The strategy of recasting to support resilience

Article written by Mary Metten, Health and Well-being Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Life is stressful. Whether it is daily stress, like driving in a crowded area or running late, or something more profound, like the death of a loved one or loss of a job, stressful situations come to find everyone. When we experience those challenging or problematic life situations, there are many ways people handle them.

The book, “Happiness & Health,” by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks, with Jen Seda M.D., outlines clinical, scientific, and anecdotal evidence related to the mind-body connection of health and well-being. One notion within the writing is the strategy of recasting. Recasting is laid out to be a three-part process related to building resilience: 1. Feel your feelings, 2. Finding meaning, and 3. Recognize opportunities.

Feel your feelings

It is not realistic or healthy to feel positive continually. Learning to embrace emotions and feel them completely takes time and practice to master.

Becoming aware of reactions to strong feelings may be uncomfortable in the initial outset, especially if sitting with your emotions is not your norm.

Feelings and emotions can motivate us to act and give feedback on something that has happened.

Some experts identify there to be four primary emotions: sadness, fear, anger, and joy. It further identifies other emotions to be secondary or combinations of the primary emotions. For example, the feeling of guilt can be considered a combination of sadness and fear.

During this part of recasting, it is important to allow yourself your feelings, identify and name the feelings you are experiencing and how you are expressing them, and allow yourself time to sit with the emotions.

Finding meaning

There are things in life that leave us questioning our assumptions and a realization of life sometimes just not being fair. The second part of recasting is finding meaning. It attempts to make sense out of the senseless.

Think about the answers to these questions:

What were the causes of the problem? What things were out of my control and what things were in my control?

Are there things I could have done differently?

What are my feelings or instincts telling me?

What can I learn from this?

Finding answers to these questions will help moving forward because finding and identifying meaning can allow better coping in a situation and in building resilience.

Recognizing opportunity

This final part of recasting is recognizing opportunities; identifying actions you can take. It is not to try and change something that has already occurred but rather looking for a different perspective.

A perspective of somehow using an event to your advantage. Answer the questions: “What have I learned from this?” and “What opportunities exist for me now?” Looking for and finding new opportunities can help change our future and help us grow.

Taking the time and effort of practicing recasting may initially feel laborious and clunky; even uncomfortable. Yet, at the end of it all, recasting is a method of responding to stress with awareness rather than simply reacting.

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