Categories
Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Trauma

Finding Resilience Within

jumping
jumping (Photo credit: Coubert)

What is resilience anyway?

To be resilient/to have resilience is to be able to quickly “bounce back” or “recover from” a traumatic/stressful experience. It’s the ability to self-regulate, self-soothe, and get grounded when times are tough.

How do you find your resilience?

Resilience develops when we learn to effectively self-regulate. When we develop the ability to recognize the interconnectivity between our minds and our bodies, noticing their effect on one another, we give our nervous system a chance to reset itself. As we gain resources, our resilience increases, allowing us to “bounce back” more readily than when we are dysregulated. Ultimately, your resources should come from within, because wherever you are, there you are. You can’t escape yourself (trust me, I’ve tried).

Tap into your resources:

  • Breathe – Breathing is our most magnificent resource. It’s portable and it’s always with us. Exhaling longer than your inhale can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, our internal ER.  Try this simple breathing exercise:

Sit in a quiet space where you can relax. Softly close your eyes and begin to notice your breath:

Inhale – one

Exhale – two

Inhale – three

Exhale — four

Do this until you get to 10. Repeat 3 times.

This is a simple mindfulness technique that invites calm. Your parasympathetic nervous system can jump in here, slowing the heart beat and cooling the breath.

  • Meditation and yoga: both of these are contemplative practices that invite you to get back in touch with your internal mechanisms. With practices like meditation and yoga, your internal resources have permission to flourish.

Do we all have it?

Stressful events happen…to all of us. How we recover from them and process them is contingent on our personal histories.  For example, if we are raised in an environment where we are silenced and unheard, then managing stress will be reminiscent of that: we may squash it, bury it, or set it aside. We will try to “deal with it.” In reality, we aren’t dealing with anything when we do that; in fact, we are denying it and allowing it to fester.  At the same time, if we are raised in an environment where communication is encouraged, and feelings are met with understanding, one’s resilience to stress will tend to be higher.

Is it easier for some to access resilience than it is for others?

I believe that most people can develop resilience if they have a support system in place and encouragement to work with their shadows and unpack their traumas. However, there needs to be an opportunity available to do this work, or the desire to seek help.  If one comes from an impoverished environment, their ability to resource would be limited. At the same time, someone with more options would be more likely to have access to resources, making resilience more easily attainable.  I often use myself as a reference when talking about overcoming adversity because I wasn’t provided with the best hand of cards. I definitely had a few jokers in there.  What I did have was a deep desire to change my circumstances. This gave my resilience a chance to develop and for that I am grateful. Being an at-risk teen didn’t provide me with a lot of outside resources.

 

At Visions, we have a remarkable staff of trauma-informed therapists to help families develop resilience. We are forward thinking in our approach to trauma, recognizing that each person requires an individualized process, and understanding the challenges people are faced with when doing this work. At the core, we are lighting the internal fire of hope and healing in our families, empowering each client to discover their ability work with their difficulties in more sustainable, healthy ways. Our nervous systems respond well to kindness and compassion, and with support, these actions can begin to come from ourselves. It means we have to muddle through the shame and grief that plagues us, and give ourselves permission to heal. Recovery is possible; resilience is possible; you are possible.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Stress

Stress: Take the Reins Back

Most of us have stress in our lives. It comes with being a human being in a busy world. As parents, we have the stress of running a home, working, and raising children. As teachers, we have the stress of providing safe, nurturing, educational forums for our students. As therapists and mental-health workers, we have the stress of the role of caretaker. All of these are wonderful and virtuous roles and the stress that comes with them is tolerable when there are outlets to discharge it and refuel. Where stress becomes intolerable is in situations where there is no relief. Long-term stress will eventually create larger issues like:

 

  • Headaches
  • Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Digestion issues (stomach aches, heartburn)
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Compromised immune system
  • Depression
  • Worry
  • Irritability and/or anger
  • Eating too much or not enough

 

There are many ways in which we can manage stress. We can:

 

Breathe. Our breath is one of the most magnificent tools we have. It is something we can do without effort, but it is also something that can be done with focused effort. When we practice controlling our breath, and raising our consciousness around it, it can greatly benefit our nervous systems. Taking deep, meaningful breaths nourishes and invokes our parasympathetic nervous systems, the part of our brains responsible for relaxation and calm. In fact, if our nervous system had a fire department, the parasympathetic nervous system is it. We have to engage in activities that support our parasympathetic nervous systems so we can learn to self-regulate.

 

Slow down. Do you really have to do everything RIGHT NOW?  Prioritize your to-do lists and figure out what needs to be done immediately and what can wait a little bit. Do one thing at a time. Multitasking, though it may seem efficient, can sometimes slow you down.

 

Exercise. Take more walks, do yoga, go surfing, jog. Do something that gets you into your body and allows your mind to rest.

 

Get enough sleep! 5 hours a night won’t cut it, folks. Your body and mind need time to recharge. Anything less than 6 and more than 8 hours of sleep increases inflammation in the body, which will increase your levels of stress, and decrease your ability to self-regulate.

 

Turn off your electronics and go outside! Vitamin Nature is a phenomenal way to get grounded and recharge.

 

Be silly. Laughter is magical. It really is. A good case of the giggles can be incredibly liberating.

 

Stay in the present moment. The more we can accept where we are and what we are dealing with, the better equipped we will be when it comes to managing our stress. My favorite quote from Ajahn Sumedo really illuminates present moment awareness: “Right now, it’s like this.”

 

When we are rigid around our issues, we resemble a stiff, inflexible tree with brittle branches that break with the least amount of pressure. But when we are grounded and our needs our met, those rigid branches become fluid and move with the rustle of the winds. We become simultaneously grounded and flexible. Stress is considered the “silent killer,” but it doesn’t have to be. We can actually restructure our brains by being kinder to our nervous systems with mindful practices of self-care.

As the Buddha said, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”