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Resources

Following are free resources that I would recommend and aide the therapy process. You may find some more helpful than others. This will be a growing toolbox of resources I would like to add to over time.

Sandy Beach

The 4 Elements is a simple tool that you can use wherever you are, and in just a few minutes. It has been used all around the world to help people after stressful life events. In 4 simple steps, it brings together evidence-based techniques that can help us feel calmer and more in control.

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Helpful chart to map what happens to our nervouse system when we are in fight, flight and freeze response

Wild Flowers

FREE meditation app to help on wide ranging topics such as anxiety, stress, relationships, trauma, healing and sleep

Balancing Rocks

Radical Self Compassion practice by Tara Brach

Window with Plant

Helpful diagram to understand when we have moved out of our sense of safety and calm

Blade of Grass

An EMDR calming body based technique, simple and effective

Resources

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Esther Perel is a master relationship therapist, speaker and author. Plenty of resources and podcasts on her website.

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Evidence based, practical and a wealth of resources on parenting and couple relationships.

Parent and Child

Evidence based, compassionate and practical parenting resources by psychologist Karen Young "Sometimes the only diagnosis is human" quote by K. Young

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Very helpful site by neuroscientist Mark Brady; translating complex brain science into practical ways it can improve relationships.

  • cecilia1865

Developing our emotional resilience

One of the most challenging aspects of our lives is experiencing unpleasant emotions and there is a good reason why it's so hard for us. The brain's most important job is to keep us alive and part of that involves spending most of its energy (around 60-80%) on prediction. This prediction is based mainly on past experience and most of this occurs unconsciously.


According to Lisa Feldman Barrett, Neuroscientist and Psychologist, the brain making sense of the sensations from our bodies and the ongoing regulation needed is what she coined 'body budgeting'. It's the best way the brain can anticipate what it may need before those needs even arise for the purpose of efficiency and energy balance. Instead of using money, the currency is our biology such as the salt, oxygen and all the nutrients sugar, and hormones needed in that moment, which in turn produces something we all know well 'our mood'. In short, our emotions are our brain's best guesses for what our body's sensations mean in the moment based on past experience. For example, if we have had experiences being hurt by falling when taking bush walks, then next time we go for a bushwalk we may come to anticipate and be more cautious. However, what if the bush walk was completely safe, we may still unconsciously be in a slightly agitated mood due to a prediction error with 'no consciously apparent cause'.


In summary, Feldman Barrett states that our emotions are constructed unconsciously from these three main ingredients:

  1. Our body budget - if our body budget is depleted and low this can affect our mood ie. lack of sleep, healthy diet and exercise, high stress

  2. Current situation

  3. Past experience

I think it's the interplay of the three ingredients above that impact our emotions. There can be many understandable reasons why we have a certain emotion based on the above which is often not our fault or something we can always prevent. For example, if we have had a lack of sleep due to having a newborn this can take a tremendous toll on our bodies and our body budget is in deficit which can affect our mood. There are many other examples as well such as being in a job that is stressful, having past relationships and experiences that were traumatic and harmful which our brains store and use to predict our future safety and well-being.

Even the 'unpleasant emotion' itself can often become associated with 'danger' to be avoided at all costs. If for example, we have had a lot of negative /shaming responses from our primary caretakers, friends, teachers/coaches that feeling sad for example is not ok, then we can start to associate 'feeling sad' as dangerous as it can lead to disconnection, judgment and rejection from others we care about. Then our brains will spend a lot of energy trying to fight it, suppress and avoid it maybe through distractions and other myriad of ways.


This downward cycle is energy expensive and can take a toll on our bodies using up a lot of our 'body budget' which can exacerbate the sad feelings, and make us feel even worse.


I like to share this diagram 'Window of Tolerance (or Presence)' a concept developed by well-known neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel. Being able to be with our emotions helps us stay within our 'window', which is the optimal state when are feeling safe, socially and personally engaged and connected.

Negative situations and emotions are part of life and trying NOT to experience any negative feelings is what can deepen the stuckness in our lives. The antidote is learning to notice and make space for ALL emotions including the unpleasant ones which isn't easy to change and takes effort and ongoing practice.


Mindfulness practices teach us how to sit with and make space for ourselves. Having a supportive therapist can also support us in how we learn to pay kind attention and care towards what's difficult in ourselves.


Often it's the critical and harsh way we pay attention to ourselves and our emotions that is painful to be with and not the actual emotions themselves. I often share that its not the emotions themselves that is the 'problem' but our relationship with them.


These kinder and more expansive ways of being with ourselves can carve out new associations and predictions in the brain that allow for more possibilities, flexibility, and connections in our lives.


Where do I start?

As I always suggest to clients, it's more helpful to start small and make it consistent.

  1. PAUSE - Having a daily practice where we can offer ourselves a couple of minutes when we just check in with ourselves and notice what is going on in our bodies can be really helpful. This can be as simple as noticing if we are thirsty, hungry, cold/hot, tightness in our shoulders, or tenseness in our jaw, or just that we have been sitting for hours and need to stretch and look around the room at a lovely plant or picture.

  2. NOTICE- The WAY we pay attention is also important. Just noticing and observing WITHOUT judging or analysing or trying to change or fix anything. Literally just naming what we notice ie. tightness in my jaw, smooth surface of the chair I am sitting on, sounds of the rain, green plant in my room or jittery legs. With a genuine curious and open presence towards whatever we discover.

  3. BREATHE - Add a couple of slow soothing breaths while you notice

  4. RETURN - This can just take a few seconds to a few minutes and then returning back to the activity or task.

These very simple practices done on a consistent basis can slowly strengthen and widen our 'window of tolerance/presence' which can lead to us being better able to manage the inevitable challenging emotions that arise each day and regulate in order for us to be able to pursue what most matters in our lives.


You can also visit my Resources page for more ideas and practices to develop and deepen.

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