, Flight Freeze level (FFF), which we know is damaging to health and staying present.

Yes it’s instinctual at first to avoid stress and conflict. But increasing stress mgmt. chutzpah means that instead of avoidance, you start to recognize stress early, and lean into it. Sometimes emotions and their stress have important messages for us. It’s emotional intel – and you’re the spy working to have your best life in the present moment. Leaning in helps you stay on your heart’s toes.

Step 3 of this system would involve problem solving. Let’s say grandpa decides he wants to foster his grandson in learning martial arts and self-defense. Step 3 would help the rational brain figure that out. He’d brainstorm how this might look and what next step(s) to take.

Mastery is Good Fit Coping with what you can’t control

Step 4 of this system works with the side you can’t control. Oh yes, the tricky side, this is. Grandfather felt “frozen” – that his hands were … not working – cut off almost. Yes, that’s why they call this the Fight Flight Freeze response. A stress level of 8 of 10 points – that’s where one is reactive, not responsive. So when possible solutions or help DOES show up, it’s missed. Even getting this 8 to drop 2 points down, to a 6 of 10? It’s a huge difference. And less negative toll on health/the body. More ability to keep moving, and not get derailed from what’s important.

Step 4 can involve about 3 different areas – working with thoughts and emotions – so you’re not causing yourself more stress – and third, general stress mgmt. tools. Anything that helps you lower stress counts here, even if it doesn’t seem to be directly helping the problem. Prayer is one of these that grandfather named. He was also a music fan and had recently rediscovered how listening to music soothed him.

Thought work is key and I had to push grandfather to name his most fearful thoughts. First we must name those thoughts, then you can tame them. (Saturday June 4th Webinar will feature this tool).  You want to take that thought out of the closet – pushing them there doesn’t fool heart / mind.  Only uncovering them, bringing them to the light of day, decreases the havoc they cause behind the scenes.

Ultimately, these 4 steps based on the Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (Folkman, Lazarus, Cheney) help you acknowledge truth. You can step back and include the larger perspective. Yes, the world is dangerous. And yes, you really care for this beautiful child – heartbreakingly strong care. Lucky grandson. And you cannot keep always keep young ones safe, or prevent their death – though it is the grand intention.

Remember the Big Truths and Perspective

You don’t want to lose sight of these bigger truths, with this heartbreak of Uvalde. So let the tunnel vision of the FFF fade, and let the heart’s truth be remembered; the beauty of love, the impermanence of life, on this day. In this humble session.

More to share – join us Saturday June 4th noon mtn time for the free webinar on the upcoming Amazon Stress Zapping support group.

Please join us 5 minutes in advance – we’ll start on time.
Meeting ID: 853 4057 7773
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Grow, expand, and update your stress mastery Zen. No registration needed, Uvalde stress zapping allowed.

photo Gianluca Carenza, Unspash

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