Responding to stress is a big part of life which involves circumstances or events that can make us feel anxious or fearful; stress can be a change of your status (middle school to high school/high school to college transition; single/married; employed/unemployed) or a threat of some kind (such as harassment or financial instability).
And yet it is a personal power thing that requires healthy boundaries (i.e., taking responsibility for the things you can control, and accepting the things you cannot control, and leaving the final outcome to God).
How we respond to stress is what we can control, especially when everything else is out of our control. Some examples of stress:
- Someone is bullying you
- Death of a loved one or friend
- Preparing for a difficult test
- Expectations others have for you
- Break up of a relationship
- Divorce of parents
When your stress response is not checked, fear and anxiety can drive behavior that makes things worse, and perpetuate more negative consequences. So first it is important to step back and evaluate your circumstance so you can acknowledge the initial feelings stress is stirring.
According to Jennifer Rodriguez of Franny’s House, the aim is to have an honest emotional response. Yelling, screaming, lashing out at others, or becoming withdrawn or depressed are not honest emotional responses. They are initial negative reactions stirred by the stress event.
“You get to decide how to feel about it,” Rodriguez said, “You can choose how long to stay angry or afraid.”
The goal is to help your child understand that while these negative feelings (anxiety, fear, frustration) are real, they are not the facts. The Stress Umbrella helps you to get some perspective about the facts so you can make level-headed decisions.
Feelings, Attitudes and Behaviors (FAB) belong to the individual and this sphere of self is where we have control. Much of what causes us stress is out of our control.
The FAB tool helps you and your child identify your own feelings attitudes and behaviors, separate from those of others involved in the stressful circumstance or event. This is how we can form and enforce our own personal boundaries.
- Step 1 – Draw a circle and list your feelings, attitudes and behaviors about a situation
- Step 2 – Draw another circle for the attitudes, feelings and behaviors of others.
- Step 3 – Draw another circle for things that are not in anyone’s direct control – environmental
Example: Your daughter is being cyberbullied. A group of girls on campus has ganged up against her, and are posting mean things about her on Facebook and texting her hateful messages.
- Feeling – powerless, angry, fearful, hurt, depressed
- Attitude – I am inferior – that is why I am being bullied
- Behavior – Withdraw or lashing out at younger siblings
“The positive influences will wait patiently until you are ready to let them in.” - Jennifer Rodriguez, Franny’s House.
Next: review the initial fear-based reactions with your child, and compare it to the truth where feelings of well being, peace, joy and confidence reside to set your own healthy boundaries.
FAB Profile and Truth
Address this FAB profile with your child. Help them to discern truth.
1. Feelings. You are a child of God born to love and be loved. Negative feelings come from a spirit of fear, not love. There is no truth in fear.
The bully is also feeling inferior because if she was feeling okay, she wouldn’t need to put someone else down in order to feel superior. Pray for her.
2. Attitude adjustment. You are not inferior, nor is the bully superior. The bully is compensating for her own lack of confidence – do not allow her confidence issue to cause you to surrender yours. Whatever the bully’s issue, do not label or demonize her. Just accept that she is the one with issues and it doesn’t require your involvement.
3. Behavior. Do not retaliate. Block her from your texts. Block the texts of others who are working with her to harass you. If the harassment does not stop, then bring it to the attention of school administration. Do not try to fix it. Bullies care only about themselves and you are not going to change that. Seek out friends who share your interests and appreciate your qualities – pursue relationships rooted in love, not fear.