After the Webinar: Wellness as a Survival Mechanism. Q&A with Duane Bowers

Webinar presenter Duane Bowers answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Wellness as a Survival Mechanism: Changing Skills for Changing Times. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: How do we reframe past experiences to change our perception? 

Duane Bowers: It’s a matter of not so much reframing it, as giving it a different meaning and value. It’s a matter of so you have a past experience that has caused you to, I’ll just make one up. Let’s say you were walking through an alley and you were assaulted. All right, and so now every time you see an ally, you have a fear response, you have a fight, flight, freeze response, it’s a trigger, so the way to look at that, and this is going to sound very simplistic, and I don’t mean it that way. But the way to do that is to give the alley a different meaning. In other words, every time you look at an ally, you think that’s where a person gets assaulted well. What else happens in an alley? Well, sometimes, kids planted an alley And, you know, there’s, if you look down some alleys, they’ve got windows and apartments. People looking over it and maybe they’re two old women talking back and forth across the alley from their apartment windows and there’s an old cook, sitting out smoking a cigarette. By giving it a different meaning. So that, when you think of alley, you don’t think of assault, but you start to think of these other things, too. I’m not saying you forget the assault, but it’s one of many things that happen in an alley. You start to change the meaning and value that you’re giving the word alley. I know that sounds very simplistic. Look at whatever that situation is and look at what else happens in that kind of context. You’re seeing it from one viewpoint but are there other viewpoints to see that context so that it has a different meaning and value, that isn’t just about the trauma, or the stressor that you’re experiencing?


Audience Question: I see people smoking because they’re stressed. Does it actually reduce stress, or does it create more? 

Duane Bowers: Actually, nicotine is a stimulus for the body, it might stimulate it even more, but here’s what it is. It’s an oral response. One of the basics, as children, when we were an infant and we needed something, we cried. Usually, we cried because we were hungry, so what happened? We got a bottle or mom fed us and so the oral sensation became for us as infants, the oral gratification became the satisfaction of the situation. And so, that’s what happens with cigarettes as it becomes sort of that placebo, it becomes the way of getting that oral gratification. You know, food becoming the idea of comfort food. We eat when we are upset, people will do things orally when they’re upset. So, that’s where smoking actually comes in, it’s that sensation of getting oral gratification. The other thing is, by not taking oxygen into your lungs, but taking something else into your lungs, it can give a little bit of a high. And I don’t know the dynamics of that, so I won’t go any further with that, but I know when I used to smoke that first cigarette in the morning, I get all rush out of it, and I kind of looked forward to that. So, I think there’s that element as well, But, no, technically, it causes more stress in the body. But that oral fixation, that’s what we’re looking for. We sort of feel psychologically, we feel calmer with that oral fixation.


Audience Question: So, are there ways to start moving away from that oral fixation, or at least as a response? 

Duane Bowers: Well, I think, yeah, there are other ways of teaching ourselves that feeling gratified so that it doesn’t have to be physical. Or it can be a different form of physical. It could be exercise. It could be taking deep breaths, just deep breaths of air, instead of a cigarette. So, I think there are other ways of teaching ourselves to feel gratification. That’s one of those coping mechanisms that you may have learned as an adolescent. And you haven’t really question to yourself as to is it still doing what it used to do for me? So yeah, I think we can teach ourselves other ways to gratify ourselves, but that’s a very basic one. We learned that as an infant.


Audience Question: Are there any foods that can help a person de-stress or reduce cortisol? 

Duane Bowers: Foods to reduce cortisol. I don’t know of any. That doesn’t mean there aren’t, but I’ve never come across it in my research. Certainly, there are foods that we know help us to calm down. You know, tea, for example, or for some people warm milk. Even activities that are calming, like meditation or prayer or that sort of thing. I have never heard of foods that reduce cortisol. You know one that is? Chocolate. Chocolate actually does reduce cortisol. But there’s an element in chocolate that will help to reduce cortisol. Of course, then you become fat. But hopefully, you’re happy. So, you can be fat and happy JCH: We’ve got a couple of folks that have weighed in Danielle had said avocados, broccoli, bananas, and dark chocolate can reduce cortisol.


Audience Question: What should I do if I’m seeing almost all of the stress response list in my own life? 

Duane Bowers: If I were your therapist, I would immediately look at what are you doing to help reduce the cortisol in your body. Are you doing things like exercising? Are you using socializing? Are you interacting with others? Are you making plans for the future and setting goals for yourself? Those kinds of things. All of those things we talked about. I think I would, honestly, I think it might be time to go talk to a therapist, not because you need help. Yeah, you do, but, but not because there’s a mental health issue, but to have somebody help you figure out what is it that’s causing all of this at once? What are the things that are promoting the stress response in you? And having somebody on the outside help you identify them and then come up with a plan on how to reduce them. Because there are some stressors in your life that are obviously causing this. Even if you can’t eliminate the stress, or let’s say, you know, you’re taking care of a parent, and you also have three kids. You’ve got all these stressors going on. You can’t get rid of the stressors. But how can you cope with the better? And having somebody on the outside that can help you look at that when you if you’re really experiencing all of those, it’s going to be hard for you to really take a step back and look at what can I do about these that may help to have somebody on the outside, help guide you through that and look at that. There are other people that can help with that, certainly, religious folks, Pastors, and perhaps a minister, if you’re religiously inclined. You might even look at a nutritionist, but all that kind of gets expensive. And so, I recognize that. If you work someplace where you have an EAP and Employee Assistance Program, you might want to use that because you get like 4 or 5 free sessions with a mental health person, and it shouldn’t take too many to be able to kind of identify what are the stressors. And what are a couple of coping skills I can use with them? I say, all the time, what is one thing that you can do to make this situation more livable? Just one little thing. And if you can do one little thing and one little thing and one little thing, that’s a step.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Wellness as a Survival Mechanism: Changing Skills for Changing Times.  



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