Stefanija was born in a small town where specific people live, specific because of the fear of the social system. Her first beginnings were related to acting, and then to directing several plays aimed at drawing people’s attention to mental health. Then a ton of seminars and conferences where she tried to expand the idea of the importance of mental health. On September 17, she quarreled over time and decided to fight for children who did not have the right to speak loud for their problems. From that day on, she dreams that one day we will live in a world that future generations will not have to recover from the traumas and stresses of childhood. She believes the line between mental health, daily stress and physical health is thin.
Stefanija was selected for the project “European Youth at the frontlines of active citizenship: A Roadmap towards a collective South-North-East-West Momentum” organized by Volunteers Centre Skopje and supported by European Commission due to Erasmus + European Youth Together programme.
What is the connection between emotions, childhood trauma, the theme of your project and everyday stressful situations and physical health?
– It may sound illogical or absurd to associate on the first hand, but there is indeed a good basis not only for doubts on this subject but also for actions to be taken on it. Primarily this is a problem because doctors view this problem as a physiological disorder of health, sociologists as a social problem, but no one connects these components. There are several institutes and hospitals outside Macedonia that are already working on this principle, but in our country talking about these topics is still taboo, not to mention the health system in our country. This project as well as my understandings could be explained in general by the Study on Unfavorable Children’s Experiences of Dr. Bob Anda and Kaiser. I will try to explain. The reason for this is related to the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland, the stress response system of the brain and body, which governs our response to “fight or flight”.
Imagine you are in a forest and you come across a bear. Immediately, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary gland, which sends a signal to the adrenal gland, which says, “Release the stress hormones! Adrenaline! Cortisol!” And so the heart starts beating, the airways open and you’re ready to either fight the bear or run away from the bear. And, it’s wonderful if you’re in the woods and there’s a bear. But the problem is what happens when a bear comes home every night or you see it at school every day? This system is activated over and over again, and it goes from adapting, or saving lives, to poorly adjusted or being harmful to the health. Children are particularly sensitive to this recurring stress activation as their brains and bodies develop. High doses of unfavorable not only affect the structure and function of the brain, but they also affect the development of the immune system, the development of hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.
What is the theme of your project?
– In particular, the theme of my project is the impact of transposing and substituting emotions from early childhood (both in the family and at school) on stressful situations that may later be the biggest source of many physical ailments. Elaboration of those topics that are not yet seriously understood in order to become more aware of our own health. Those situations in school where the teacher experiences with the student, but the student is always to blame, those situations when no one takes children seriously, because they are children and they have no stress, and could not turn to the school psychologist, because psychologists/sociologists/pedagogues are everything except in schools. I could list a ton of situations, but I think I would be best to understand if I gave just one example of a few sentences I hear every day, without understanding their consequences.
“It’s normal for children to fight, let’s calm down”, “who fights, they love each other”, “you are students, it’s your job, you just have to study”, “child as a child, beat him if you want him to listen to you”, “I don’t care about your company, you are punished for a month you don’t get money and there is no way out from home” “his father is an alcoholic and he will be same as him.”
What could the participants in this project learn?
– They could learn the role of our emotions, how to direct them in a positive way, which would lead to a reduction in stressful situations. They will have the opportunity to learn the connection between these four elements, namely emotions, stress, trauma, physical illness and their consequences. They will also have the chance to learn certain stress management techniques that they can apply at school, at work, at home, and so on. during a stressful situation.
What is the ultimate goal you would like to accomplish with this project?
– I would not like to rush with predictions for the ultimate goal, I would be sincerely happy if at least one person after my project would come out with a different opinion on this topic and more self-confidence, on the other hand, I would be happy if I managed to draw attention to some of the institutions and if they would be informed on this topic.