We all know sleep is essential and vital for our health! When we don’t get good sleep it impacts our mental, emotional, and physical functioning.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Foundation these are some current stats about sleep health in America:
50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep related problems
Excessive daytime sleepiness is an increasing cause of on-the-job accidents and car accidents
There are over 80 different sleep disorders. Some of which are sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, nightmare disorder, and insomnia.
There are ways we can improve our sleep by working to have healthy sleep hygiene, limiting caffeine, and seeking treatment for underlying problems. One thing that helps we relax and sleep better is using grounding techniques.
Grounding Exercise for Sleep
This video I created had a simple grounding exercise to help your body and mind relax to get better sleep.
One of my favorite things that I learned from becoming a Social Resilience Model trainer is the power of attention. This may sound like such a simple concept, but we can build resilience, decrease stress, build new habits, and retrain our brain simply by paying attention. This fills me with so much hope!! We don’t have to be stuck in a habit or way of life. We can retrain our brain!
Attention & The Brain
Our brain builds neuropathways to support the hobbies, habits, and lifestyles we give our attention to. This is why when we first start a new habit or activity it feels hard at first and it requires a lot of thought. But eventually as we keep doing it, it comes more naturally and we don’t have to think about it as much as we first did. This is because our brain has built a neuropathway in order for us to do the activity more efficiently.
Consider a time when you started something new. How did it feel at first? Was it challenging? After a month or two had it become easier? Does it now require as much thought as it did at first?
The Tool of Attention For Resilience
Attention is a key concept in the Social Resilience Model. Using attention to increase our resilience is a great way to increase our overall wellbeing. Here are some ways to use attention to help build resilience:
Attention to Tracking Your Stress. A big part of building resilience is tracking how your body experiences stress and calm. When we pay attention to how stress impacts us, it can become easier to notice and do activities that increases calm within ourselves.
Attention to Grounding. This is putting your attention to a solid surface around you. This is a great way to increase feelings of calmness within ourselves. When we experience calm instead of stress our body functions at it’s best. We think more clearly and thrive when we are not overwhelmed by stress.
Attention to Good Resources. This means putting our attention on the good things in our lives. The things that bring us joy and fills us with peace. This could mean thinking about your favorite pet, hobby, place, season, item, or memory. When we put our attention on these good things we can increase our calm and resilience.
Choose a way this week that you can practice using one of these tools of attention!
Resilience is something that we can practice daily. There are many tools to build resilience. I wanted to share a time recently when I used grounding.
I was starting to feel overwhelmed and my thoughts were spiraling. I could feel the stress increasing in my body. For me this feels like a pit in my stomach and my body tightening. Before I learned about resilience I would feel this way and let myself continue to spiral. This time I knew I needed to decrease my stress. I stepped away and went outside. I sat on a bench and closed my eyes and grounded myself. Here are some of the ways I did this:
I put my attention on the support of the bench beneath me and against my back.
Then I put my attention on the feeling of the breeze against my skin.
After that I allowed myself to put my attention to the sound of the birds around me.
Grounding is all about allowing your attention to totally shift from your stress to one of your five senses. Taking this moment to take care of myself was huge! I felt so much better and my stress decreased. I could now think clearly and wasn’t spiraling anymore. Sometimes stepping away is essential!
How could you use grounding when you get stressed?
The more you practice grounding, the easier it will be to use it to decrease stress.
Comment below with your favorite way of grounding!
This is a great tool to build resilience from the Social Resilience Model, which was found by Threshold Global Works. When we are focused on things that overwhelm us and make us feel stressed, it can be difficult to build resilience and be in our resilient zone. This is a tool I use a lot in my self-care because I tend to overthink or ruminate on things so it is helpful to intentionally shift my thoughts.
Shift & Stay
The shift and stay exercise is all about shifting away from what is overwhelming and shifting to something that is calming. Shifting allows us to increase feelings of calmness and not be overcome by stress. What are some things you could shift to instead of stressing? Here are some ideas:
A good thing that happened to you today
An item or place that brings you joy
A person that you have a positive relationship with
Anything positive or calming
The more we practice the more our brain will support and adjust to a new habit. Here are some ways to practice the shift & stay:
When you start to feel overwhelmed intentionally think about something else more positive. Once you are feeling more calm you can then address the previous situation.
When feeling overwhelmed by negative thoughts pause and take a moment to journal about a positive memory or event.
When having an overwhelming conversation allow yourself to step away and think about something else to calm.
We talk about self-care often and it can sometimes feel like a cliche. Lately, I have been going through a difficult season, as we all do sometimes, and people have been telling me to take care of myself. Internally I question, what does that even mean? Self-care can look different for each of us and can look different across your lifespan. Here are some questions to consider…
What areas in your life are you feeling empty or drained in?
What does thriving in this season of your life look like?
Why is self-care important to you?
How can you intentionally practice self-care in a way that is helpful in your current season?
Self-care is more then bubble baths and ice cream. Self-care is taking care of ourselves in the areas that are most important to you. This can include taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally.
I love this idea of considering how building resilience is related to our self-care. Being intentional about building our resilience is a vital part of taking care of ourselves.
There are two main ways of building resilience and both of them relate to our self-care!
The first way is through sensation-based resilience which is all about increasing sensations of calm and decreasing sensations of stress. This directly relates to our self-care because being overwhelmed by stress can be unhealthy for us emotionally, mentally, and physically. Practicing skills of resilience can help increase calm and holistic wellness.
The second way is thought-based resilience, which is all about managing our thoughts and emotions to increase well-being. Being overwhelmed by our thoughts can increase stress within our body. How we think directly impacts our perceptions, actions, and the words we say. It also impacts how we view ourselves and interpret the world around us. When we use skills to increase resilience through positive and calming thoughts we are practicing mental and emotional self-care.
Tools of Resilience
There are many tools to help build and increase our resilience. Consider choosing one or two of these tools to practice this month!
Sensation-Based Resilience Tools:
Tracking calm and stress sensations within your body
Making boundaries is hard! Sometimes it can feel like having boundaries is not loving or kind to the people around us. But in reality it is a great way to love others and ourselves. Often when we are in situations or in relationships with no boundaries it can lead to those things becoming toxic. Take a minute to reflect on these questions:
What does having boundaries mean to me?
How do I implement boundaries in my life?
Where are areas in my life that I know I need more boundaries?
What are boundaries?
I think of boundaries as how much access others have to you. Access to you in whatever way is a privilege not a right. We can set limitations and boundaries on how much access someone has to us emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and sexually. This also applies to access to your time and physical items (Campbell, 2021). These types of boundaries are applicable to all areas of our lives and we get to decide what they look like in various relationships and settings.
This is not easy!! It can be very difficult to set boundaries with people. It’s also hard to accept within ourselves the boundaries we need. Consider taking some time reflecting on these questions:
What area in my life do I feel like I need more boundaries?
What category of boundaries is most difficult for me to implement?
Which of my boundaries is most important to me and why?
Resilience & Boundaries
Boundaries help facilitate safety. This is so important to building resilience! It is very difficult to build resilience while we are in spaces that we feel unsafe. That is because our brain and body are detecting that we are mot safe, whether that be emotionally, mentally, or physically, and will trigger our body to be on alert and possibly release stress hormones. This then triggers us to be in a survival mode and not in our resilient zone. When we have boundaries it allows us to be comfortable with the access people have to us, which helps us to feel safe.
Boundaries help us regulate stress. When we don’t have boundaries we can find ourselves in situations that are stressful and possibly triggering. When we have boundaries we can set ourselves up for success in situations that allows us to not be overwhelmed by stress.
Boundaries allow us to identify and communicate our needs. Having boundaries helps us to communicate our needs to our friends, coworkers, and loved ones. It can be hard to communicate what we need, but having boundaries established a head of time allows us to know what we need and implement that.
Grounding is a great way to experience sensations of calm in our body. Grounding is focusing your attention on one of your senses. Often when practicing grounding we focus on a solid surface supporting us or that our body has contact with. But we can also use our other senses. I was thinking of this today as I heard the rain falling and allowed myself to tune into the sound of the rain. When we focus all of our attention on our senses we are able to distract ourselves from what stressors we are experiencing and allow our mind and body to rest in that sense.
I recorded the rain with my phone to share with you. Try listening to the sound of the rain and focus all of your attention on what you are hearing. Feel free to close your eyes if comfortable. If a thought starts to distract you let it pass you by as you refocus on the sound.
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by stress that you find yourself just reacting?
Have you ever found yourself reacting impulsively when something reminds you of a past trauma?
These are possible situations where our body is in a survival zone. When we are feeling overwhelmed by stress, experience a trauma, or our body detects a danger our brain signals our body to release stress hormones to get to safety. The danger could be emotional, mental, or physical and our body is working to get to safety through enacting a survival response. This is a good system our body has when we are in danger and needing to get to safety. But when we stay in these zones for long periods of time it can have impacts on our brain and body. It impacts how our brain perceives safety and may cause our body to be in a survival zone when we are actually safe. This can impact our decision making, our ability to accomplish our goals, our relationships, and the way we perceive safety within ourselves. We will briefly look at the four survival zones and then discuss how to move beyond our survival modes when we are safe.
The survival zones are fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. For most of us we probably experience a mixture of these survival reactions in our lifetime. There is not a linear answer when looking into our own stress and survival responses.
Physically and verbally acting out in aggression
Being stuck in this survival zone can cause the body to release excess stress hormones
Feelings of numbness and disconnection
Not being able to physically or verbally respond
Being stuck in this survival mode may result in it being more difficult to work through the stress
Physical or mental reaction to get away
Being stuck in this survival zone can cause the body to release excess stress hormones
Seeking safety by pleasing the people around you
Satisfying others at the expense of your own needs to feel safe
Being stuck in this survival mode for long periods of time may cause excess stress hormones when interacting with others we are trying to please.
In this survival response our safety is linked to appeasing other people which could impact how we experience safety within ourselves.
Working through our stress and trauma involves a variety of steps and looks different for all of us. Here are some possible considerations when working through our own survival responses, stress, and building resilience.
Working to increase calm in our mind and body on a regular bases. We can do this by practicing resilience skills like grounding, focusing on things we love, and shifting our attention when we are getting overwhelmed.
Consider talking to a mental health professional. This can be a really helpful option to work through past and present issues that are impacting your stress levels.
Practicing yoga. I am a big fan of yoga specifically for increasing calm in our mind and body. Practicing yoga gives us a safe space to tune into our body and to release stress and tension through slow movements. This can be a great thing to add into your life to release some of the stressful energy and to incorporate into your daily calming techniques.
One of the best things about the resilient zone is that it can grow! This is because our brain adapts as we grow in managing our stress.
The resilient zone is a concept from Social Resilience Model and is the space in which we function at our best. When I first learned about this it seemed vague. A simple way to think about this is that it is the zone where we experience balance between calm and stress.
This does require us to pay attention to our body and mind to see how we are experiencing stress and calmness. When I pay attention to myself I know I am getting stressed by noticing my heart is beating faster, having a pit feeling in my stomach, tightness in my chest, my body starts to clinch up, and my thoughts become scattered. In comparison when I am feeling calm I notice I’m breathing deeper, my shoulders and body relaxes, the tightness in my chest loosens, and my thoughts become more cohesive. This is what it looks like for me, but it is important to notice what stress and calm looks like for you.
As we build resilience we are able to tolerate more stress and have more balance. When our resilient zone is small we can become overwhelmed by stress more easily and it can become more difficult to calm ourselves. Often our resilient zone in smaller because we have experienced trauma in our lives or have been stuck in one of the survival modes, flight, fight, fawn, or freeze, for long periods of time.
Author Matthew Bennett talks about a great analogy of this concept using various sized glasses. In his book Connecting Paradigms A Trauma-Informed & Neurological Framework for Motivational Interviewing Implementation, Bennett discusses the concept that being outside of our resilient zone is like having a cup that is overflowing. When our cup or resilient zone is smaller it does not take much for the cup to overflow or for us to be overwhelmed by stress. But as we practice tools to build resilience our cup gets bigger and we can withstand more without being overwhelmed.
There are many ways that we can build resilience. But one of the most powerful things we can do is to notice and pay attention to our body and mind. Tracking within ourselves and paying attention to ourselves is powerful and can help us to see the resilience we already have and allow us to build even more resilience. This doesn’t have to be complicated and can be simply noticing or journaling about your observations.
Bennett, M. (2017). Connecting Paradigms A Trauma-Informed & Neurological Framework for Motivational Interviewing Implementation. Bennett Innovation Group, L3C.