Barriers to Building Resilience
Weathering through life can be so difficult. Throughout our life we display resilience by moving forward when things get hard. When we talk about building resilience, we are talking about how to expand our resilient zone. Living in our resilient zone allows us to not be overcome by stress or consumed by traumatic triggers. In the resilient zone we experience a balance between calm and stress. This balance allows us to creative problem solve, think clearly, and thrive. There are two main barriers to building resilience:
- Stress: stress can be toxic to our physical and mental health. There is no way to completely avoid stress, but when we live in stress for long periods of time it can have a huge impact on us. This can be a barrier for us when trying to build resilience or even to experience balance of calm and stress. Often in these circumstances we can start to live in survival modes, which can impact our relationships, health, reactions, and the quality of our lives.
- Unresolved Trauma: Trauma has an impact on our body in so many ways. It not only impacts us emotionally, but it also changes the way our brain processes information and circumstances. It can change how we interpret safety, our relationships, how we view ourselves, and others. Trauma has an incredible impact on our bodies. But there is hope! As we heal, process, and resolve trauma we can experience balance, safety, and building resilience.
These might seem like pretty big barriers, but here are some practical ways to consider overcoming these barriers!
The greatest combat for stress within our body is calm and relaxation. Try these things for increasing calm and decreasing stress:
- Do a grounding exercise. This can be as simple as just focusing in on a solid surface supporting you or focusing your attention on one of your five senses.
- Think of something you enjoy doing. This is also called resourcing. Think about your favorite hobby, memory, and place and allow yourself to think about all the things you love or experience when you are doing that activity.
- Distraction can also be helpful. Sometimes shifting to thinking about something you are grateful for, something positive that happened during your day, or just doing a brain exercise can be a great distraction. When I need to distract myself I often choose a letter in the alphabet and think of or say out loud all the words I can think of that start with that letter. I love word games so this is a good distraction for me.
We can experience trauma in several different forms and trauma is unique to each person. Because of this there is no simple answer to resolving trauma. One important consideration when thinking about resolving trauma, is considering if you are still in the situation, relationship, or circumstance where you experienced trauma? Are you feeling safe? When we are in ongoing situations that are traumatizing it can be difficult to begin resolving trauma, Definitely if you are in a situation where you are experiencing abuse or exploitation, consider reaching out to a local domestic violence shelter, police, or the domestic violence hotline.
You are the expert of your life. You know what you need in a time when you have experienced a traumatic experience. But here are some things to consider when working to resolve trauma:
- Practicing Acceptance: This does not mean condoning what happened, but to simply accept that this occurred and is apart of your story, but that it does not define your whole story. Accepting ourselves and our experiences can be freeing.
- Recognizing Triggers: This can be difficult and is not necessarily easy to work through. But noticing what causes a survival response or what causes us to have a large emotional response can be helpful in seeing what is unresolved. When identifying these things it can feel overwhelming. Take time to notice and shift your attention to something else that brings your joy or something positive. An example of this is I recently learned of a policy at work that I was unaware of for years, but everyone else knew about it. Though this seems small and my response could have been to learn and then transition to practicing the correct protocol, I felt overwhelmed by all this emotion. In reality my reaction, emotions, and the negative thoughts that were triggered had nothing to do with the policy at work. It was really about something that happened to me years ago where everyone else knew something and I didn’t. Once I found out years later, I felt shame, embarrassed , and let down that I hadn’t looked deeper into what was going on around me. I did not know that previous situation had impacted me so much and it allowed me to recognize that it was something I needed to process and work through.
- Mental Health Services: This is not a helpful solution for everyone, but it can be a helpful process to be able to work through trauma and make sense of our feelings and thoughts about what has happened to us.
- Journal: Journaling can be a safe space to process and work through your feelings. Journaling has helped me get through difficult and traumatic experiences. You can start by just writing out what you’re thinking about, writing your story in third person, or just doing a word dump and just writing out everything on your mind.