With pressure for perfection, social worker Laurie Strand says the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year.
“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family,” Strand said. “They can push our buttons like no one else can.”
Consumerism pressures us to have the best gifts, the best party. Then there are those who do not have access to food, the ability to give gifts or the privilege of downtime over the holidays.
Laurie Strand of Resiliency Rising will lead “Thriving Through the Holidays Using the Community Resiliency Model” Thursday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. at The Community Library in Ketchum.
“We teach skills that help create new neural pathways more geared towards resilience and wellness,” Strand said.
This event is free. Register on The Community Library website.
The Community Resiliency Model is six wellness skills based on human biology.
“These skills can help ameliorate the effects of long term stress or everyday stressors,” Strand said. “We can manage the ups and downs of life hopefully more skillfully. Everyday stressors might not have as big of an effect on us as they might have.”
Strand makes the distinction between toxic stress and positive stress. She mentioned children’s excitement on Christmas morning for an example of positive stress.
“We need it to get up in the morning and go to our jobs and make dinner,” Strand said. “But even positive stress is stress, it still has an effect on our bodies and minds … If we don’t have biological-based skills to help kind of promote the inherent resilience that we have in our bodies, we experience things like burnout, exhaustion, fatigue, maybe even a change in our personality.”
She discusses the idea of “zones.”
“Hopefully, we can help people bounce back faster when they feel like they’re out of their zone,” Strand said.
The high zone includes emotions hard to contain, like big expressions of anger, anxiety or panic. Then there’s the low zone.
“It’s like being washed away in the rivers of sorrow,” Strand said.
“Within that zone, I can manage the ups and downs of life,” Strand said. “I can experience the rich emotional life that humans have. I can be happy, sad, mad, scared or frustrated, but I can handle it in that zone.”
Her work is rooted in neuroscience.
“[Stress] can be debilitating or harmful because it has an effect on our biology and our nervous system,” Strand said. “When we are dysregulated, our nervous system is being bombarded, it can have long lasting impacts on our physical and mental health.”
She uses neuroscience to trace people’s stress back to their childhood.
“If they have been in that realm of toxic stress, bodies and brains can begin to change because of the different hormones that are secreted during the fight, flight, freeze response,” Strand said. “That does have long lasting impacts.”
However, it is not a life sentence.
“Adversity is not destiny,” Strand said. “Just because we’ve experienced hardship in our life does not mean that we are destined to have negative mental or physical health impacts.”
Working for years as a mental health coordinator at Blaine County School District, she understands the unique community we live in.
“For the size of our town, we have an incredible amount of resources, but we still don’t have enough,” Strand said. “For the teens that are really struggling with housing insecurity and unsafe house situations, we don’t have access to youth homeless shelters because we don’t have the population to support it. Or substance dependence, which is so massive in this community, we don’t have access to intensive outpatient care that people could attend and then continue on with their day.”
Conducting workshops with businesses, she believes mental health can be built through communities. However, you have to start with yourself.
“We need to be putting our oxygen mask on first before we can offer these skills to anyone else,” Strand said.
The program will be livestreamed and available to watch later. The recording will be available until Jan. 2. ￼