Make an Appointment: email us | (910) 769-6360 | Podcast

Resilience and Collective Healing

Resilience and Collective Healing

by Jessica King, MSW, LCSW, E-RYT

It is a crazy time we live in right now, isn’t it?  Truth be told we are experiencing trauma on a global level.  Not one person has been exempt from having an experience related to the pandemic.  It is witnessed through news when other countries are severely impacted, and we see their pain.  It is experienced locally when businesses shut down, there are limited resources, and when we hear of “the first confirmed case of COVID19” in our area. It is experienced as fear in our nervous systems because at a basic level all our bodies want to do is survive.  When our survival is threatened our nervous system sends smoke signals out to react in ways to protect it. So the stress you feel rising in your body is a normal and beautiful response to protect you. We start to experience stress and fear as trauma when we feel an inability to follow through with protection or keeping ourselves safe.  My favorite definition of trauma is one I heard from Hala Khouri, trauma informed yoga teacher and somatic experiencing practitioner. She said, “Trauma is “anything that overwhelms our capacity to cope and leaves us feeling helpless, hopeless, and out of control”. Sound familiar?? 


But, the most amazing thing about our bodies is that we have the ability to transform from trauma.  All the challenges, all the bad things, all the fear can impact us in so many severe ways, but our bodies want to be in balance.  Our body works everyday to bring us back to a place of balance and health. We call this resilience, and, man, are we resilient!!


I am a trauma informed therapist and bear witness to individuals that do the hard work daily to transform from the challenges they face due to experiencing trauma.  Some ask me, “how do you do that everyday?!” My response is “how can I not do that everyday?!”. The truth is that I do it everyday because I have the privilege to witness the strength and unbelievable resilience in each person I work with.  I see first hand that transformation does happen and people do recover from horrible experiences. In witnessing the struggle and the strength and the vulnerability of my clients (and, yes, all three of these things can happen together), I am reminded of the strength of the human spirit and the connection we all have to something great and beautiful and powerful.  


No one wants bad things to happen, but the reality is that bad things do happen.  What we do to cope and empower matters afterwards. This helps our resiliency and makes us stronger in the face of future challenges.  And, maybe this is why I am not freaking out as much as the Coronavirus comes to hit closer to home. While I know the virus has some potentially harmful and huge effects on our physical and financial health both locally and globally, I also know that we as a people are resilient.  We are powerful beyond what we even know right now. We have a chance for personal and collective healing and transformation. The healing starts personally, but we are all in it together.  


With the thought of healing and transformation in mind, I want to offer some tangible practices to take away.  These are to be incorporated while you are practicing social distance, but they are practices for life.  I would suggest a normal self-care routine also.  For example, fill your body with nutritious food, get outside, exercise, get enough sleep, start a meditation practice, and build a routine for yourself.  Your routine will increase overall wellness and give you a system for the things you can control in a time period where much is out of your control.  So do the things!!  


However, I also want you to consider these practices:


  • Get Comfortable Being with Yourself – Much of our personal distress can be created in an effort to avoid feeling our feelings, owning our truth, and fully accepting our current circumstances.  Avoidance looks different for different people, but here are a few examples – blaming others, self-criticism, drinking or drug use, binging TV/gaming/social media, controlling food patterns, and many others.  Instead of reaching for that go to avoidance strategy, instead take pause and sit with what you are feeling. Identify and label the feeling. If you are not sure what feeling it is, that is ok too. Just notice where you are feeling it in your body and hold space for it while you slowly bring awareness to your breathe.  Slowly breathe until the feeling starts to shift. It may not go away, but it will change.  The continued practice of sitting with emotions – pleasant and difficult – leads to the ability to tolerate change, listen to your truth, and find a flow with life.


  • Get Familiar Being with Another’s Distress – Another thing we love to avoid as humans is watching another person in distress.  The typical and initial response is usually to either try and fix the distress of another person OR ignore/avoid it.  If there is anything that I have learned as a therapist, it is the power of being able to sit with and hold space for another person’s pain without trying to change it.  So, the next time you watch the news or hear of a new area severely affected or hear that a new set of offices are mandated to close or you talk to a friend that is experiencing pain, take another pause.  Notice what thoughts come up. Notice your pattern of reacting to others distress. Do you try and think of a way to help or change the circumstance? Do you make jokes in an effort to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of their pain?  Do you change the subject or the channel? None of those are wrong and you are not a bad person for having that reaction. That reaction may have really protected you for many years. But, as we wake up to collective healing, we can hold space for another person’s pain without taking it on as our own.  We can practice saying “I see you. I hear you. I feel with you. I am with you.”


  • Practice Mindfulness – Notice when your ability to do the first two tasks is interrupted.  Often it is because we are in past and future thoughts. Connecting to the present moment cultivates mindfulness which can help us with intentional thought and action.  When we are responding intentionally and mindfully, we are not trapped in the cycle of trauma and nervous system dysregulation. Mindfulness is re-setting for our nervous system and promotes resilience.


  • Do the Next Right Action – It goes without saying that right now many things are out of our control.  Things being out of our control breeds anxiety. Anxiety in a nutshell is thinking you need to solve all of the problems, right now, all by yourself.  The practice of slowing down and identifying the next right action can lead to transformation. Can I mindfully notice what problems are present, what are my resources, and what is the next thing I can do intentionally to solve my problem?  The reminder statement here is: “All I have to do is the next right action.”


  • Build Connection – Finally, build connection.  I mean this on a very small scale to include calling your neighbor, Facetiming with your friends, and spending quality time with your family.  We are social beings and without social engagement we are not healthy. But I also mean this on a larger, collective scale. Can you start to feel yourself as an integral part of the larger whole?  Can you feel there is no separation between you and me?  This is a big one and one we may be practicing our whole lifetime.  But maybe start by daily stepping outside and putting your feet on the earth, looking at the things you can see around you, take a big breath in, and consciously realize that you are breathing the same air that the animals you can hear around you are breathing.  The same air that was a byproduct of the plants in your yard. And, this same thing is happening all over the globe regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. On a very basic level, we are all one and we are all connected.  


This time of social distancing presents a unique opportunity to step back from the daily grind and connect on a whole new level.  We are asked to socially distance, but this is a higher calling to connect. Connect back to yourself, connect to your family, connect to your community – just connect.  Connection drives healing. As we heal, we will need to feel and the process of this may not be comfortable, but the results have the potential to change the world. 


“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux.  In difficult times the stress of trying to find sold ground – something predictable and safe to stand on  – seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing…working with groundlessness…begins with the willingness to stay present whenever you experience uneasiness.  As these feelings arise, rather than running away, you lean into them. Instead of getting rid of thoughts and feelings, you get curious about them…you come to understand [this is] an opportunity to be with life just as it is, the opportunity to experience freedom of life without a storyline.” 

~Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change


Live well friends,


Jessica King is psychotherapist and yoga teacher living in Wilmington, NC.  She works with individuals and families who are navigating challenges and managing stress with a holistic approach.  She is also the owner of Stillpoint Counseling and Wellness, which is founded on an integrative and community based model of care to promote healing through building connections and relationships.