For many clients, stress can feel like a natural byproduct of having a family, holding down a job, pursuing an advanced degree, or keeping up with the hectic pace of life in general.
The problem is, when stress becomes chronic it can impact their brain, body, and virtually every aspect of their life.
So how do we help clients stay strong and centered in the face of adversity – especially when they start to feel like they’re staring down new demands or challenges every day?
In the video below, Stephen Porges, PhD shares two ways we can resource clients to better cope with distress.
Take a look.
The first I’ve really talked about neural exercises, and how they then can help individuals provide more activity or more resource. So we go through neural exercise and we’ve talked to a lot. We’ll talk about co-regulation and connectedness, and how interacting with people or even playing team sports builds reciprocity in which our physiology is not really self regulated, it’s co-regulate with another.
The other one is self resources. And I start to think more about this in terms of how one would develop treatment models for trauma, for addiction and others. Because most of the disorders that people suffer are really disorders of state regulation. We can translate that and say they’re disorders of stress regulation or emotional regulation. It’s all the same underlying mechanisms. So I would say that there are certain resources we give people, and that was so we can give them lessons on how to breathe. Because breathing is a powerful portal to regulate physiological state, and to downregulate sympathetic mobilization strategies, calm us down.
We can also use mental images. So with breathing it’s bottom up and top down working together. But with mental images, we start thinking about the positive moments of our lives. And when we start taking those visual images into our mind’s memory, they have a physiological correlate. They start shifting our physiological state, and they downregulate our defenses.
So there are these two pathways. One is we get our nervous system working through exercises of interacting with others. And then we also make sure that individuals realize that under very, very bad situations or challenging, I shouldn’t even use the word bad, but challenging situations. They have a resource they can go to. They can go to their memories, they can go to their breath. But they can really use their knowledge and say that when I’m really challenged, maybe I need to move my body into a environment that is less sensory, so that it can now regulate, even though we’re not talking about co-regulation.
So in behavior modification, they used to talk about time out rooms, but what those time out rooms were cues of isolation. And isolation is one of the worst triggers, most profound and potent triggers to a mammal.
Isolation, whether it’s a metaphor or physically done is really powerful in terms of disrupting who we are, because we’ve taken away the capacity and the opportunity to co-regulate.
But if we’re self-regulating, there are times where we don’t want to be around people too much for us. We don’t want to be around noise too much for us. So we don’t want even activity going on. So we need quiet places and personal spaces. So we have these two pathways. One is we develop a more resilient nervous system. We develop an awareness of that nervous system. And when we develop an awareness of what’s going on in our body, we develop a strategy to be aware when we’re hitting our limits.
For more expert strategies from Stephen Porges, PhD – as well as insights on polyvagal theory – check out this training.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What strategies have you used to help your clients develop greater resiliency? Leave a comment below.