You already have everything you need
Resilience begins with self-awareness. How am I feeling? What sensations am I experiencing and where in my body? Am I hot? Cold? Hungry? Tired? Numb? The first step to surviving and thriving under pressure begins with this basic analysis. Excess stress often goes unnoticed at the outset. Stress accumulates under the surface of things. It chips away at our resilience. It makes us less agile, less communicative and responsive. We tend not to be as helpful, kind or generous. Our capacity for compassion falters. In short, excess stress undermines our power to be who we want to be, for ourselves and for others. And it does so exponentially when we’re under pressure.
Checking in with sensations might sound so basic that it hardly needs to be pointed out. But think about it: How in touch are you with your body throughout the day? How aware are you of your basic sensations? Take this quiz to find out: Test Your Body Awareness The results might surprise you!
Knowing how connected you are to your body is important. Because the more aware you are of your body the more you will recognize when you are in need of . . . a short break, a hug, a quiet space, a dance move, a slice of pizza.
This cannot be stressed enough:
The more you are able to take care of yourself by providing yourself with what you need, the more you can help others.
What enables you to go forth and help others in a calm, thoughtful, balanced way? Well, it depends. It hinges on the intrinsic and extrinsic factors at play at that particular moment. By checking in and becoming aware of sensations, you get a better sense of what is happening within. You become aware of the stress points and sensitivities that take you off balance. Instead of stress building up under the surface, you are able to detect stress points and shift them.
In the long term this will help you to discover unhelpful patterns, adjust them, and stay connected to how you want to be in the world.
Take a moment right now to tense your entire body. You can do this without anyone noticing what you’re doing. Tighten all your muscles . . . See how your breathing stops, the pressure builds in your head and chest? Notice what happens to your thoughts.
Now take a moment to do the opposite, to soften and open. (Again, no one needs to know what’s happening.) Notice how your muscles feel and what happens with your breathing and your thoughts.
This is an exercise in embodied self awareness. It is useful as a tool for recognizing how the body + mind system works. For centuries the brain and body connection has been severed: “I think, therefore I am.” This has created a false interpretation of how the system unfolds. We now know that there are numerous, multi-directional connections between the brain and the rest of the system. Take the example of the connection between the nerves in the gut and perception. Gut disruption and anxiety and depression are inextricably linked. The phrase “It’s all in your head” is obsolete.
Conscious engagement with your body supports resilience. In the healthcare environment, conditions were rarely ideal pre-COVID-19. The need for self-awareness to support mental health is greater now than ever. Organizations must do everything they can to support healthcare workers. And we must do everything we can to help ourselves.
When you learn the skills to settle your nervous system through embodied self awareness, you expand your ability to sort through options and develop clear, concise information. You are able to work with your stress in a more skillful way and remain calm and composed when pressure increases. You become more available. Others can ask questions and convey their needs and wants completely. You are able to engage with yourself and others in a meaningful way.
The best part is that you already have everything you need! That is: your body and being willing to take a moment or two to sense what’s happening within. You do not need to go anywhere or have special props. You do not need extensive training or hours of cognitive learning. The concept is simple, but not necessarily easy. It does require repeated practice.
Start with 10-15 seconds of awareness. Take a deep breath. What part of your body are you breathing in to? Can you feel the weight of your body on the floor or the chair? Where is most of your attention? Are your muscles tight anywhere? If so, can you make more space there?
Want to learn more? Let’s connect!