I want to offer you some thoughts and ideas about 3 ways to cultivate empowering resources in times of distress.
Once a Movement Medicine colleague, therapist, ancestral healing practitioner and friend, Catherine Dunne, said that we need conversations not about the survival of the fittest, but about the blossoming of the most resourced.
This topic is dear to my heart. When I was younger, I faced addictions, depression and anxiety.
Health has always been an issue for me also as a child. I held a terrible amount of trauma, stress and unprocessed emotions in my nervous system. My mum died when I was six years old and during all my adult life I worked on feeling, expressing and releasing grief. I also had to deal with unintegrated rage. I was not surprised when at the age of 33 I had cancer. I knew I had to embark on a great adventure and healing journey.
As I am entering menopause and midlife, I feel that I want to do my best to take good care of myself. My prayer is to be able to celebrate life and support other women who want to transform their wounds into medicine.
Consequently, lately, I have been experimenting and researching various practices and tools to feel more resourced in these times of distress.
Now more than ever, people are experiencing a great time of uncertainty, chaos and stress that can affect their health at all levels. Their social interactions may be affected. Maybe they lost some of their livelihood. Many may feel stuck in fear. Some can barely function during the day but then can’t sleep at night. There is a disturbing level of division also between families and communities. We are witnessing an increase in polarization, conflicts, social unrest and totalitarian measures.
Especially when the boat is rocking, people could experience a paralysing and overwhelming amount of fear. Therefore it is vital to look at ways to be resourced (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually).
Many people, because of survival issues, may feel that they have no time to look after themselves as they are dealing with the ‘basics’ in their life. Capitalism is a system that creates trauma per se and works in such a way that people don’t have time to cultivate resources or self-care. Often it is a privilege to talk about self-love and wellbeing. I am aware that I am speaking from this place, as a white Western woman.
The amount of conflicting information on several topics, arguments on social media and the increase of political corruption are worrying and disconcerting. There are conversations and concerns about the pandemic affecting the number of suicides and domestic violence.
It’s no surprise that many feel confused, lost and helpless.
Perhaps we live in the greatest time of paradox, where it is possible also to witness the uttermost beauty, generosity, kindness and magnificence of the human spirit.
Nevertheless, the current circumstances may trigger people’s fears, stress response and consequently contribute to lowering their immune system.
Maybe you have lost some of your income and were forced to change radically your lifestyle and priorities. Or suddenly your children were at home and you started homeschooling them. Perhaps you live in a foreign country and worry about your relatives as you don’t know when you will see them again. You may experience anxiety about what the future will bring.
I understand how it feels.
So amid all the chaos, change and uncertainty, you may wonder how to be sane and resourced during this time of distress. I have been wondering that too.
Particularly if you are helping others, it is key to find tools to nourish yourself to avoid feeling depleted.
How do we create relationships repair, with ourselves, each other and the land? Repair is trauma prevention.
How do we cultivate empowering resources?
People, now more than ever, need practical real-time tools.
We are wired for connection, relationships and being tuned in with the body. It is an ancient technology. We all have it. The body has incredible intelligence. Trauma has a creative intelligence too.
We need somatic pathways that people can inhabit. Cognitive and intellectual processes often are not enough. When we feel in our bones that we are connected to one other, the earth, to our body-soma, healing take place. When we are in survival mode, this delicate balance can be thrown out of the window, so we need pathways to connect, again and again, and to remember our true nature. As some says, repetition is the mother of all skills!
There are many amazing methods out there, many of them are wonderful.
So, here are some of my thoughts about that. I warn you that I am not going to tell you what to do, but I am here to offer some ideas and practical tools that you can explore. There is no prescription or fixed recipe here, but simple ideas and guidelines that hopefully you can implement at home. I invite you to look inside, listen, slow down, and find out what could benefit you the most.
1. Explore YOUR way to move your body.
“Knowledge is only a rumour until it is in the muscle.” (Papua Nueve Guinea Proverb).
No recipe fits all. But I think it is crucial to find ways to engage and move your body.
Whatever practice you enjoy the most, you can experiment and play! You may ride your bicycle, work in your garden, go for a run, put on some music and dance, jump on a trampoline, walk your dog, practice yoga. There is no right or wrong. My invitation for you is to MOVE YOUR BODY! It would be marvellous if you could do it outdoors, while you are breathing fresh air and getting some sun on your skin.
In industrialized countries, we habitually spend a lot of time in our heads overthinking and overanalyzing.Therapy, for example, took historically mostly a cognitive approach.Cartesio wrote ‘Cogito, ergo sum’. We evolved collectively by locating intelligence in our heads and brains. However, we need to rebalance and recalibrate this tendency by reconnecting to our bodies and discharging the excessive energy that we carry in our minds. There is a broader intelligence that lives in our bodies.
There is no way that we are going to release stress or create change by merely thinking about it. Our bodies carry memory in their tissues.
For example, if you grew up in an environment where you needed to suppress tears to be safe, loved, or accepted, very likely that memory and repetitive habit of contraction live in your muscles.
Here there is some good news: any action that you chose, consciously, can create new habits and neural pathways so you can learn daily how to cultivate resilience.
Life is movement. Everything moves, including the trillion cells in your body.
Humans evolved by moving freely outdoors in contact with the elements, animals and wilderness, developing coordination, strength, agility and the capacity to orientate and be in communication with life around us.
Animals discharge excessive amounts of energy and adrenaline and return to balance by running, moving, and shaking.
Life without movement is stagnant.
There is a living intelligence in our cells, skeleton, organs, and our life-force, and health can be impoverished if we sit on a sofa all day.
Movement is a metaphor for change, flow, evolution and life force.
When you engage your body in a way that is not mechanical, and you are mindful, you can give full attention to what you are doing.
In this way, you are creating a simple healthy habit, a new way of being present, focused.
It does not matter what you are doing. It is important that whatever you do, you do it with intention and attention.
Dancing helps to grow new neural pathways.
Walking boosts immunity, improves mood, and strengthens the heart.
Exercise and movement stimulate the frontal lobes and our cortex, which in response, reduce fear and stress response.
Did I mention that all this is also going to produce some feel-good hormones and that this can be a lot of fun?
Here you can find a list of dancing classes that you can join in person and online worldwide with many talented Movement Medicine colleagues. You can also learn more about the underpinning philosophy of this embodied modality.
2. Create YOUR network of support.
‘There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and our thoughts, as well as our success.’ (George Matthew Adams).
You don’t have to do it alone. Now, more than ever, it is vital to lean on support.
I invite you to explore what resonates with you. This could be an excellent time to start working with a somatic/body-oriented therapist or a coach. If money is an issue, there are plenty of options. Some therapists are offering low-cost therapy. Many coaches who just graduated offer free or very affordable sessions. Some schools have various sets of prices depending on what people can pay and often give scholarships.
Maybe you can join a mastermind group, a course, a membership platform. And what about that drawing, music or tango class that you were dreaming of as a child?
Moreover, this could be a good time to ask your friends and peers to support you or hold you accountable. Ask them if you can call them when you struggle, feel alone or isolated, and offer them the same. You can check in with each other and see how you are progressing with your projects or what you committed to doing.
Sometimes it is challenging to receive, but you can also provide your presence and friendship as a sign of reciprocity.
Also, in this case, I want to emphasize that there is no rule here. What works for me may not work for you. This is an opportunity to get to know yourself in-depth, to listen, and to tune in with your wants and needs. On the other hand, this kind of self-care is not negotiable. It is a practice. If you give attention to it, it will grow like a plant.
I invite you to explore what leaning on support means to you. This could be an essential part of your strategy to create empowering resources in this time of distress.
We are mammals, and we need each other to thrive, blossom, and regulate at a very intuitive and primal level. We are wired for connection, companionship and warmth. Our nervous system evolved in this way and our bodies produce chemicals and hormones such as oxytocin which are associated with trust, relationship-building and empathy.
You can check the research by Stephen Porges. He studied how the vagus nerve balances the parasympathetic nervous system (that controls the ‘rest and digest response’) through relationships and social engagement.
Whether you decide to explore these aspects with a therapist, a coach, a peer, or a friend, something is compelling about being witnessed, supported and validated by another human being. Indeed, it can be profoundly healing to be mirrored by kindred spirits when we are learning new things or updating our self-image. Simply allowing ourselves to be seen and received is medicine.
Sometimes, when we feel safe enough, it can be quite fun to ask these people what they think about our strengths, gifts and skills. In my experience, learning with others is wonderful, because something magical and unique happens when we are in a ‘constellation’ that cannot take place when we are alone.
Furthermore, to be with supportive people is a way to learn to loosen up our inner criticism, acknowledge ourselves, celebrate our gifts and victories.
Studies suggest that we are much more likely to do something when we agree about it with somebody else and decide to be accountable to them.
I talk to peers, friends, mentors, coaches, colleagues regularly. It is powerful to share a space with like-minded people and listen to each other without judgment or the need to fix or change uncomfortable feelings. It reminds me of the importance of kindness and acceptance.
Many people grew up feeling not validated, seen, appreciated or supported. Therefore, the act of consciously reaching out for support and asking for help is a way to create new narratives and life-affirming experiences.
This practice of reaching out may expand your resources and may contribute to your overall sense of wellbeing.
Last but not least, I am aware of the challenges of creating safe, inclusive and nurturing spaces online until people can meet in person again, at least in certain countries, as there are still various levels of restrictions worldwide.
It is important to balance the time in front of the screen, have plenty of rest and spend time outdoors.
3. Find your way to nurture your sense of connection.
“A good teacher is important, but sisters and brothers in the practice are the main ingredients for success. You cannot achieve enlightenment by locking yourself in your room. Transformation is possible only when you are in touch. When you touch the ground, you can feel the stability of the earth and feel confident. When you observe the steadiness of the sunshine, the air, and the trees, you know that you can count on the sun to rise each day and the air and the trees to be there. When you build a house, you build it on solid ground. You need to choose friends in the practice who are stable, on whom you can rely.”(Thich Nath Hanh)
Social restrictions, excessive time on the screen or social media may aggravate the sense of isolation and anxiety. My invitation to you is to explore and nurture your sense of connection with all life.
You may have understood by now that I am not offering you a fixed formula. Yet, you can experiment and explore what being resourceful means to you.
I also would like to ask you to inquiry about what connection means to you. I invite you to reflect upon how do you relate to the bigger picture. You can contemplate your relationship with that which is more significant than you and me.
It doesn’t matter if you call it God, Goddess, Source, Universe, Great Mystery, Infinity, Oneness, Unity, Spirit.
In the cartesian, dualistic and mechanistic worldview we inherited, many parts of the whole are split and divided.
According to this narrative, the mind is separated from the body and the heart. This story says that the body is disconnected from the soul, the wilderness, the Divine. Death is removed from life. Human beings have lost their kinship with animals, the elements, plants. Many have severed and forgot their relationship with Source, Mother Earth or other human beings. We dance with polarities and the eternal embrace of light and dark, joy and pain etc, etc. And yet, many human beings are embarking on the great adventure of being ‘ensouled’ on this planet, as Jungian psychotherapist Marion Woodman would say.
In the book, Radical Remission, Surviving Cancer Against All Odds, Kelly A. Turner, PhD, a researcher, author, and lecturer in integrative oncology, shares her research. She wanted to know why people had overcome cancer and talked to over 1000 survivors. She identified the nine most common factors that contributed to their recovery. One factor is embracing and deepening spiritual connection.
There are many different ways to look at ‘connection’.
I invite you to use your imagination to see what this means to you and how it can help you create empowering resources during times of distress.
We are relational beings. We are relationships.
If we choose so, if we decide to give attention to it, we can experience more fully the relationship with ourselves and ultimately with all life.
Charles Eisenstein says that ‘the true self is a connected self’ from a metaphysical, philosophical, and biological point of view (i.e., including the trillion cells in our bodies, the genetic information inherited from our ancestors and the bacteria living in our organism).
We can also think about the connection between organs and systems in our bodies and how they communicate and affect each other. The body-mind relationship/interdependence and its impact on our overall health, well-being and immune system are well researched.
Moreover, the Heart Math Institute is also exploring ‘the interconnectivity between human consciousness and Earth’s energetic systems as well as between people and other living systems, such as animals and trees.’
What if this time of distress time which is creating multiple paradoxes, becomes an opportunity to rediscover and remember the relation, with one’s true nature, with each other and with that which is greater than us?
We should be doing so much more healing and repairing work together. In our individualistic culture and society, which are rooted in the beliefs of separation, we tend to treat healing as a personal issue.
This piece of writing is also an invitation to include as much workgroup as you can and expand your circle of awareness to your team, your communities, larger systems of goodness that hold beauty and light. You can use your embodied imagination to reclaim and reinvent your kinship with all life, including the non-humans and the great invisible powers. Our ancestors, also in European traditions, knew how to live in reverence and reciprocity and we do carry this memory in our cells and bones.
Many people experience profound suffering that can lead to serious mental health issues when they feel cut off from life or that they don’t belong. The Sapara people from Ecuador think that in the Western countries we live in a collective trance and dream that is based on the assumption of separation. I agree with those who feel that most of modern neurosis in our modern world are rooted in this spilt.
I want to encourage your enquiry about connection. So here below you can find some questions:
- If you could choose a simple step, what would you do daily to nurture your sense of connection with all life?
- What is your relationship with the elements, animals and the wilderness? What can you learn from them?
- When you feel fully connected to yourself, your community and the web of life, what do you do differently?
- If you could invite your soul to sing, what would be her song? What is she whispering to you? What does being ‘ensouled’ mean to you?
- What is your relationship with your imagination and the imaginal world?
SO, MY DEAR FRIEND…I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE! LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU FOUND MOST HELPFUL!
I know that reality is far more complex and is not a set of black and white elements….What I offered you is not complete, nor it was meant to be. Nevertheless, I wanted to share some ideas and have a conversation about building empowering resources.
Please feel free to get in touch, let me know what you think and what you found inspiring.