A Year of Resilience
What a privilege!
Hi AwesoMErs, I am pretty excited and honoured to be invited to share my knowledge with you around the topic of resilience.
I’m a registered Educational Psychologist who has worked in special education with the Ministry of Education, with serving personnel and their families in the New Zealand Defence Force, and assessing children’s cognitive and academic functioning in private practice.
It was during my time with the NZDF that I first became passionate about the topic of resilience. A few years ago our team of psychologists rolled out an organisation wide programme of resilience that covered everyone from young recruits as they started their training through to commanding officers leading overseas missions. They loved it, it made sense to them, and they told us it made a difference. I was hooked.
I then wanted to know how I could take the skills and tools I was sharing with adults and apply them to the students I assessed in private practice and with my own young children. I started reading the research and found that the principles and tools were fundamentally the same, just adjusted for the audience. It’s these principles and tools that I want to share with you, for yourselves and your families.
The idea that we have is to turn 2017 into a year of resilience. Each month I will share a resilience building tool with you and talk through the science behind how it works. Nicky will use her design magic to create some awesoME (see what I did there!) resources to help you put the tools into practice.
We do it all day every day,
so what’s the value in breathing?
As a bit of a taster for next year let’s talk about one of the easiest resilience building tools out there, diaphragmatic breathing. While I want to cover this topic in more detail next year – especially for children, I’d like to talk about how you can utilise this technique for the craziness that is the end of the year.
Firstly, you might be thinking ‘we do it all day every day, what’s the value in breathing?’
The value comes from its impact on our sympathetic nervous system, which is otherwise known as our fight or flight response. When we are in the middle of the Christmas rush, whether it’s last minute shopping, cooking for the extended family, or all the additional school and work events, our stress response can kick in. We experience stress physically through:
- Increased heart rate to get blood pumping to our muscles
- Sweating to cool the body down
- Release of adrenaline to increase strength and speed
- Faster, shallower breathing to get fresh oxygen in quickly
- Decreased immune and digestive functioning to conserve energy
These are all great things if we are running away from a sabre-toothed tiger, but less helpful when we are three weeks into the silly season and struggling to wind down or focus on family in the way that we might like.
That’s where diaphragmatic breathing comes in. Our breathing rate is the only part of our sympathetic nervous system response that we can actively control. And when we bring our breathing rate down, it in turn switches everything else off. How cool is that?!!
So, how do you do it? Easy.
Start by breathing in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds. Then breathe out for a count of 4 seconds. Rinse and repeat.
Make sure your breath is filling your diaphragm first, rather than your chest. You can check this by placing a hand on your belly and a hand on your chest. You want your bottom hand to move first and further.
Start by doing this for short periods of time whenever you are feeling stressed and then build it into your everyday practice. Ideally, you’re aiming for 4+ minutes a day and extending your breath to 7+ seconds but we can talk about that more next year! For now, let’s just get familiar with the technique and start building it into our daily practice.
To help do this we have created an advent calendar to stick on your fridge and remind you, fill in the squares as you go!
Download Your Breathing Calendar Here.
See you next month,
For more information about The Resilience Toolkit eCourse click on the button below.
About Juliet Battersby
Juliet Battersby is a registered Educational Psychologist who has worked in special education with the Ministry of Education, with serving personnel and their families in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), and assessing children’s cognitive and academic functioning in private practice.
Juliet has an MA(Hons) endorsed in Clinical Psychology and a Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Psychology. She is a registered Educational Psychologist with the New Zealand Psychologists Board.