Reduce Your Stress: Teach Someone to 'Fish'

Reduce Your Stress: Teach Someone to 'Fish'

Posted by David Bradshaw, clinical psychologist and yoga instructor, on August 2, 2017

We’ve all heard the saying “Give a person a fish and you’ve fed one person; teach a person to fish and you’ve fed them for a lifetime.”

I just read a story about Justin Blazejewski, a Marine veteran who in searching for ways to manage his posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was led to teaching yoga. After multiple combat deployments, and working as a contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, Blazejewski received a diagnosis of PTSD. In his search for healing, he found a yoga class that included meditation; for him, that class was the first step on the road to recovery.

Through his own experiences, Blazejewski realized that other veterans and service members could benefit from what he’d learned. He wanted to spread the word, and decided that becoming a yoga teacher was the best way to do that. In fact, eventually he went a step further and became a teacher of teachers. Blazejewski’s story of becoming a yoga instructor illustrates how it can be rewarding and beneficial for someone with PTSD to find a way to share a personal interest or special skill with other people.

Push past doubts

For some, sharing a personal skill or interest can seem like an impossible task. There may be the issue of self-doubt or lack of self-worth, feeling like you don’t have anything of value to share. Or there’s the issue of mental clarity — issues common with PTSD include having trouble dealing with stress, being worried about trauma triggers and always feeling on alert. This can create a huge mental burden that can make it difficult to pull your thoughts together enough to figure out how to teach someone else. And of course, teaching someone means you have to be willing to communicate clearly with them, which could expose feelings and issues that you’d rather avoid.

Share what you know

Those are some obstacles, but let’s look at what you do know. First, think about things you know about, what you care about. Maybe these are things that very few other people even know that you know. But you know what? Maybe not very many people know these things as well as you do. Maybe you really enjoy fishing or take amazing photos or can fix bikes. Think about it —are there any special tricks or techniques that you know that others don’t?

Now how do you feel when you go fishing or work on that bike? Are you able to focus, and forget about everything else when you’re doing it? That feels pretty good, doesn’t it? It gets you out of your own head. Sure, maybe you have difficulties being with other people, but is it a little easier when you’re busy doing something you like to do, even when other people are around? Even if it’s hard to talk with people, do you find it a little easier if you’re talking to them about that thing you like to do? It doesn’t have to be a lot of people — maybe even just one or two. If you said yes to these things, teaching or mentoring may be just the thing for you.

Focus on rewards

Teaching’s real payoff is the one that set Blazejewski on his path as a yoga trainer; it helped resolve his PTSD symptoms. There is reward in helping other people and watching them learn something. If you have kids, consider how satisfying it can be to watch them do things you taught them — like tie their shoes or ride a bike. If you have an opportunity to help someone learn a new skill, you’ll find that the benefit you gain from it far outweighs any concerns you may have about the risks. Helping others can be very helpful to you.

So look for ways where you can share your skills. A quick check in my community turned up these volunteer teaching opportunities:

  • The public library system needs people to lead book discussion groups and teach people how to learn basic computer skills like Word and email.
  • The parks department is looking for those who can help organize park cleanups, teach exercise classes and lead hikes.
  • The local YMCA offers opportunities to mentor kids or teach a variety of classes.

Take a look in your community to find similar opportunities. If you’re interested in teaching young students, consider the Troops to Teachers program. Funded by the Department of Defense, this program assists transitioning service members and veterans in beginning new careers as K-12 school teachers in public, charter and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.

Whatever your interests, keep ‘fishing’, and look for ways to pass on your skills! It can help others — and you. Community Terms and Conditions

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