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  • Writer's picturelarahammock

Increase Emotional Resilience with DRESS

Updated: Feb 20


Recently, I was listening to an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, who is a functional doctor. Functional doctors are MDs that differ from other physicians in that they are specifically looking for the causes of illnesses and physical issues, rather than focusing on treating the symptoms. Because of this, they tend to talk with their clients more about lifestyle choices.

He makes the point, which I will reiterate here, that traditional Western medicine is good for dealing with things like infectious diseases and broken bones. However, chronic issues are best approached from the standpoint of lifestyle changes. Dr. Hyman has a list of areas that he target with his clients. I made this into a handy acronym — DRESS.


The reason this has so much resonance with me is that physical health and emotional health interact and impact each other constantly. With my clients, I check in on their physical health first to determine how much resilience they might have for addressing emotional issues. To me, these are the levers you can pull to increase emotional strength and capacity.


DDiet — this really is a larger, umbrella category for anything that you are taking into your body. It includes food and drink, but also environmental toxins or chemicals. This follows the principle that the quality of what you put in to your body determines the quality of what you get out of your body.


RRelationships — this refers to our innate human need for love, belonging, and social contact. It is concerned with our most intimate relationships, of course, but also our more superficial and transient relationships with others in the world. In addition, we can’t forget our most important relationship, the one we have with ourselves and, if you are so inclined, with God. Nurturing all of these relationships helps us to live our best lives.


EExercise — this one is fairly obvious, but is another broader term for movement of all kinds. Posture and the way we hold our bodies also fits into this category. Exercise is one of the ways that we metabolize food and stress, so it is an important component of our well-being.


SSleep — much has been made of sleep in recent years and for good reason. Sleep is critical to consolidating memory, the ability to concentrate, and positive mental health. Both quality and quantity of sleep are important.


SStress — this may be the most surprising category. How we deal with stress and negative emotions in our lives is incredibly important to our well-being and mental health. In order to live a life that is openhearted and full, we need ways to “feel our feelings“ and metabolize negative energy. In addition, if we have trauma in our history, it is important to deal with it and integrate that trauma into our experience of the world.


Real Life Application


I do my best to stay on top of all 5 of these areas, but sometimes I don’t have a lot of control over my environment. Recently, I was on a trip that was stressful in a couple of ways: I was attending a memorial service, which was incredibly emotional and difficult, and I was also trying to work several days while I was there. I realized I wouldn’t have much control over the level of stress coming at me or really my diet since I was a guest in other people’s houses. And because of this, I made the conscious decision to focus on the other three areas so that I would have the best possible chance of positive mental health and overall well-being:


  • Relationships were not an issue since I was spending a lot of time visiting friends and family. However, I wanted to make sure that I was checking in with myself regularly and setting aside some time to be alone, so that I could recharge socially.


  • Sleep is always incredibly important to me. If you ask some people in my life, they would tell you I am overly rigid and uncompromising in this area. That said, I know getting enough sleep is crucial to my positive outlook and ability to function, so getting enough sleep is really a gift I give to myself and to those around me. Throughout this week, I have been bowing out of events a little early in order to create enough time for good sleep. In addition, I brought earplugs, a facemask, White Noise, and my favorite pillow to ensure that I give myself the best chance for good quality rest. I’m also limiting alcohol on the days that I don’t have the ability to sleep in. And finally, I’m really trying to make time to


  • Exercise. My mental outlook is so much better on the days that I exercise. It was a little cold, but the view was spectacular, so I also got a shot of clean air, some beautiful horizons, and I burned off off some of the over-eating and stress in the process. I also got to run with a border collie puppy one day, so that was an extra boost of serotonin!

No one can be perfect in these five areas, but paying attention to the lifestyle choices you’re making can really pay off in terms of, not only your mental health, but also your physical health and immune system. Comments are always appreciated!

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