Walter said that self-regulation (the ability to manage emotions and behaviors in the face of trauma) is the basis of resilience.
When we feel threatened, the brain activates the sympathetic nervous system, triggering a fight or run away or response. Other parts of the brain shut down to deal with the stress in front of you.
“It’s like a zebra in a meadow,” Walter said. “They’re grazing. It’s beautiful, warm and comfortable, they really relax their bodies. Then they see the lion—the danger—and immediately take off.”
He said that as soon as the danger was over, the zebra would come back and rest. And the equivalent is a way for the human parasympathetic nervous system to put our bodies back into relaxation mode when we feel we are no longer at risk.
“The difference between animals and humans is that we can take down or fight when that lion appears in our lives, but then we put our memories, feelings and thoughts at risk. Connect. So when I see something similar, I think it’s dangerous.”
Sometimes new threats become reality. It can also react to past trauma. Therefore, the first step is to teach people how to be impulsive and unresponsive.
“If you’re always stressed, upset, and dangerous,” Walter said, “the part of the brain shutting down is your judgment, your creativity, and your systematic judgment.”
Sure, you can do yoga or listen to music for about 30 minutes, but often you just don’t have time to do it. Walter suggests getting in the habit of scanning from the top of the head to the toes and taking 5-10 seconds to relax all the muscles in the body.
Many people think that relaxing the body in meditation is part of breathing, which is relaxing the muscles. And you can do it 50 times a day.
“Now, when you’re facing stress, deadlines, tough bosses, coworkers, family, you can relax and face the trauma and take 5 seconds to change your brain’s wiring forever. Can take time.” Walter said. “It frees you from the anxious old hamster circle.”