Cybersmile Team Member Doctor Deborah Gilboa Discusses Resilience, Stress and the Importance of Kindness
Author: SCD Team
June 17, 2021
In addition to being a Cybersmile board member and an experienced medical professional, you are also an expert in resilience and wellbeing. Could you tell us a bit more about this aspect of your work please?
As a doctor, I see over and over the difference between managing illness and actually being well. The biggest source of ill health (physical and mental) is stress. But stress isn’t just unavoidable, it’s useful. Stress motivates us to push forward and builds mental health endurance in the same way that exercise builds body health and endurance. But stress (just like exercise) can easily cause damage.
I’ve spent the last decade researching and helping people strengthen their health and wellbeing by using the stress they face. That strength is called resilience.
You recently did an interesting TEDx talk on resilience and stress. How can people deal with stress more effectively on and offline?
Instead of hoping or believing that online experiences should never be stressful, we need to choose useful stress and avoid unnecessary, damaging stress. When you feel stress, focus out why:
- Is it necessary, is it useful? If it’s neither, simply step away. Don’t worry about how that looks, if someone is noticing whether or not you commented.
- Is it unavoidable stress? Or is it stressful and also useful to you? Then take steps to build your resilience. Connect with others online who will support you.
Set good boundaries around your interactions so it doesn’t bleed into other parts of your life. And manage the discomfort of feeling stressed in healthy ways like exercise, creativity or time with people you love.
Do you think internet and social media use is contributing to the stress in people’s lives?
100%. Online life has both saved people and harmed them in the past year (and the past decade). Social media and the internet are tools, and those tools can help, but too often cause damage.
Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?
We are starting to see the cumulative impact of over a year of negative news and content online. What can people do to find a balance between remaining informed without falling into harmful habits such as doomscrolling?
The resilience skill here is to create boundaries. Boundaries of time include how often and for how long each time you’ll spend looking at news updates or scrolling social. Boundaries of source mean checking where you’re clicking to and making sure it’s a fact-based, trustworthy site BEFORE you read.
What are your top tips for protecting our mental health while using the internet and social media?
- Build connections to individuals who will support you.
- Set boundaries around what and when you read and follow.
- Step away from unnecessary stress that isn’t useful.
We know that online bullying, abuse and harassment can have devastating effects on people’s lives. As a medical professional, what kind of effects do you see it having on people?
Cyberbullying, online harassment and abuse kills people, especially young people. As we passed the one year mark in the pandemic we saw an explosion of mental distress in teens and adults. We need to find a way to make online a safe place to find information, entertainment and connection.
What can people do to help themselves deal with online conflict and resolution more effectively?
So much online conflict becomes a never ending tug-of-war. The most helpful skill to reduce that conflict is often to remember that you can choose to drop your end of the rope and walk away. If you do, and the person tracks you down, your conflict has turned into harassment and its time to get help.
Do you have a favorite mantra or phrase that motivates you in tough situations?
‘I don’t go anywhere to have a bad time.’
In 10 words or less, why should people be kind to each other?
Kindness builds connection. Connection builds resilience.