Why should you want to be more resilient?
- Stress is everywhere, and is largely out of our control.
- Resilience allows you to control the effects stress has on you
- Resilience keeps us from having damaging reactions to stress.
Example: You can’t change the fact that you were laid off, but you can learn to control its impact on you.
Is resilience training similar to physical exercise?
A person who exercises regularly has an improved baseline level of fitness that makes physical demands easier to deal with. Exercise can also be used to prepare for a demanding situation, such as going on a ski trip and wanting to get into special shape for it.
As with exercise we can improve our baseline level of resilience (through regular use of resilient behaviors and attitudes) that will make us on an ongoing basis more able to bounce back, recover and deal with stressors.
Like planning in advance for a ski trip we can also come up with a “resilience plan” for a specific stressor. Lets say that I am laid off from work and I need extra help in coping with this reality. To develop a “resilience plan”, I identify things that will help such as reaching out for social support, understanding and communicating my feelings, challenging negative thoughts and using short breathing or relaxation exercises as needed.
How would resilience training fit into my current crisis?
With resilience training:
- You will become inherently less reactive to stressors.
- You will have techniques to apply in order to minimize the intensity and duration of your reactions to stress.
- You will have “props”, e.g. audios that induce deep relaxation and help you throw of your stress reactions.
- You will understand how to develop a “resilience plan” by selecting from many methods you have learned to neutralize stressors and replenish yourself. The plan can include immediate relief and long term improvements in your ability to cope with stress.
What Is Combat Breathing?
Combat breathing is a technique for staying calm and clearheaded while in the midst of very challenging situations. It is used by the military to help combatants function well in alarming situations such as firefights. So you are likely to find it very useful in dealing with the trying situations we tend to encounter in ordinary civilian life.
There are many variants of combat breathing. We use this one:
- Breathe in to the count of four.
- Without pausing after the inhalation, exhale to the count of seven.
- Without pausing after the exhalation, breathe in to the count of four.
- Continue this method of breathing for five to ten minutes.
- If you find this too hard to do, start with shorter durations of inhalation and exhalation, e.g. inhale to the count of three, exhale to the count of five.
- You can also shorten how long you continue sessions of combat breathing until you become more comfortable with it.
- In any case, do not pause between inhalation or exhalation.
- To be able to use this while you are in a turmoil, at first you shold practice it frequently, whether you are feeling stressed or not. During that time, practice at least several times per week.
What Is Autogenic Training?
Autogenic relaxation is a means of getting into a relaxed state by listening to or saying phrases suggesting heaviness and warmth. These are two sample phrases: “My hands, my arms, and my shoulders feel heavy, relaxed, and comfortable” or “I am beginning to feel quite relaxed”.
There are both long and short forms of autogenics. Some of the longer ones can take 20- 30 minutes. One that we use can be done in only 2-3 minutes. It’s best to use both forms. Practicing the long form will make the short form work better.
You can also identify an “autogenic prompt”- a phrase out of a longer exercise you have practiced successfully. By means of association just saying the short phrase will lead to a relaxed state. This is called classical conditioning. Just like Pavlov’s dogs we can develop strong associations to use to our benefit. Remember that Pavlov’s dogs were conditioned to salivate when they heard a bell ring because previously the ringing of the bell had been paired to being fed.
The shortened phrases “autogenic prompts” can be used impromptu when needed and can provide the needed relaxation and clearer thinking.