Updated: Aug 1, 2020
This article is courtesy of Resources for Resilience. For more helpful tools, visit www.resourcesforresilience.com
Resiliency Tools for Difficult Times
This has been a difficult time for our community. With that in mind, we asked one our partners, a key community resiliency training organization, to share some information to help support and facilitate mental wellness and resilience.
When individuals and communities have experienced a traumatic event, our nervous systems get thrown out of balance and we can be left feeling shocked, distressed, afraid, on edge, irritable, disconnected, angry, and numb.
Whatever you are experiencing, the first step is to know that it is perfectly normal – and biological – as it is often our nervous system’s response to extreme threat or danger. Our brains are wired for survival, and for connection. When our brains experience threat or danger, we may go into fight or flight and, if that isn’t possible, we can go into freeze.
These are survival responses that can keep us alive when we are in danger but, often, even after the threat has passed, we can end up feeling stuck on fight or flight or amped up (as though there is too much energy in our nervous system) or stuck on freeze or shut down (as though we are depleted of energy). We may also find ourselves feeling “triggered” by many things in our environment (like the sound of a helicopter or siren).
Right now, some may not feel safe because of the very personal nature of recent events. For those who know individuals who died or were wounded or are one degree of separation from someone, their response may be amplified. This is normal.
Reconnect for Resilience™ describes the experience of being in our Resilient Zone, where we are calm, relaxed, alert, and can think clearly to solve problems. This is the space in which we are not overwhelmed by stress and we can connect to the people who make us feel safe.
The following suggestions may help individuals get back into their Resilient Zone or restore some sense of calm or comfort, for brief or extended periods, in the coming days or weeks.
Only if it feels ok, try to sense into your physical experience in the present moment, noticing the difference between being amped up, shut down, or in your Resilient Zone. See if you can notice the difference between sensations of distress (tight muscles, tension, queasiness, shallow breathing, and exhaustion) and sensations of calm (slower breathing, deeper breathing, more relaxed muscles, feeling more sturdy, or feeling more settled).
Try asking yourself, or a friend or family member, some of these questions.
• What or who is helping you get through this moment?
• Is there anything or anyone who is giving you hope right now?
• The day of the incident, do you remember when you got home and/or spoke with your loved ones?
• Is there anything you are doing right now that is making you feel safer?
• Who or what are some of the things you feel need to happen to help yourself, family, or community right now?
As you answer these questions, if it feels ok, notice what happens with your breathing, your muscle tension, and your heart rate. If you feel any better physically, spend a few extra moments noticing where in your body you feel better or more relaxed.
Rapid Reset tools help calm our nervous system and restore a sense of safety in the present moment. Simple things like looking around your immediate environment and counting the number of things that are a certain color, taking a big sip of water, taking a walk, or grounding can help us get back into our Resilient Zone.
To practice grounding, bring your attention to yourself sitting in your chair. Notice the support of the back of the chair on your back and, as you feel that support, notice what happens with your heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension. Next, bring your attention to your seat and notice the support of the chair under your seat. As you feel the support, notice what happens with your heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension. Finally, bring your attention down your legs and into your feet. Feel your feet on the floor and notice what happens with your heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension.
Resources can be anything positive that helps us feel better. Resources include positive experiences and memories that may include the people, places, activities, skills, hobbies, and animals that we know and love. They include experiences, values, and beliefs that sustain, support, and give us inner confidence and meaning. These may be personal characteristics such as kindness, compassion, and humor, or physical resources such as strong legs, straight spine, being fit, etc.
To practice the Resource tool, think of a resource and put as much detail into the image as possible. Try to include as many of your senses as possible. For example, if you’re thinking about your dog, think about what it feels like to pet him, how he smells (if pleasant), and what he sounds like. As you think of the resource, notice what happens with your breathing, heart rate, and muscle tension.
Lastly, and most importantly, human beings are neurobiologically-wired for connection. As much as possible, spend time with people you feel safe with in the coming days and weeks. Let people know you care about them, that they make sense to you, and that you can support each other through this difficult time together.
For additional information or to schedule a training or a Listening Circle, please contact Resources for Resilience™ at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.resourcesforresilience.com.
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