As we have seen when a traumatic event occurs the nervous system is affected. When this happens even ordinary tasks can become difficult. People suffering traumatic stress can yo-yo between hyper-aroused (manic) states, and hypo-aroused states. (Hypo means low, so a hypo-aroused state in depression and lethargy).
One of the goals of trauma recovery is to build what psychologists call the resilient zone. The resilient zone is the ideal ground between a hyper and hypo-aroused state. When you are in your resilient zone you are better able to handle life. This manifests as clearer thinking, calmer feelings and physical energy.
Below are some of the factors that contribute to resilience.
- Membership of mutual aid groups like AA, NA, SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery
- Good relationships with family and friends
- Building a positive view of yourself
- Having confidence in your strengths and abilities
- Being able to regulate your feelings and impulses
- Developing patience and problem-solving skills
- Working on communication skills and strategies
- Being able to ask for help (from the right people)
- Resisting ‘victim mentality’ and assuming ownership of situations
- Coping with stress in healthy ways (e.g. sports, meditation, breathing exercises)
- Avoiding (or preferably abstaining from) harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse
- Helping others and doing service work in the community
- Creative pursuits such as reading, writing, dancing or music making
Exercise 7: Body Scan: Record your results in your workbook
In order to build a resilient zone we need first to be able to identify when we’re not in it. In other words, we need to be able to see when we are in a hyper or depressed state.
‘Body scanning’ means noticing the sensations within the body. It is one of the central techniques used in the Mindfulness tradition found in South East Asia (particularly in Myanmar).
The goal is to bring ‘deadened’ parts of the body alive by placing one’s attention on them.
- Sit or lie down comfortably. If you are sitting you can be kneeling or cross legged or even sitting in a chair, but if you sit in a chair then make sure that your back is straight and your feet touch the floor. You can also lie down.
- Scan your body slowly from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Feel each area relax as you move your attention past it. This can take anywhere between 2 minutes to half an hour depending on how fast you go. An ideal time frame is 10 minutes.
- As a guide, master meditators in the Buddhist tradition may take each body part, about the size of a stamp, and concentrate on it for several minutes before moving on. Obviously you don’t have to do this. Start with a whole body part, like the head, the neck, or the upper left arm, and place your attention there for a minute before moving on.
- Don’t allow sensations in other parts of the body distract you from the part of the body you are concentrating on. Obviously if you are in pain, then you should attend to the source of that pain, but otherwise try not to let minor aches or itches distract you from the order in which you are moving across the body.
- Afterwards, perhaps make a mental note of whether you were experiencing mostly pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feelings. And if which body areas. Also note if there were any areas that felt ‘empty’ or dead (e.g. where you couldn’t feel any sensations).
- After some time you should find that your body awareness begins to increase and parts of the body that used to be lacking in sensation are now ‘alive’.
- If this practice doesn’t work for you then use resources on the internet (like Youtube) to find other guided meditations that do. Keywords you might want to use to search for guided meditation resources are:
- Vipassana meditation
- Body scan meditation
- Sweeping meditation