Last week on the blog in we talked about Trauma, Stress and Healing Yoga and went into
some pretty deep waters. That post generated a lot of private response and many of you let me know you were touched by it - Thank you. You might still wonder, though, "What's the antidote?" Or even, "What about my everyday stress?" Or even, "I haven't experienced trauma but want to manage the predictable stressors of just being a human, and particularly an adult human in our modern world?"
In last week's post, the second quiz was a quiz that helped explore your resilience. While researching trauma, and childhood trauma particularly, is important in its own right, it's also true that it's helpful to look at extreme situations when trying to understand subtle ones. Have you ever tried to define "stress" or "resilience" for yourself? Well, if you have and have found it slippery, you're not alone. The professionals who research stress and health have myriad different definitions for both. One of the most helpful definitions of stress for me is that "stress" is a mismatch between perceived needs and perceived resources. Resilience is often referred to as our ability to "bounce back" when we experience stress from something that happens to us - like a motor vehicle accident, angry people, insult, etc - or stress from conflicting feelings, needs or responsibilities within our psyche.
While Dr. Felitti, the doctor who started the ACEs study and is the acknowledged expert on resilience, recommends specific forms of therapy for people with ACE scores over 4, there is also consensus about the everyday actions that are protective against trauma. I would argue that this list is also exactly what protects us from "everyday trauma" - or "stress."
Remember the definition of stress as "a perceived mismatch between perceived needs and perceived resources"? This offers us 6 places to intervene: either our perception is off kilter, in which case we can connect to what really is in one of the three areas - match, needs, resources; or there is an excess of need or a dearth of resources, or there is a disparity in getting them to one another. Multiply that times our power in community, and you have a lot of places to intervene in stress - or trauma.
Sometimes we are alone able to change the conditions; sometimes there are structures, systems or just more lifting power that is necessary than we can marshal alone. Often in trauma healing and prevention, what is necessary is a combination of the two. In stress, we often have the capacity to move these levers on our own.
By looking at the ACEs study and the factors it revealed, we have a new foundation for what a healthy person, family, society, public health system and world require. The 10 factor quiz and the resilience questionnaire both reveal that seemingly simple, small, everyday factors determine our wellbeing:
- connection to other caring people,
- a sense of meaning or being part of something larger than oneself,
- empowerment through helping others,
- empowerment of one another by reminding ourselves and others of their value to us and to our community,
- acknowledgement of what is and the ability to be present with what actually is going on,
- and purpose driven action.
This list is drawn from multiple sources including the application of ACEs and Resilience questionnaires evident in the CDC Checklist for Personal Resilience and the "Protective Factors" listed on numbered page 9 of the CDC's report entitled, "Connecting the Dots."
A Healing Yoga class offers most or all of the things on this list. Next week, we'll look at resilience from a brain and neuroanatomy perspective and take a deeper dive into how Healing Yoga bolsters resilience through small, powerful repeatable actions.
Check out Foundations of Healing Yoga, opening again in September for 6 weeks of exploring the principles of a Healing Yoga Practice and building your own. Be sure to sign up to be notified when the course opens... and you may even get a treat and a deal!
Until then, feel yourself breathing in, breathing out, feel your body expand with each inhale, release with each exhale. What pose, breath technique or meditation helps you maintain resilience, release stress and embrace your inner zen?