Resilience Resources and Control Over Them

Lesson objective:

In this lesson, we talk about how stress and trauma redirect the brain and body efforts to focus on direct survival. We also get to further understand resources of resilience and learn about how they are affected by trauma and stress.

As discussed earlier, your brain and body coordinate thoughts, responses, and behaviors in order to keep you alive and help you successfully navigate the world around you.

Stress, trauma, and adversity redirect the brain and body’s efforts to focus on immediate survival. In the face of stress, the brain and body adjust various systems with the aim of keeping you safe. Over time, these adaptations may lead to hypervigilant reactions, numbness, isolation, or other challenges we have discussed. There are countless ways for us to become dysregulated in the aftermath of stress and trauma.

Inevitably, stress and trauma interrupt your ability to access survival resources: food and water, physical safety, relationships, bodily health, sleep, and self-esteem. Whether the source of stress is conflict and war, economic scarcity or poverty, loss of loved ones, or other, stress and trauma strip away the building blocks of resilience.

Resilience is about more than just having basic needs met. It is about maintaining a healthy set of survival resources that ensure your well-being. So, just as there are survival resources, there are resilience resources, which can include: 

 

  • Goals and purpose
  • Hope
  • Faith or spiritual practice 
  • Healthy relationships (support network) 
  • A stable, predictable routine
  • A positive view of yourself 
  • Clear internal and external communication (interoception and interpersonal communication)
  • Understanding the effects of stress and trauma 
  • The ability to manage or control unwanted reactions and impulses 

Resilience resources help you navigate towards survival and success even in the face of adversity. Let us be clear, though. 

In the face of stress and adversity, resilience is not easy.

Stress and trauma erode resilience resources. Stressful experiences disrupt interoception, complicate interpersonal relationships and intimacy, defy predictability, and lead to unwanted reactions.

It may seem that resilience resources are then also outside of your control. To a certain degree, that is true. 

It is not completely within your control whether or not you have supportive relationships. Or a predictable schedule. It is not in your control the extent and degree of disturbances you experienced after prolonged stress or trauma. 

Indeed, some aspects of resilience are circumstantial (for example: having family members around you), while others require practice and effort. In other words, some aspects of resilience are under your control; others are not.

Building resources often requires effort, and there are specific strategies  that you can use to deal with unwanted responses, including unwanted thoughts, your view of yourself, and your physical reactions to triggers. 

It takes time and energy to identify resilience resources, and then more time and effort to build each resilience resource to counteract the effects of past and continued adversity, but change and recovery are very possible, and the structure and operations of the brain make it easier than you might expect. Stay tuned.