Stress and anxiety are unavoidable – that’s why we have resilient parts to help us survive stressful life situations. But sometimes those parts get overwhelmed, and you may feel stuck. Are you ready to give your resilient parts some on the job training?
This week on the Therapy Spot, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Reyland, a clinical and developmental psychologist with a practice in Denver, Colorado. When Susan and I spoke back in December, we talked about parenting and child development through the IFS lens. This time around, we had the opportunity to discuss different ways of using IFS to find relief from stress and anxiety.
Unlike anxiety, stress is a way for our bodies to tell us we are off balance. Stress shows up as a response to external events, and often shows up as fear, anger, or excitement. That’s right: stress can be positive! In fact, stress helps get our coping parts online. These parts help us be resilient and to return to balance – or at least, on the road to return to balance.
Even chronic stress, with the feelings of being stuck in an imbalance or being overwhelmed, is not the same thing as anxiety. Anxiety is an internalized response that shows up with fear and dread – often the fear of shame or humiliation. When you’re blended with an anxious part, the anxiety doesn’t go away when the situation ends. Instead, it stays on, convinced that danger could be just around the corner and you need to be prepared.
Anxiety keeps our system flooded with stress hormones like cortisol. When cortisol is constantly flowing through us, we get a decrease in our “happy” neurotransmitters. Breaking out of this anxious cycle might seem impossible, but the good news is that you are not trapped in the situation that is making you anxious.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to dealing with stress and anxiety. Through trial and error, you design the best approach for yourself. So how can IFS help give us some “on the job” training to build up our resilience and get our resilient parts online? Listen along and find out!