Five Factor Resiliency Enhancement: The Body

 Two weeks ago, I introduced a new blog series on the topic of resiliency. More than ever, as a result of living during such stressful times, I believe we need mechanisms for getting unstuck. There are so many sticky situations holding us back from healthy living.  In my first blog post of the series, I outlined the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM) which I believe can be a roadmap toward hope.

In the first article,  I explained how TRM uses a mind-body approach to teach wellness skills for children and adults experiencing traumatic stress reactions.  TRM can function as a model for trauma reprocessing treatment as well as self-care.  The TRM skills offer useful means to maximize movement forward through the current pandemic.   This week’s blog post will focus on fostering resilience in challenging times.  Perhaps, the concept of resilience was best captured by Helen Keller who was born blind and deaf when she observed, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.”

In this second article, we will talk about neurology. The nervous system has the ability to bring the body back into balance with deep, slow breaths, releasing muscle tension and lowering the heart rate. After some practice, this body work helps return inner well-being rather quickly. Once in this place, the present moment becomes available for the activities of experiencing joy or walking through the hard road of grieving a loss. 

Psychologist Donald Meichenbaum offers some really neat information on this topic; he was the founder of a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) known as Stress Inoculation Training. He adapted a five-factor strategy for resilience enhancement recommended for all who face difficult circumstances.  This is particularly helpful for handling the stresses created by coronavirus.  The strategies below may offer ways that you can foster resilience today:

  1. Share your negative emotions.  Give your feeling a name and say that word aloud to a trusted friend. Often I find that, in therapy, my clients are tremendously relieved by learning their struggles are not unique to them; they are not broken, and there is a name for their ailment (be it anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.). The same benefit can come from finding an appropriate emotion for your feelings.
  1. Focus on gratitude. According to Wilder (1999), gratitude is when you are thankful for change and happy to have overcome.  It is the readiness to show or express appreciation to someone else for what was felt.  According to this definition, appreciation involves the senses.  When we are able to be in touch with our body sensations, our brain is able to connect and engage with others in a joyful way (Wilder, 2014).  Gratitude is the result of the appreciation I feel which prompts me to tell someone about it or thank someone for it.   
  1. Use both active and soothing coping strategies. According to Meichenbaum (2017), there are two classes of coping strategies: those that are problem-solving and those that are self-soothing.  Actively seek help and embrace social support.  Have a resilient role model who can act as a mentor.  Establish self-trust and a belief that one can control one’s environment effectively.  Gain self confidence by seeking out new and challenging experiences out of your “comfort zone” and reveal perseverance and passion to pursue long-term goals.  For example, things outside of your control include: other people’s feelings, ideas, actions.  While things within your control include: my words, actions, ideas, mistakes, and behaviors.  Recognize when to use each, when you are facing a circumstance you can potentially control it and when to accept that “it is what it is.”  In that case, feel the feeling, validate the feeling, and reassure yourself that “this too will pass”.
  1. Maintain social support. Reach out to friends and family members to talk or enjoy a virtual meal together.  This produces feelings of connection and belonging.
  1. Use spiritual coping strategies.  Create meaning and a purpose in life.  Use your faith, spirituality and values as a compass.  Stay connected with your church or small group, and try to engage in mindfulness regularly.  Build the spiritual and social foundations for life-long resilience by investing in your faith, family, and friendships. These investments pay dividends immediately and assure that you will have the resources to sustain resilience when you need them the most. 

In conclusion, in order to maximize movement forward in this pandemic, use of the TRM (Trauma Resiliency Model) has the ability to bring the body back into balance and recover from stress.  This creates the opportunity for experiencing joy and wellbeing as you learn to share your emotions, focus on gratitude, use active and soothing coping strategies, maintain social support, and use spiritual coping strategies.  Your resiliency will be enhanced even through difficult circumstances as you learn to remain connected with your emotions and those around you.

Meichenbaum, Donald. (2017). Resilience and posttraumatic growth. 10.4324/9781315748931-14.

Friesen, J. G. W. E. J. B. A. M. K. R. P. M. (1999). The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. Shepherds House Inc.

Wilder, E. J., Khouri, E. M., Coursey, C. M., & Sutton, S. D. (2014). Joy Starts Here: The Transformation Zone.

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