[E167] How Understanding Stress Capacity Changes the Conversation

Episode 167 November 14, 2023 00:23:48
[E167] How Understanding Stress Capacity Changes the Conversation
Empowered to Connect Podcast
[E167] How Understanding Stress Capacity Changes the Conversation

Nov 14 2023 | 00:23:48

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Show Notes

Today on the show we talk about knowing and understanding our stress capacity - this is a skill that is beneficial to every person on earth! Yes, absolutely essential for parents, but also for human beings who endeavor to be in ANY kind of relationship with another human being, knowing ourselves and our stress capacity helps us manage our humanity and help the humans around us manage theirs. Becca McKay joins us to break down what stress capacity is and why it's so vital for everyone. 

What can we do to mitigate meltdowns in our home? How can we better understand ourselves and predict what might set us off and handle it before that point? All of that and more in today's episode of the ETC Podcast!

To learn more about Empowered to Connect you can check out our website, our YouTube Channel with hours of teaching and conversations to help you take care of the children and other adults in your life and as always, follow us on social media for parenting content and the latest news on what we're up to as an organization!

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Welcome to the Empowered to Connect podcast, where we come together to discuss a healing centered approach to engagement and well being for ourselves, our families, and our communities. I'm JD Wilson, and I am your host. And today on the show, we got Becca McKay with us to talk about something that is just imperative for all humans to understand. Definitely helpful as a parent, definitely helpful for us to teach our kids. But we're going to talk about our stress capacity and how do we understand and kind of evaluate what our stress capacity is, and how can we recognize that within our kids, our spouses, partners, family, et cetera. So we're going to talk all about that today. And here with us to talk about that is Becca McKay. And so, without any further ado, let's jump into it now. Here we are, myself and Becca McKay, talking about stress capacity. All right, so, as we mentioned in the opening, Becca is here with us. And so, Becca, I mentioned in the open about the fact that this is not just helpful for us as parents, it's not just helpful for parenting our kids. This is just a good, helpful human trait to have to understand our stress capacity. And so if you don't mind, why don't you start by kind of walking us through what this even looks like or means? [00:01:22] Speaker B: Yeah. So the idea of stress capacity, there's lots of different illustrations you can use. You can think about, we all have a different size cup, and the challenges we can handle are what fits inside of our cup. So I may have the Stanley cup size, someone else may have a teacup, but we've all got kind of a different size. You could also think about it like a window. Like, we've all got a different size window. And what you see through is kind of what you're capable of facing at any given moment. But then as stressors adds up, you can kind of imagine, if you're thinking about the window analogy, you're kind of imagining a window shade coming down. And so as you think about this idea of stress capacity, it's, man, when you are calm, cool, and collected, when things are going okay, when you've been poured into, you can handle whatever fits in that window, the whole window. You can handle all of it. Stuff can come at you. You can get a flat tire, no problem. I know how to call AA. Somebody can miss a meeting with you. You're flexible, you don't mind. But then, as stressors add up, I think about the times. For me, it's usually house and car stuff. When house and car stuff starts to add up, it seems like when it rains, it pours, and, man, I am super easy going, inflexible. But, hey, your HVAC. The whole thing needs to be replaced. NPS. This hole in the fence is going to cost whatever. And by the way, you haven't done XYZ repair on your car. When that all adds up, my window shade on my window is coming down and down and down, and that's the time when the smallest thing is going to set me off. So stress capacity is just this idea that we all have kind of an ability to tolerate stressful challenges. And as stuff adds up, we can get into a season where we're more kind of popping off on people. We're more stressed out. We're dysregulated super easily, and it can make us start to just be really frustrated with ourselves, frustrated with the people around us. All those types of things can start to happen. [00:03:22] Speaker A: I'm just taking a leap here. I'm imagining that as you encounter trauma as a human being, that stress capacity becomes a little bit smaller, right? [00:03:31] Speaker B: It can. It definitely can. Even the original size of the window and the window shade kind of pulling up and down, both of those can be impacted. It can also just make things move a lot quicker. So maybe you're more quicker to become dysregulated or to have things kind of just spark something inside of you. And the thing about stress is we all experience it, and we all have reactions to it. That's so normal and common. Sometimes, though, when that window gets little, our reactions can surprise us. We can be like, whoa, where did that come from? I didn't know I was feeling that way. [00:04:09] Speaker A: That big man. So I'm thinking about this as a parenting tool. And all of us, I would pay a million dollars. I don't have a million dollars, but if I did, I would pay a million dollars to be able to install some kind of system where I could see our kids stress capacities in real time. Where are they? Is this not the right moment to go back to detail, walk through the chores that weren't done on time? Because sometimes we find that stuff out way too late. And so I'm wondering about, as a parent, Becca, what are some of the ways that we can begin to kind of look at this for our kids and helping our kids learn how to look at this as well? [00:04:57] Speaker B: Absolutely. So I like that you're thinking about it kind of both ways. You want to be paying attention to your kids and helping them kind of develop that self awareness. And then for us, too, right? We are adults, but we get caught off guard. Sometimes we get snippy and snappy and stuff flusters us more than we wish that it would. I think when you're talking to kids and you're thinking about supporting your kids, we have this cool image of whole person needs where we're thinking about the kid in the middle. And there's all different types of needs. There's physical needs, there's emotional needs, there's academic needs, relationship needs. So some of them that if you've been around, etc. Very long you're probably used to hearing about is like, are they hydrated? Are they fed? We've got to start with those basic physical needs. Are they sleeping at night? And if those things aren't happening, your kid's stress capacity is going to be getting kind of little. So the first thing we want to do is address those physical needs and those sensory processing needs. But as kids get older, as they get more comfortable with letting you know when they're hungry, with carrying that water bottle around or drinking prime or whatever it is that they're into as they get older, we might not be aware of some of their relationship stuff that's happening. So they could be coming home on ten, maybe because they were in an argument with their best friend or their teacher, or they weren't invited to a certain birthday party. And so there could be things that are lowering that window that we don't know about. So, like you said, with chores, maybe usually they take out the trash, fine. And then today they just did not go fine. I think be curious is the best way forward. Be curious about their body and their relationships with other people and think about your family. I don't know the right word for it, but you might have a trauma bursary or something big that's happened in the past that's kind of creeping up on you. Maybe an anniversary of a loss of a loved one or like a big thing that's happened in your family, a big move or transition, and those things can also be contributing. So just get really curious and open to the idea that maybe they're not just being a stinker. Maybe there's something going on a little bit beyond the surface. [00:07:03] Speaker A: Yeah, no, that's really helpful. Yeah. I think there's so often times that, and I'll just use us as an like in our don't. I don't know. I'm not going to use a specific one, but we will have an encounter with a kid where we both kind of, Elizabeth and I, the next time that we're alone, kind of look over and be, yo, what was that? What just happened? Because it'll be such a very small request or a question or whatever, and it elicits a very big. So, you know, one of the things that is helpful and that I'm grateful to be talking about today because this will keep me dialed in this week, is just even when you're picking up from carpool, when you are seeing that kid for the first time in the day, you can actually use those sort of like those reintroduction moments to kind of gauge where they're at, right? Like, hey, how are you? How was your day? And then asking, we talk at our dinner table about Happy's and crappies. And so what was your happy, what was your crappy for the day? And what was something that was really great? What was so terrible? And those are usually really telling. And so sometimes I will even sneak and ask them before Dinner if I'm with a kid just to try to figure out kind of where they're at. Because I think we're realizing more and more, especially as you go into teenage years and there's hormones racing and all that, something that makes absolutely no sense might have your kid just ready to blow. And so if you kind of know that ahead of time, doesn't mean we don't do chores, doesn't mean we don't ask, take our trash, none of that. But it does change the way that we approach them in those moments and the ways that we can then support and try to wrap around and help them. [00:08:52] Speaker B: Sometimes exciting things. So I think about my niece had a birthday party, and the next day, man, everything was just a meltdown. And so just thinking about too, like, stress capacity. It could be fun things. It could be a holiday or a celebration or a birthday party or a family vacation. It could be anything that is just kind of outside of the norm. That takes a lot of energy, a lot of emotional energy. So even the good things, sometimes we get extra frustrated because we're like, we just did this most fun thing ever. Why are you melting down? And so it's that stress capacity. Yeah. They've used up their capacity with the excitement. And so they don't have much left for kind of the aftermath the day after. [00:09:33] Speaker A: Right? Yeah. I mean, same. By the way, we both have a huge event coming up at work that we will not talk about in this moment. But the day after that happens, I will feel like I am in a fog almost the whole day because there's just so much going into that one thing. And so I'm wondering, Becky, do we know if we're able to grow that window to build the skills it takes to maybe slow down the window shade, so to speak, from going in? What does that look like to grow in that area? [00:10:10] Speaker B: Yeah, I think there's two parts to it. One is just to be more aware of it, and then two, yeah, you want to extend it over time. You want to build your ability to handle things that are stressful. So with just being aware of it part, maybe this week, when we've got a big work thing Coming up, isn't the best time to also start a new after school club or so. Some of it is just timing things. Sometimes stuff's outside of our control. Right. Sometimes life happens. I think about a couple of years ago, I tore my ACL, like, on a random Tuesday, and that kind of derailed. I didn't know that that was going to happen, but I had to then deal with it. Well, in the months after, I couldn't handle very much day to day stress, so I had to be really aware of that so that I wasn't taking it out on the people that I love or so that I wasn't harming those relationships. So I think the self awareness piece, as your kids get older and even for yourself, be really mindful and aware, like, ooh, now is not the best time to maybe start a brand new bedtime routine because I'm already kind of low. Like, I'm handling a lot in this area. And then how do you grow it? You can grow it by taking care of your needs, manage your levels of exercise and sleep and nutrition. It's the self care things that we don't want to do. Right. Like take care of your body, move, don't sit still too long. Connect with other people, ask for help. I think for a lot of our listeners, man, whenever we get to know them, we've met people kind of over the years. So many are parents who are just pouring their whole selves into their kids, and they're not doing very much for themselves. And over time, JD, that is just going to make it harder for them to do anything because they're going to burn themselves out. And that's so common because we love the people around us. We want to give everything we've got to them. But take care of yourself. Take care of those needs. Don't wait until there's, like, alarm signals blaring off and you're having to go be put on blood pressure medication to get some help. Like ask for help in the little things. [00:12:16] Speaker A: Yeah. I even think about thinking of us as cars, thinking of parents as cars. Our primary purpose, once you're in this season of life, is kind of getting them around all the time. And if that car breaks down, it Halts everything. There's so much riding on our shoulders day to day, like, as people that if we're not doing the regular schedule maintenance on that and we're not, again, noticed, when we talk about self care, we're not talking about spa days and vacations and all that, although sometimes those are needed. It's in a different way. I wouldn't equate that to getting a car wash just because your car looks a little bit dirty. It's not necessary for the mechanical running of the car, but like an oil change or a tire rotation or one of those things, those things definitely are. And so when we think about these regular maintenance things, we need to do for ourselves, a lot of times, that is just. And it's different for everybody, which is what makes this difficult. Right? We can't just say, hey, make sure that every 20 and 30,000 miles, you're doing this or this. So it'd be much more helpful. But we each need different things in different times. So having the people around you help to sort of point out and be that check engine light maybe is one really helpful thing in that it just changes the conversation. [00:13:42] Speaker B: When you know your check engine light is on or when you start to notice that's what's happening, it just changes the conversation, because then it's like, we're in this together. Like, hey, bud, I can see that you're super stressed out right now. Let's take care of that. Let's pause. Like you said, let's have the conversation about the chores that you missed a different time. Let's hold off on that. Let's pause. Same with us. When I can recognize or when people that I love can tell me, like, hey, you're kind of at the end of your rope, that changes the conversation. And so I think it's just that little bit of compassion and empathy that we can give each other whenever we're aware that's what's happening. It's not that your kid can't do the chores. It's not that I can't call an HVAC repair man. What's happening in those end of your rope moments is that's, like, the final straw. You're already way past, and I think we need to have a lot of empathy for people who the end of their rope is shorter than ours. So we look at someone and we were really judgmental. Maybe our kids, maybe our friends, maybe our family members, and we're like, what do you mean you can't? I have to handle eight times more than this every single day. And you have it easy. That's not helpful. Let's be compassionate to the different stress capacities that people have and then just change the conversation. Let's support each other. Let's find ways to move forward. We talk a ton about the balance of nurture and structure. The same thing goes here. We're not saying never tell your kid to take out the trash. We're just saying, pay attention. If that's something they do most days and today it is just off the rails, there's probably more going on and having the conversation about stress capacity. Teach your kids this idea. Teach them about your check engine lights coming on, the car maintenance analogy, whatever your kids resonate with, teach them this idea because they can start to tell you instead of their behavior telling you. So instead of flying off the handle, they can be like, dad, I really don't want to talk about chores right now. I had a horrible day with my teacher. They're so mad at me, and this friend and I are arguing or whatever it is. [00:15:43] Speaker A: Yeah. And if the trust is built in that relationship where that honest statement can come out and be received, that's a huge deal. I love that. I appreciate that. [00:15:57] Speaker B: Unfortunately, for most of us, we're going to know about our stress capacity when we go past it. That's just life. You don't know that you've pushed yourself too far until you've pushed yourself too far. And so if you're in that spot, so much grace and compassion for you. We've all been there. We've all been in that moment where we're like, I just yelled because they bought the wrong brand of laundry detergent. I might be part of the problem here, but you don't notice it before always. So just practicing paying attention over time, that can be super helpful. And then building that kind of common language about it. I think, too, you said it, different things work for different people. So for me, reading a book might calm me down. And for someone else, that might be, like, the last thing they need to do. They might need to go on a run or go lift some weights. We all need different things to kind of build that stress capacity. Sometimes we can remove stressors, and when you can, that's great. Sometimes we talk a lot about having permission to opt out here at, etc. You don't have to do all the things. Sometimes you can say no to good things, but other times you can't opt out. You can't opt out of the HVAC is broken and the car won't start. There's sometimes when you can't opt out of it. And so you need to ask for grace in other areas of your life while you manage those overly stressful situations. [00:17:22] Speaker A: Yeah, well, what comes to mind, I think, is over time, all of us to go back to the car analogy, you start to feel after a while, if you are overdue for an oil change, you start to know the signs and to see the signs of it. And so I think just remembering that our bodies are really intricately designed to have lots of little alarm systems going off saying, hey, something is not right here, buddy. Like, hold on, we need something. So I think the better we get at paying attention to those signs, the more we can manage that along the way. As opposed to, like you were saying, just having to wait until the meltdown or the come apart. Know any advice, Becca, for parents who might be listening to this? Like, this sounds great. I get this for adults. Like, I think I have a kid that has no, it's, it's only stress. All the things should be in that situation. Yeah. [00:18:27] Speaker B: You're not alone if you're feeling that way. We work with a lot of families who are in that spot where it could be from the minute they wake up in the morning until the minute they go to sleep, there is no capacity for anything to go any way except their way. And so start really small and if you can be playful. So start with, we're going to practice letting dad win. And we're going to play a game that only dad can win. And we're going to be silly about it and goofy. And we're going to practice, practice, practice. We're going to practice, all of us, whenever we run into this situation, checking in on every family member, and it's going to take some time and we're going to be patient. But start with really small practical opportunities to teach the skill. The skill of handling other people's needs. The skill of waiting. Break it down. The skill of handling disappointment. There's different reasons why kids are melting down. So what's your specific kids needs? Break down that specific skill. Practice it outside the moment in a fun way. I think it will get better over time with a trusting relationship and a balance of structure and nurture. But it is so difficult and you might spend more of your time co regulating than you wish. Like you might be spending more of your time calming them down. That's right. As much as you can problem solve. As they get older, with little littles, it's harder. But as they get older, like, hey, buddy, next time that it's time to get up in the morning, I'm going to try a different way, but I need you to meet me halfway. Like, just helping them kind of be part of the team, be super collaborative, give lots of choices, give lots of voice. It sounds like I'm just trying to sell our connecting practices. I just think our connecting practices hold true to this. Implement them with your specific kid in mind. The capacity can grow and start to jot notes down. Because if you start these practices, you start practicing outside. The moment you start co regulating, you start giving them choices. It's not going to happen overnight. What's going to happen is you're going to look up one day and be like, wait. We used to be having meltdowns every single day, four times a day. Now it's still every day. But it's like once a day it's going to be this slow, gradual growth. And if you're not writing it down or telling someone about it or jotting down a note in your phone, you're going to feel like it's still happening all the time. It's so stressful. So start to pay attention to how often. [00:20:57] Speaker A: Frequency for sure. Yeah, that's all super helpful. Becca, any last words, any last pieces of advice for anybody who's listening to this before they go? [00:21:08] Speaker B: I think, just remember that your stress capacity changes all the time. Like, you could wake up in the morning and be like, today's going to be a great day, and then it's just one of those days where the little things add up and you are not your best self. And so my encouragement would be, don't doubt your capability. During times when you don't have a lot of capacity, like you're probably capable of handling so much. It doesn't mean that you're not capable just because you're having a hard day. Same for our kids. Extend that grace to yourself and to our kids, because we all like, throughout the day, it goes up, it goes down, we get hungry and then we eat, we feel lonely, and then somebody reaches out and gives us text us or gives us a call. We have kind of an EB and flow happening all throughout the day. So just don't go down the shame spiral of what you're capable of. [00:22:00] Speaker A: That's really helpful, personally. That's really helpful. Well, Becca, thank you. I appreciate that and we'll talk to you soon. Great stuff from Becca today and just really thankful for her joining us and talking about that stress capacity piece. And obviously we mentioned it's different for everybody. Hopefully there's some pieces of advice for you in there that apply to you directly, that you can implement into your daily life and to help your kids as they're growing in awareness and learning how to use their cognitive skills in different ways and self awareness in different ways. And so anyways, just really grateful for Becca. Thank you for jumping in with us. Always. I would say if you have not rated or viewed the podcast, make sure you do that on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify or wherever you listen. Definitely drop us a comment on YouTube if you're watching on YouTube. We love being able to interact with people and just know kind of real time feedback as know, I'm loving this or this could be better. And so I would say just if you have feedback you want to give us, we have a form on our website. We can get that feedback from you, or you can leave a review or a rating on Apple Podcasts or a comment on YouTube. And so, for all the people here at Empowered to connect, for Mo and Tana Onager, for Becky McKay, for Kyle Wright, who Edison engineers all of our audio. For Tad Jewett, the creator of the music behind the Empowered to Connect podcast, I'm JD Wilson, and we'll see you next week on the Empowered to Connect podcast.

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