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How To Be Resilient
In this episode
- why becoming calm can feel so difficult
- how becoming calm and being resilient are related
- the science behind how your nervous system handles stress
- plus some of my favourite soothing tools!
Tahlee Rouillon 0:04
When you think of resilience, what comes to mind? Is it grit? Stamina? Perseverance, strength? Do you imagine that scene from Rocky as he runs up and down the stairs a million times? Or do you think of Katniss Everdeen as she battles her way through the Hunger Games? When you look up synonyms for resilience, you get words like tough, hardy, irrepressible, and adaptable. And according to Google, the opposite of resilient is vulnerable, and sensitive. And here’s where things get weird. The textbook definition of resilience is be able to recover quickly from difficult conditions. Did you catch that key word? The key word here is recover. So whilst all the synonyms for resilience, like strength and toughness and durability are true, there’s a critical element to resilience that often overlooked. And that’s the ability to stay calm.
Tahlee Rouillon 1:20
You’re listening to the Seekers’ Sanctuary, a show about creating sanctuary in life, work, relationships, and home, so you can embrace a life that matters to you. I’m your host Tahlee.
Tahlee Rouillon 1:34
It turns out, stress isn’t always stressful. When challenges arise as they inevitably do. There may be a variety of ways someone who is resilient, stays calm. Perhaps they breathe more deeply. They may have an internal cheerleader saying “you can do this”. Or they might simply sense the ground beneath their feet, anchoring them into the present moment. By calling on these self soothing techniques, a resilient person can stay calm and centered, even during a difficult situation.
Tahlee Rouillon 2:08
Your capacity to manage stress is called a window of tolerance. Within this window, you feel relaxed, yet alert, engaged and secure. There may be events throughout the day that take you to your edge of tolerance. But using different strategies, some of which we mentioned before, you’ll be able to soothe your nervous system and stay within your window. So you naturally respond to the ebb and flow of life. But what if you can’t self soothe? That’s when stress becomes stressful. If circumstances become too challenging, they push you beyond your window of tolerance and into dysregulation. This regulation is the chronic activation of your sympathetic nervous system. That’s the part of your nervous system that gives you energy in the face of a threat. And we all know what dysregulation feels like. Those are the common symptoms of stress. Feeling anxious, tense on edge, snapping at a loved one, or desperately needing to get out of a crowded place, a racing heart or bursting into tears, or even becoming overly friendly during conflict. If dysregulation continues, your nervous system can become completely flooded. And that’s when you could feel numb or withdrawn. And over time, chronic dysregulation leads to overwhelm and burnout.
Tahlee Rouillon 3:41
As we all face greater levels of stress than ever before. Learning to soothe your nervous system is a critical skill. In the face of ongoing complexity and uncertainty, becoming calm is more important than ever. So how do you do it? How do you become more calm? Well, let’s unpack the science a little bit. So calm is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the branch of the nervous system that acts like a brake in a car. It calms the body down after danger has passed. And activating this car is actually a learned practice called self regulation. Professors in social work in education from Lakehead University describe self regulation like this. “Successful self regulation is not something we’re born with, rather it develops slowly throughout childhood and into the mid 20s as parts of the brain fully develop, and connect.” Let me say that one more time. “Successful self regulation is not something we’re born with. Rather, it develops slowly throughout childhood, into the mid 20s as parts of the brain fully develop and connect.”
Tahlee Rouillon 5:06
When a child is born, they’re hardwired to survive. But obviously, babies are extremely vulnerable. Therefore, they’re very sensitive to threat, which is why babies cry. They cry because they have very little control over their own nervous system. And they cry, to get their needs met, and to receive feelings of safety and reassurance from a kind and reliable caregiver. As the caregiver soothes the baby, they help the infant’s nervous system regulate, and this is called co-regulation. Over time, with consistent co-regulation, a child will grow up learning to self soothe, or self regulate. Unfortunately, we can have a lot of trouble regulating our own nervous systems if we haven’t been shown how to. Even if you had loving parents and a stable home environment, you may not have been given successful self regulating skills. Our parents are fallible human beings. They may not have always been present and attentive. They also may have struggled to self regulate themselves. And this lack of co-regulation can be traumatic to an infant or child.
Tahlee Rouillon 6:21
When we think of trauma, we usually think of the big things. War, violence, abuse, or neglect. But trauma can also be bullying, discrimination, oppression, or persecution. Systems of oppression are traumatizing for all marginalized groups, especially Black people, Indigenous or First Nations People and people of color. Survivors of big trauma need tremendous compassion and deep support for the horrific and debilitating events they have endured. However, trauma can also be an accumulation of smaller, overwhelming events. It could come in the form of the loss of a loved one, financial stress, medical intervention, or chronic illness. But trauma isn’t about the event itself. It’s about how your body processed it. Trauma is a fundamental feeling of threat, a perceived lack of safety. It’s anything that overwhelms your ability to cope. And there’s a lot that can overwhelm a child.
Tahlee Rouillon 7:36
Remember, trauma is always about the impact rather than the event itself. And in the face of overwhelm, without consistent soothing from a regulated caregiver, a child will grow up with a model of the world that is unsafe, inconsistent and uncertain. This stress can lead to chronic dysregulation. And as an adult chronic dysregulation often results in anxiety, complex PTSD, attachment issues, and depression. Perhaps your trauma came later in life, you may have had successful self regulation skills when you were younger, but overwhelming life events led to the buildup of chronic dysregulation. But there is hope. The good news, even if you’re struggling with dysregulation, or even if you haven’t been modeled calm effectively as a child, you can still teach it to yourself. You can learn the ability to self regulate, through practice.
Tahlee Rouillon 8:39
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change the structure of its neural network. Your brain can form new neural pathways, generate new neurons, and even rearrange or remove existing connections. In other words, neuroplasticity is your ability to change and because of neuroplasticity, your brain and nervous system are highly adaptable, which means you can improve your emotional self regulation over time. You can learn to become calm. Now, obviously, my favorite way to become calm is with meditones.
Tahlee Rouillon 9:23
If you don’t know meditones are precisely tuned frequencies of sound that are combined to form a humming vibration. And when you listen to this vibration with headphones, the left and right hemispheres of the brain work in unison to create calm brainwaves effortlessly. Which makes meditones a really easy way to improve your emotional self regulation. Now, whilst meditones are an easy solution to calm, they are just one tool. Ideally, you need a whole toolbox. Anything that will help you soothe your nervous system and slow down, will help you become calm. Things like deep belly breathing, or a weighted blanket, gentle yoga or stretching, a warm shower, or even spending time in nature will help.
Tahlee Rouillon 10:18
One caveat here though, if you are deeply struggling with feelings of anxiety or overwhelm, it’s really important to reach out. You may need the support of a trauma informed therapist or medication. There is absolutely no shame in receiving extra support to help your nervous system become calm. And if you’re already in therapy, learning to soothe your nervous system outside of treatment will supercharge your recovery.
Tahlee Rouillon 10:50
Becoming resilient is the biggest key to making lasting changes in your life. If you want to live a deep and meaningful life, you need to be resilient, and becoming resilient requires calm. So the greatest result of becoming calm is being resilient enough to do the things that matter to you.
Tahlee Rouillon 11:15
If you’ve enjoyed this episode, make sure to tune in for the next episodes in the series on resilience. I’ll be discussing How To Quit The Hustle with Alex Phillips, How To Shine As A Highly Sensitive Person with Jane Tavakalian, what it takes to Thrive In Business And Life with Kate Snowise, and the challenges and blessings of being a Highly Sensitive Man with Tom Falkenstein. Until next time, big love.
Tahlee Rouillon 11:44
Thank you for listening to the Seekers’ Sanctuary podcast. I’ve been your host Tahlee if you’ve enjoyed the music on this show, then you’re going to love becoming a Seekers’ Sanctuary member. You can access hours of calming meditones music on any device with our premium streaming service. Head to seeksanctuary.com for your free trial today. Special thanks to our editor Justin Rouillon for helping bring these episodes to life. Until next time, big love