Daily Resilience: Tool of Attention

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!

Daily Resilience: Shift & Stay

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

Practice!

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.

Daily Resilience: Grounding through Sound

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.

Daily Resilience: Beyond Survival

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.

Survival Zone

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.

Fight

  • Emotionally reactive
  • Physically and verbally acting out in aggression
  • Being stuck in this survival zone can cause the body to release excess stress hormones

Freeze

  • 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

Flight

  • Emotional reactivity
  • Physical or mental reaction to get away
  • Being stuck in this survival zone can cause the body to release excess stress hormones

Fawn

  • 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.

Beyond Survival

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.

Resilience & Stress

Stress & It’s Impact

We experience stress in a variety of ways. Life has so many twists, turns, transitions, and surprises it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. There are big life events that are stressful, but there are also moments, demands, duties, obligations, and more throughout our days that may trigger us to feel overwhelmed or stressed. I previously made a pamphlet about coping with stress that is available to be downloaded below. There are four kinds of stress:

  • Acute Stress: fight or flight response when the body is preparing to defend itself. In this type of stress the body may experience increased heart rate, tense muscles, and breathing faster (National Institute of Mental Health; American Institute of Stress).
  • Chronic Stress: ongoing acute stress without the body being able to find relief (AIS).
  • Eustress/Routine Stress: Stress from daily life with positive connotation, such as work, relationships, marriage, school, hobbies, etc. (AIS).

Stress impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is important for us to have a balance of stress and the release of stress in order for us to thrive and be functioning at our best. How do we go about doing that though? How do you cope with stress? Some of the ideas below are possibly things you are already doing or might inspire you to try a new technique to cope with or manage stress in your life.

Single continuous line drawing of young tired female employee sleeping on the work desk with laptop and pile of papers. Work fatigue at the office concept one line draw design vector illustration

Coping with Stress

There are healthy and destructive ways that we choose to cope with stress. There are two main ways that we can build resilience, which allows us to cope with stress effectively. The first way is through our sensations and the second is through capturing our thoughts and emotions. Both of these strategies are essential to building resilience and being our best selves.

Calming Sensations

Our body’s natural way of experiencing anything is first through sensations. When we experience stress and relaxation we experience that through sensations in our body. For example when I am stressed I often feel a tightness in my chest, a clinching in my stomach, or tension in my shoulders. When I am feeling relaxed or calm I feel my tension loosen, tingling throughout my body, or deeper breathing. Here are some activities you can practice to possibly increase calming sensations:

  • Tracking Your Body: It can be uncomfortable or odd to tune into our bodies to see what sensations we are experiencing when we are feeling stress or calm. Take some time to notice the sensations you are feeling in our body, but if it is something that is triggering to you for any reason shift your attention to one of the other activities.
  • Grounding: put your attention to a surface supporting you. This could be the ground underneath your feet, the chair against your back, or any solid surface. Put all of your attention on that surface and when your thoughts drift just refocus.
  • Resourcing: focus your attention on a positive experience. This could be a favorite hobby, place, or moment. Focus on what sensations you experience when doing that activity. For example, one of my resources that I think about is bookbinding. I put my attention to what it feels like to have the waxed thread in between my fingers, what it feels like to fold the paper, or glue the covers. Just focus in and allow your mind and body to relax into the resource you are focusing on.

Capturing Thoughts

Capturing our thoughts or using our thinking brain to experience calmness and build resilience can include a variety of activities. The essence of this is resetting, processing, reframing, or shifting our thoughts so that we do not spiral or become overtaken by our stress. Here is a list of ways to possibly do this:

  • Prayer
  • Journaling
  • Therapy
  • Storytelling
  • Practicing Acceptance
  • Positive Self-Talk
  • Exercise, Walking, Yoga
  • Going Outside
  • Listening to Music
  • Meditation

Comment below if there is a strategy in this post you are going to try or how you cope with stress in life!

References:

National Institute of Health. 5 things you should know about stress.
NIH Publication No. 19-MH-8109. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

American Institute of Stress. What is stress. Retrieved from https://www.stress.org/daily-life

What is resilience?

When thinking of resilience we might think of someone who has overcome an extremely difficult situation or completing a goal like being in the Olympics. It’s easy to think of the most extreme situations when defining this word. When I think of resilience I think of YOU! I think of people who are…

Working towards a goal at their work

Striving to be a good parents

Working through traumatic or hard childhood memories

Survivor of an abusive relationship

Getting up daily and going to work and living life even when dealing with chronic illness or mental health challenges

Survivor of sexual assault

Starting a new chapter or a new goal

There are so many examples that we could list of what makes someone resilient and how showing up and doing life takes having resilience. We experience stress, disappointment, heartache, and frustrations that often require being resilient. Resilience is typically defined as the ability to bounce back or recover quickly from difficulties.

I recently went through a ten month training to become a trainer for Social Resilience Model by Threshold Globalworks. It was honestly life changing to learn that it is possible to increase our resilience. This might seem like an obvious statement, but our brain plays a big role in how our body reacts when we experience stress, trauma, and relaxation. It’s through training our brain that we can increase our resilience. There are two well known ways of training the brain to increase resilience including top-down resilience and bottom-up resilience (Van Der Kolk, 2021). Top-down resilience is focusing on our ‘thinking brain’ and doing activities like meditation, yoga, mindfulness, therapy, journaling, and spiritual practices to captivate our thoughts and refocus them to build our resilience (Van Der Kolk, 2021). Bottom-up resilience is using how our body first experiences anything in our environment, which is through our senses (Van Der Kolk, 2021). So it is teaching the body to shift from stressful and traumatic sensations to calming and relaxing sensations. It’s about teaching the brain to shift to things that bring calmness to the body in order to not be overwhelmed or for the body to be triggered to release stress hormones. We will explore all of these areas of resilience and learn together what is helpful for each of us individually. Here is a journal prompt to consider what resilience means to you!

References:

Van Der Kolk, B. (2021). Body Keeps the Score. Audiobook. Narrated by Sean Pratt.

Threshold Globalworks, founder of Social Resilience Model. Welcome To Threshold Globalworks – Threshold GlobalWorks