Try a thought experiment with me. Take a moment (if you’re up to it) and focus your thoughts on something upsetting. Then notice how your body feels…your emotions, tension level, breathing, stress response.
Now switch. Focus on something you enjoy or love. Your dog or cat, your grandchildren, a sip of coffee, the smell of grass, watching the winning goal…anything. Now notice how your body feels. How’s your shoulders, your belly, your breathing? How’s your mood?
Quite different, I’ll bet.
Wherever our thoughts and attention go, so go our bodies. When you purposely direct your attention away from something stressful and toward something you enjoy, your body can calm down. You are resourcing yourself.
Resourcing is not about denial. We still need to acknowledge the painful parts of life, bring healing awareness to the wounds, and look for constructive solutions to problems. But if you’re constantly thinking about stressful things you have no control over or ruminating on the awful, then it’s time to resource.
The same advice goes for activities that weigh you down. If you’re listening mainly to depressing music, falling into emotionally painful TV holes, or dealing a lot with stressful people, then it’s time to resource.
What does this look in practice? Here are two approaches.
Use this when you’re stressed…
Say you’re stressed about something worrisome (like…a looming election), and at this point, you’ve done all you can and the outcome is beyond your control. How can you calm down?
Pick a powerful resource—something you enjoy or love strongly enough to capture your attention. It may be enough to just think about it. Or you may need to do something. Maybe you actually need to pet your dog. Or watch a comedy show. Or get a hug.
If your thoughts keep returning to the stressor, then pick a more enjoyable resource—maybe two. Pet your dog while watching comedy. Do this until you feel better.
Use this to buffer against tough times…
The more the stressors pile up, the more resources we need. And in these tumultuous time, we’re dealing with a heap of stressors. So we need to stockpile resources.
Here’s my pile…
I’m rereading my favorite books from childhood and rewatching Harry Potter movies. In the mornings, I sit in the sunlight. In the evenings, I pet my cat. I cook nourishing foods in my coziest sweater. I’ve planned a Halloween movie marathon with my boyfriend. And I see my therapist (remotely) a lot.
Amidst all this crazy, no one can afford to take their mental health for granted. And if you often feel stressed, anxious, angry, afraid, or any other painful emotion, then that goes doubly for you.