Question -

Hello, my friend is upset because she is getting bullied & she's talking to me about this & I've been giving her advice like ’it's okay, don't listen to them’ but it's just not working. I was wondering if you could give me some advice to help her? Thank you, Emily

Answer -

Hi Emily,

It’s so wonderful that you are there for your friend especially when she is being bullied and feeling upset. Bullying can be detrimental to not only our mental health, but also our emotional and physical health. We know from neuroscience that experiencing bullying increases cortisol levels (stress hormone) in the body leading to symptoms such as depression, anxiety, memory loss, and overtime, difficulties in everyday functioning.

We used to be told that ignoring or not letting words or bullying get to us as a helpful technique in order to feel better. This strategy is difficult to follow as overtime if the bullying behaviours are unmanaged, it could lead to loss of confidence, low self-esteem, and an overactive fear system in the brain and body. All forms of bullying are harmful and is not okay. Words can have a huge impact on us, and verbal, physical and online bullying can lead to a significant decline in our well-being and sense of safety.

What can be helpful is if the person who is being bullied is empowered and supported to take steps to help end the bullying behaviour.

Here are some helpful tips to take action against a bully:

  1. Be aware of your body language and assess your posture. Are you standing up straight and giving appropriate eye contact, or are you hunched in and closed off to your surroundings? If you stand straight with your feet slightly apart and keep your chin up, you can increase your sense of confidence and decrease stress hormones in your body. All it takes is standing in this way for 2 mins! Carrying yourself in an assertive way sends signals to those around that you are assertive and have a sense of power and confidence- this stance can help to deter bullies. See ‘Power Pose’ by Amy Cuddy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc

  2. It is okay to stand up to your bully by confronting them (with your supports nearby) and telling them that they need to stop, and/or call them out on their behaviour.

  3. Be mindful to not isolate yourself and tell as many trusted people you can about what is happening and access as much support as you can. If you are at work or at school, talk to the people in charge and develop a plan together around how you can tackle the situation.

  4. Cyber-bullying via phones and social media is serious and can feel invasive and just as threatening as face-to-face bullying. This type of bullying is considered a crime. Here is a link to some tips on how to manage cyber-bullying: https://au.reachout.com/articles/5-strategies-for-dealing-with-cyberbullying

All the best,

~ Thania and Christina ~

Kristine Ross