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Stressed-Out To Resilient: Useful Tips On How To Be Happy With Dr. Deborah Gilboa

Deborah Gilboa, MD (AKA “Dr. G”), Resilience Expert, Author & Physician pictured with her book and the title of this week’s episode.

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How do you move from stressed-out to resilient? Corinna Bellizzi welcomes Dr. Deborah Gilboa, aka Dr. G, an internationally renowned Resilience Expert. Dr. Deborah defines resilience as the ability to navigate change and come through it as the kind of person you want to be. One way to achieve this is to use stressors intentionally with coaching, support, sleep, hydration, and nutrition. It’s like undergoing physical training before a marathon. You need to strengthen yourself while you can. Join in the conversation to get more useful tips on how to become more resilient. You’ll need resilience to live a happier, more impactful life. Tune in!

About Dr. Deborah Gilboa

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, aka Dr. G, is a board-certified Family Physician and internationally renowned Resilience Expert. She works with leaders to help them understand how to harness the power of stress and help their people open to change. Her new book, From Stressed To Resilient: The Guide to Handle More and Feel It Less is available on Amazon now.

– Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deborahgilboamd/

– Guest Website: https://askdoctorg.com

– Guest Social: https://www.twitter.com/askdocg

Guest Book: From Stressed To Resilient: The Guide to Handle More & Feel It Less

Show Notes (RAW)

00:05:57: What Makes A Resilience Expert

00:07:36: Healthy Stress Vs. Unhealthy Stress

00:11:17: Manage Stress In Daily Life

00:15:20: What Is Resilience?

00:24:46: How Empathy Helps Us Refocus On Resilience

00:30:38: Help Someone Navigate Change

00:34:05: First Step To Developing Resilience

00:38:04: Tips For Those Who Struggle To Find Connection

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Stressed-Out To Resilient: Useful Tips On How To Be Happy With Dr. Deborah Gilboa

In this episode, I’m joined by Dr. Deborah Gilboa, also known as Dr. G, to talk about resilience and how we can all see stress differently so we can embrace change in a healthy way. She is a board-certified family physician and internationally renowned resilience expert. She works with leaders to help them understand how to harness the power of stress and help their people open to change. Her new book From Stressed to Resilient is an actionable guide to help you handle more and feel it less.

Dr. G, I’m so glad to have you here. Welcome to the show.

Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

I want to start with something that is a little curious about your background. I haven’t seen many or heard of many people who started off being in theater and even in the comedy circuit to then transition to working as a medical doctor or going to get their medical doctor degree. Why don’t you talk a little bit about that experience and what made you choose this line of work?

I don’t know that I’ve met anybody else either. I’ve met chefs, musicians and philosophers all turned to doctors, so I don’t think it’s entirely unique. When I was a kid and people would ask me what I wanted to do, I gave them the most impressive-sounding answer I could find. It was a pediatric neurosurgeon because I liked the way they reacted to me when I said it.

I did have it in my mind for a long time that I thought it would be neat to be a doctor, and then, I went to freshman year Biology and had to dissect a fetal pig. I had a reaction that a lot of pubescent kids have to something that’s gross. I got really sick, and I didn’t know that those reactions are heightened during puberty and I might not always feel that way. Like most teenagers, I thought how I felt right then was how I would always feel and it would always be like that, so I decided, “I cannot be a doctor.”

I was working in theater in junior high and in my high school, and I thought, “This is such an interesting experience. I love how this feels and what I get to do. Did you know you can go to college for this?” That is what I went to university for. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama, and I worked. I did something that very few of my friends did. I graduated in the major I started at in just four years, which was weird, and then I worked in theater and television for about six years, but what I discovered was that the opportunities that I found, I happened to get some amazing opportunities much younger than other people mostly through circumstance and my willingness to say, “Sure, why not? I might be able to do that.”

The place where I ended up was an amazing opportunity. I was at an improv theater in Chicago called The Second City. It’s a great place to be, but the person I replaced had been there 27 years or so, and I realized that I did not necessarily want to do that for 27 more years. When I cast around to say what I would like to do then, I need to earn a living, etc., I thought, “I’ve been a volunteer emergency medical technician. I think I’ll be a paramedic.”

I called some friends who were paramedics, and every single one of them said, “Don’t be a paramedic. You’d be terrible at it.” I was so dismayed. I pushed back one guy and I said, “Why would you say that?” He said, “I’ve run calls with you and you’re always trying to think of a different way or a better way to do something. You don’t like to work within the system. Go be a doctor,” and I thought, “I am sure I am too old to go to medical school.” I was 25.

CMBB 75 | Stressed-Out
Stressed-Out: In medical school, stress is the new smoking.

I went back and got my MBA at 42, and I was the old hag in the room.

My group of friends in medical school, on my very first birthday, gave me a walker and a pack of Depends for turning 26. There’s no question, I was not alone in thinking that maybe this was a crazy thing to do, but I ended up in Medicine. Medical school is four years, and residency is another three, so I was in my mid-30s before I was starting to figure out what it meant to be an attending physician.

Do you think that that experience was part of what helped you become this resilience expert having to pivot from comedy to a very different role?

No, that wasn’t stressful for me, meaning that wasn’t something that seemed like a challenge I had to overcome, but it was crucial in figuring out that my life’s work is around resilience, mental health, and stress. In medical school, I heard over and over again from my professors that stress is the new smoking, and if I wanted to save my patients, I needed to convince them to drop stress like we had spent several years at that point trying to get people to stop smoking.

Here’s the lesson in the classroom. Stress is bad for you, and then every time I stepped out of the classroom, my professors would say things to me like, “You should also be leading this group and also be doing a research project. What are you doing to move this other thing forward? How can you lead?” I thought, “This is stressful. Are they trying to kill me because they don’t want me to compete with them for a job or am I missing some nuance about stress?”

That question that lived somewhat bitterly, as I felt oppressed by all these expectations inside me, kept needling me as I watched some of my patients deal with what by any measure is an insane amount of stress and thrive, and some people struggle without what looked like by outside measure to be all that much stress in every possible variation in between.

I find it interesting because I’ve been told that I thrive on stress, and I don’t know if that’s necessarily the truth. I just think I like a packed schedule. I get a lot done when I do have a lot of things that are on my plate. The saying is idle hands are the devil’s playmate or something to that effect. It’s these old colloquialisms that we don’t say that much anymore. I wonder what makes stress harmful, what is unhealthy stress so to speak, and what is healthier stress?

That’s a bit like saying what physical activity is dangerous and what is healthy. It’s all in how you use it, so if I told you that walking up one flight of stairs to sit down and have this conversation with you, that even though I’m pretty healthy, I got a little out of breath. You’re too nice to say it, but you know what I need.

Strengthen yourself now while you can.

As a healthy person, if I walk up one flight of stairs and get out of breath, I probably need some exercise. I need to walk up more stairs because I should be a little bit more fit than that. I shouldn’t get winded from one flight of stairs if I don’t have any underlying issues. If I want to be able to walk up two flights of stairs carrying a laundry basket and not be winded, then I’m going to have to do a little bit more work.

It’s the exact same idea with stress. If I want to face the stressors that involve doing more leadership because I’m interested in it, having a packed schedule feels productive to me or good to me. Being engaged in adult relationships, being supportive of my family members, taking care of my kids, or looking for the next work opportunity, that’s a lot of stress.

If I want to be able to navigate that stress without feeling exhausted and hurting at the end of the day, it’s stress that will get me there, but it was the exercise that would get me more fit to walk upstairs. I can’t decide like, “I’d like to walk upstairs better. I guess I’ll run a marathon tomorrow,” because I could legitimately die. People have tried to run a marathon with no training and they have died, and I could be one of those people. I’m not ready.

Using stressors intentionally with coaching, support, sleep, hydration, and nutrition, the parallels to physical training are pretty close, so we can use most stresses to our advantage and think about stress in that way. Is it necessary? Some stress is unavoidable. It’s like when your family member gets a God forbid diagnosis. You didn’t choose that. You can’t walk away from it. It just is. The other stress is, is it useful or not useful in your life at this time? Does it match your priorities? Any stress that matches your priorities and isn’t damaging that you could walk away from, you get to decide if you should.

It’s if it matches your priorities or it’s within your boundaries with what you’ve said, “This feeds my goals. This feeds my life. This is the kind person I want to be,” and you have the bandwidth for it. That’s usually what we say, meaning it’s not going to, “A yes to this won’t make you say no to other things that you can’t say no to,” like getting any sleep, being with your people, or feeding yourself. There are lots of ways to think about stress. The only thing I take issue with is this idea that all stress is toxic because it isn’t.

As you said, many stresses are unavoidable. People you love are going to die. That’s a reality of life. You might get sick yourself. You might have an overburdened workload or suddenly lose an employee because of some unforeseen thing. Now, you have to pick up the slack. The deadline isn’t going to move, or you have to prepare to give a presentation on stage in front of hundreds of people and you have something happen in the meantime. I know you’ve done media tours. You’ve had the experience of being out there in big ways and not necessarily having the option of saying, “I need to call it in today. I can’t do this.” How do you advise even your patients on managing stress in their daily lives?

The unavoidable stressors, what about those? The exercise analogy is you woke up and I said to you, “I don’t care if you’re ready. You have to run a marathon.” You’re saying, “It’s going to hurt me. I’m not ready, but you’re right. I have to because my mom got a bad diagnosis.” That’s for example. This is a true story. When I got the call that my mom had a fall and that it turned out would end her life about six weeks later, I couldn’t say, “I know I’m an only child, but I found out yesterday that I’m getting audited by the IRS,” or, “When I bit down on something this morning, I cracked a tooth all the way through.”

My mom needing emergent medical care is too many things. I can’t do it. Sorry. We don’t get to do that. We have to figure out how, which is one of the reasons I spend a lot of time on preventive care and health maintenance as a family doctor. We can catch cancer before it’s cancer so that we can make sure that the high blood pressure doesn’t get worse or prevent the high blood pressure.

CMBB 75 | Stressed-Out
Stressed-Out: What doesn’t kill you makes you miserable.

One of the things I want to encourage people to do is to strengthen themselves now while they can. Not that it’s easy or not that you’re not dealing with stress now, but to think about getting into a little bit more resilient shape now because it’s not if I get sick. It’s when I get sick. I will unless I’m hit by a truck. At some point, I will get sick in my life, and it’s not if my family members will have struggles or die or if my work will go badly for a while. I want to be in training so that although those things will be incredibly difficult, they won’t be quite as hard as they could be.

Let’s take all that off the table and say, “I wake up and I’ve got all three of those problems that you mentioned or three different problems. What do I do?” That’s what I want to remind you that what I’m recommending building is resilience, and you already have some. You don’t start this off with zero, and nobody’s resilience is fixed. It’s not eye color. Have you heard the expression growth mindset in education?

Yeah. It seems like it’s a very popular term these days, too. I think it gets misunderstood. How would you define it?

What I wanted to say is that we’ve heard about it a lot in education since the mid-‘90s. Carol Dweck did a lot of work along with her colleagues to say that kids in a low reading group might not always be appropriate in a low reading group. The kids can learn to learn. Not just learn stuff, but they can learn to learn, and it turns out that we can do more than just learn to learn stuff. We can learn to learn musicality, athleticism, art, and we can learn to learn resilience.

We can grow our resilience, which is what made me so interested as a doctor. I wanted to know what was the difference between helping my patients get better from an injury or an illness and helping them be well. A lot of the medical literature calls that gap patient resilience, which is a great way for us to be like, “Not our problem. That’s on you,” and I was not satisfied with that, so I said, “I get that. What is that? What is resilience?”

There isn’t a ton of research about this because most resilience research has been done on people with bad PTSD, like combat veterans or people with severe chronic mental illness. I was able to start working with the lab, and the first thing we did sounded very basic. We took the eight most scientifically validated resilience measuring scales. You can find them online. There are eight scientifically validated scales that we use to measure resilience in adults, and we listed every question that every one of them asked into one long list. We evaluated them and figured out that they were asking about eight skills that make us more resilient. If you don’t mind, I have to define resilience.

I’m getting ready to take notes here. I uncapped my pen. I’m like, “I want to write this down.” I’d encourage my audience to do the same thing. When we have a guest like Dr. G on the show and they’re getting ready to share this nugget of information that is going to be in the book too, which you can. Go ahead and access. It’s a good idea to get a pen out. You’ll learn it.

From Stressed To Resilient: The Guide To Handle MORE and Feel It LESS
From Stressed To Resilient: The Guide To Handle MORE and Feel It LESS by Deborah Gilboa, MD

You might think, “Why are we talking about this on a show for do-gooders?” You’re all about creating change and helping people do things that stress them out or navigating a situation that’s hard. You’re trying to solve people’s problems. I hope with them and not just for them. When we think about that, we have to think that helping people be resilient is not about throwing them in situations that are hard, seeing how it goes for them, and imagining that that will make them stronger.

Resilience is the ability to navigate change and come through it as the kind of person you want to be.

You talked about old phrases that we don’t use that much any longer. One of the ones I hate is what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In truth, what doesn’t kill you makes you miserable. For some people, it makes them stronger. I’m not going to ask you who, but would you think for a minute, do you know anybody who’s been through a lot of hard things and it never seems to get any easier for them?”

The Eeyores. There are a few of those in my life.

I don’t even mean people who are looking for badness. I mean people who are like, every time you talk to them, something new and horrible is genuinely happening to them and they never seem to be any more adept or comfortable at navigating it. Going through hard things is not the same thing as lifting weights to get stronger. In a lot of the literature, I define resilience as the ability to navigate change and come through it the person you want to be. That is an accessible definition that highlights that resilience isn’t only needed in times of adversity or struggle. That’s more grit.

Resilience is needed in all change, and there’s a neuroscience reason for that. The reason is that our brains hate change. Here’s why. Your brain has a million functions, but it has one job. That job is to keep you alive. Since you are alive and will die, your brain is suspect about every change you introduce. It’s everything from there’s a new variant to COVID, to the office vending machine that went from Pepsi to Coke. Every single change, your brain says, “Is this the one?” Also, it has these safety mechanisms to give you objections, like, “What am I going to lose? Do I trust this? Is this real? Does it have to be like this?” Then, discomfort is the next thing that happens to us.

Those three safety mechanisms are to keep us alive, but they make change really hard for us, even for people like me and you who think, “I thrive in these conditions. I like my schedule to change. I like new information. I like surprises.” Even as we might be experiencing happiness, pride, relief or excitement like, “I applied for the job and I got it.” Our brains still say, “Are you sure it was your name in the email? Read that again. Did you really get the job? What will your family think of this? Is this going to take time away from the commitments you’ve already made? Will there be somebody funding lunch like what you have now?” It’s still looking for anything dangerous, and it keeps us alive. You get in your car, you put your seatbelt on, and you put it in and the click doesn’t sound the same, your brain won’t let go of that.

It’s like, “Something’s up with my seatbelt. It didn’t click right. Something’s off.”

You wonder if it’s okay. You stop at a red light. You try to open it and try to redo it because your brain’s first job is to keep you alive. Thank goodness, because if your seatbelt isn’t seated correctly because your shirt is caught in it, then if you’re hit, you’re not going to be safe. It’s not a problem, but it is a fact. Resilience is our ability to navigate change, all of which is somewhat stressful, and come through it the kind of person we want to be. With that said, you can’t say to a kid, “Resilience is the ability to navigate change. Come through it as a good person. Go.” How?

It turns out that there are these eight skills. When you have more stress than you can handle that day, you utilize these eight skills. If I had said to you, “If you were me that morning the day before I’d found out the IRS was auditing me, I broke a tooth all the way down completely through. My mom, who lived 500 miles away, had fallen and was on her way to the emergency room with a broken pelvis. I’m an only child and had four kids at home who were all twelve and under.” You might say to me, “Who did you call? You need somebody to take care of your kids or somebody to take care of your mom. You can’t be in two places that are 500 miles apart.”

CMBB 75 | Stressed-Out
Stressed-Out: One of the best strategies we can use with ourselves and others to refocus on resilience is empathy.

That one first mom-to-mom question is a great one because what you’re asking about is the resilience skill of building connections. Did I have the connections to be able to support? You might say to me, “What did you down prioritize at that moment?” I can tell you the IRS, by the way, is what I down prioritized at that moment.

You can typically put them off if you pay the money.

Even without that, I put that envelope back on the mail shelf and thought, “I will deal with that after my mom is sorted.” That is an example of setting boundaries, and that’s another resilience skill.

We’ve got connections and boundaries. I’m hearing community in this, but I’m also hearing limits.

Those are the first two. Although, I can’t say the first two because they’re not in any particular order. Those are 2 of the 8 skills, and you don’t have to have all of these in abundance, but if you have any of these, you’ve reached for them in times of change. What my book and the work that I do is centered on is all to say you’re already an expert in you. When I list these eight, you’re already grading yourself, and I’m guessing as a podcaster and a woman who’s done everything you’ve done. You’re thinking, “Connections? I’m pretty good at that.”

It’s one of my core values. It’s something I value, but then I think about boundaries and we have some negative reinforcements out there, like people who say, “You should do the yes challenge where you say yes to everything over a period of time,” and that is one surefire way for me to burn out in two weeks. I have to say no to certain things because otherwise, I will pack my schedule from dawn until I go to bed. I won’t be there for my family. I’ll be stressed out when my kid asks for a sandwich. I’ve got to be clear that I have to have some time reserved for me to do nothing. Even if it’s just sitting there and breathing or going to the gym I cannot say yes to everything or I will burn out.

Often, when you say yes to everything, you’re saying no to your priorities. One of the most useful things I ever learned was in a business conference years ago and that was every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. Make sure you know what it is. You would not walk into a car dealership to buy a car and not ask what it costs. You would say, “Take my credit card.” You would not. You would say, “What does it cost?” Then decide if it’s worth it.

Every time, you have to know what your yeses are costing you. If they align with your priorities, say yes. I was an improv. Saying yes is in my bones, but if you don’t know what you’re saying yes to, then you are as irresponsible as the person who plunked down a credit card, not knowing that cars can cost $160,000 if you’re in the wrong dealership.

Build connections to support you.

Those are two examples of skills that you already utilize. When we face difficulty, we are, for the most part, as adults, good at saying, “I’m going to solve the problem.” We often look at external problems and forget to think, “Wait a minute. The problem here is that it’s a change and it’s making me feel unsafe. It’s bringing up all these objections for me. I’m focusing on the discomfort.”

One of the best strategies we can use with ourselves and others to refocus on resilience is empathy. Especially for a group of do-gooders, I want to remind you that empathy is a change management strategy even though there are no solutions to empathy. Explicitly, empathy cannot include fixing it. It has to stand alone that all of the change navigation strategies that have proven to help other people be more resilient involve handing over power or autonomy because navigating change is different than fixing a broken pipe.

This makes me curious because I’m wondering how empathy relates to resilience. I guess I have a hard time finding a direct connection, so could you provide an example?

I’m going to use an example of that no matter how you feel about it, everyone has seen it play out in the last couple of years. As a society, we found out in the spring of 2020 that we were going through this global pandemic, and many of us spent several months, if not longer, wishing for, praying for, and hoping for an end to that pandemic.

A lot of us spend a lot of time working towards an end to the pandemic. Along comes scientists and they say, “We have created a vaccine that can help end the pandemic. Whatever you think about the vaccine, it doesn’t matter.” Every person heard about that vaccine. It was a change ending the pandemic that we had all longed for, hoped for, and worked towards, and everybody’s brain said, “What could I lose? Would the vaccine be damaging to me or damaging to my family members? Is it dangerous in some way? Can I really trust it? How did they develop it this quickly? What’s in it? How do we know that it’ll work? How do we know it won’t cause harm? Says who? Where did they get their information?

It should because of your brain’s job, you are alive. It’s supposed to say, “I know there’s a big threat out there, but we are alive. Is this thing the change that will kill us?” We can all recognize that everybody had lost distrust and discomfort with this potential change that gets announced to a larger and smaller extent. I am a doctor. I was saying, “Stick it in my eyeball. I want it right now,” and also, I thought lost distrust and discomfort. I still chose because the choice is the next part of that cycle.

I still got it in December of 2020, so I’m an early adopter, and every doctor I know was, but when I talk to my patients who are vaccine-hesitant, telling them that they should be grateful that this exists.I’m telling that they should be more afraid of COVID than they are of the vaccine and that they should run and get this. I believe all those things to be true. Telling people that changes zero minds. Telling someone how they should feel does not make them navigate change more readily.

Telling them how they shouldn’t feel and that there’s nothing to be afraid of doesn’t help anyone else navigate change more readily. It’s having empathy. “I hear that. You’re afraid. I see that this does not seem trustworthy to you and this feels too uncomfortable for you.” Without trying to fix it, that changes the chemicals in people’s brains and allows them when they feel, seen and heard genuinely. There can’t be any sarcasm or any snark. Even though I am incredibly pro-vax, I do see that people are scared.

CMBB 75 | Stressed-Out
Stressed-Out: People need transparently-sourced information to navigate change.

I’m holding back a laugh here because you revealed to me a lot of what makes me resistant when my husband talks to me about things like this because he tends to should me like, “You should,” or, “Of course.” There’s this of course built into it. You’re not respecting the person’s choice in a way, but I also think that there’s this solution-oriented thinking that many of us, especially engineers like my husband and maybe doctors like you, get ingrained in doing. It’s like, “I have this knowledge. I’m going to impart it, and I’m going to impart it by telling you what you’re supposed to do or I’m going to fix you as opposed to listen to you and hear you and then commiserate with you a bit.” It’s like using empathy with choice. I think that is what makes it so insightful. I like that.

The other strategy that you need, and you’ll see them clearly with his vaccine idea, is to help someone else navigate this change. What I mean by navigating is to make a choice, navigate it, and come through it with the kind of person they want to be. This doesn’t mean they’re going to come through it and make the decision you want them to, but they’re going to navigate it and come through it true to themselves and their own values. They need, in addition to empathy, transparently sourced information.

I have to be willing to say what I know about it, where I learned it, why I trust the people I learned it from, and where they did their research. I need to give processing time. The faster your husband wants you to make that decision, the less likely you will navigate that change smoothly, and I don’t even mean smoothly to what he wants you to do. I mean smoothly at all.

Then, the last piece is what you talked about, and that’s autonomy. The more choice or the more decision-making capability we can give someone else, the more they will be invested in navigating this change with us. Those aren’t the eight resilience skills in us. Those are ways to drop people’s resilience out of themselves, but it’s important to give yourself some empathy too.

If you’re somebody who changes jobs a lot, you open up another email that tells you you got the job, and you find yourself needing to go back and reread it, not wanting to tell anybody about it because you’re not sure you believe it and worried about what it’s going to mean for the rest of your life, and you say, “Why aren’t I over this? I’ve been through this so many times. Why can’t I feel happy?” When I’m in the office and check a five-year-old’s reflexes with my reflex hammer, if I stand right in front of him while I check his knee reflex, what will happen to me?

I’m going to get kicked. Should that five-year-old get in trouble for kicking me? I don’t think so. I’m the one who hit his knee reflex. I should notice to stand to the side. When you encounter change, you should know, “This reflex happens. My brain, instead of my leg, is going to kick out like that, and then it’ll go back and then we can think about what we want to decide.” That reflex is like, “Don’t waste time being angry at yourself about that.”

I want to bring up an episode. I interviewed Aden Nepom, who also interestingly has a background in improv. She is a change expert, and one of the things that she likes to say is that we have a perception that changes badly. That’s automatically where we come from, and if we come from a perspective that changes badly, then every time we encounter change, it compounds the issue. She likes to remind herself that change is and remind the people she’s working with. We can acknowledge that we’re reacting to the change but then move from that into acceptance a little bit more quickly, and the stress that it provides us is going to be lesser.

It’s like, “Whether is.” My kids will come downstairs when they don’t feel well and be like, “Do I have a temperature?” I’m like, “Everybody has a temperature because you’re not dead.” What you want to know is, “Is my temperature abnormal?” Everybody has a temperature. We always have whether. We only talk about it when it’s going to be an inconvenience, but everybody has whether and everybody has change.

Feel more connected to someone by telling them what you admire and appreciate about them.

If you were to boil down what you’ve learned through this process of really digging into this concept of resilience, it comes to these eight core skills that we need to develop, but what is the first step for somebody to get there? I would also imagine picking up and reading your book, looking at your websites, and watching some of the speeches you’ve given are some incredible talks.

The first thing you could do is say, “What is already my go-tos? What are my go-to strategies when I have changed to navigate?” To put it in another way that might be easier to think of, “When I don’t like how I feel, don’t like my situation, or when it’s uncomfortable, what do I do?” In moments where I’m trying to call on my resilience, what are my go-to strategies? Somebody might know. They might say, “I call my sister. I binge watch a TV show for a few episodes,” and those are the strategies that we use to navigate our discomfort. Those are valuable, but the first thing I want you to do is to recognize your own expertise. What are you already good at?

In my book, one of the very first things I do is list these eight skills and I ask you to rate yourself. Give yourself a pre-test. Remember in second grade? Now teachers do this a lot, and you get to a new spelling unit. They give your kid a pre-test on the spelling words so they know which group to put them in for that unit. If you already know EE words, but you don’t get EA words, then no point in making you relearn all the EE words that will move you up. If you don’t understand this idea of double vowels at all, we got to go back a little bit.

You give yourself this assessment and you say, “I give myself an 8 out of 10 at building connections.” You don’t have to know a lot of people. This is about depth more than width. You’re like, “The people I know, I feel comfortable reaching out to, asking them questions, leaning on them, and helping them with things. I get building connections.” Setting boundaries? “I don’t feel great at it, but I also don’t understand how it relates to this, so I’m not sure that find that that compelling.”

The next one is about being able to be open to change or open to different possible futures. A litmus test for this is if you’re celebrating in some way by ordering in food and you’re ordering in from a restaurant where you have a favorite dish. You call to order it and they tell you they’re out. How crushed are you? Meaning, can you picture ordering anything else or ordering from anywhere else and still enjoying your celebration, or did that kill it? If that kills it, you may be somebody who needs to work some on opening to different possibilities. That’s a really important resilience skill.

Is it managing discomfort that’s hard for you? As you go through these 8, 1 of them will ring for you as not just, “I don’t feel great at that,” but also, it would be really useful. You think about exchange. You’re struggling to navigate and think, “That’s the one. If I could wave a magic wand, I would want right now,” and then that’s where to start.

One of the most challenging arenas for us to navigate now and in times of COVID is that connections piece. I’m an extrovert. I’m not able to get in front of people or person-to-person the same way that I was a couple of years ago. I was already accustomed to working from home. I was already doing that. I’ve been a contractor for several years. I have mostly worked for myself. I have a home office, so that shift wasn’t that bad. I was going to grad school when it hit. I had to pivot. I moved a friend in to help me take care of my kids so I could keep pace with grad school and still work. Now my house felt smaller.

I had all of these changes that I navigated to work through, but I was balancing on a knife’s edge. The one thing I’ve sacrificed over the last couple of years, and I think that people will resonate with this, is those personal relationships where you covet, maintain, develop and nourish when you have these opportunities to gather.

CMBB 75 | Stressed-Out
Stressed-Out: Don’t waste time being angry at yourself.

Since gathering hasn’t been happening the same way, a lot of people are feeling more disconnected, or that safety net isn’t there the same way. I hear it from people all over the globe, so I wondered if you had any specific tips for people that might be feeling that way. Maybe they are struggling to find their community or maintain the depth of connection they had with their core safety net or their friends and support system.

I’ve been saying all along, “Check on your extroverted friends. We’re not okay,” but there are some ways, and the best ways to get those chemicals flowing, that oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and the dopamine that people get from connections is to surprise someone in a great way. You can do that now if you have a phone. You can pick up your phone and say to yourself, “I’ll block off the next five minutes to send a text to three different people that I want to feel more connected to, and tell them something I admire about them or appreciate about them.” That’s it.

A text as opposed to social media because it’s different.

Texts because it’s one-to-one, but not a phone call because you don’t know when you’re catching them or what space they’re in.

I will tell you that I’ve saved voicemails that helped to bolster me in this time and gone back to them, even simple ones, like my niece wishing me a happy birthday or a happy new year. They’ve offered me comfort because there’s a warmth in the voice and it’s something I can go back to. I will say that the power of podcasting has helped to solve it for me, as an extrovert, because I get to connect with wonderful people like you and hear these in-depth stories. It scratches that itch. Maybe not in the same way, but in some way, it’s comparable. I want to thank you so much for joining me in this episode. I do have a final question. I’d like to know if there was anything I haven’t asked that you wish I had or some thought you wanted to leave the audience with. I’d love to hear it.

When we encounter stress, we sometimes feel like we must’ve, in some sense, failed. That’s the dirty underbelly of this idea that stress is toxic. We’re told, “If you’re stressing somebody out, you’re the villain. If somebody is stressing you out, you should get away from that relationship.” Instead of saying, “Is there stress,” as the metric for whether something is good or bad. I want you to ask a different question. Will this experience, person, relationship, task or whatever it is, serve me? Is it serving me? Does it match my priorities? If it does, then use your resilience skills, and if it doesn’t, then set a boundary.

That’s the one I’m going to work on, so I’ll have to let you know how that goes. If our audience wants to connect with you directly or to review all of the great work you’re doing and get your book, where should they go?

The easiest place to find me is my website, which is AskDoctorG.com.

It’s time for that simple ask. I’d love it if you would share this episode and our website with your friends. It’s your sharing the in-depth discussions like this one that we get more people on board and that we ultimately can help them to live a more resilient life. Together we can all create the future that we want. I encourage you to visit my action page as well on CareMoreBeBetter.com.

Lean into discovery, figure out what matters to you, stay curious, ask important questions, and get involved. Thank you, now and always, for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more and we can be better. We can even regenerate the Earth and be less stressed along the way. Thank you.

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  • Dr. G is a board certified Family Physician and internationally reknowned Resilience Expert. She works with leaders to help them understand how to harness the power of stress and help their people open to change.

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