Although if you had said this to me when I was in University I would probably have disagreed with you at least to the level that this would have been my ideal human experience! Yes indeed I lived in and had moved in lock, stock and barrel into my marvellous brain. Hence no surprise that I went on the study Psychology then:-). Even though I worked in management roles in the corporate world for many years I never got tired of learning more about what these amazing three pounds of tissue between our ears could do. I became convinced I could continue to use this top down self management to keep pushing myself harder to get that next pay rise/promotion/job...hey it had worked for years so why change now? Well it had up to a point but at a very high cost.
I became disconnected from my bottom up management aka my body and emotions; that bridge that links the brain with the body and with this the wisdom they supplied. If you have ever tried to self talk yourself out of a uncomfortable emotion it doesn't really work in my opinion. You can logically fool yourself you have and on some level you believe it but it will only pop up in another form until you deal with it. Usually as physical symptoms and in my case it did ranging from chronic sinuses infections to crippling back pain. Purely cognitive approaches didn't work for me, even though they all made sense which only made me more stressed. On the other hand purely physical approaches didn't work either. I was in a 'right old state' stuck in fight or flight almost permanently in work now and I knew my performance was beginning to suffer. It took me so much more energy to turn out the same work than I had 12 months earlier - it was exhausting. This is pure survival mode and leaves little room for creativity or for that matter even fun.
By accident I found the work of Dr. Stephen Porges, on the nervous system and the vagus nerve in particular and it felt like something clicked into place! Our nervous system craves feeling safe. Once it ‘feels’ safe the brain turns down naturally the survival signals allowing your brain to process and respond efficiently to what going on around and within you. For us as human mammals, this feeling of safety comes primarily from our ability to socially engage. Human thinking is in fact not primarily about ourselves but how best to go about social engagement and cooperation with others. By this I mean that yes we do of course think about ourselves but it is in the context of other people...do they like me, will they help me or even love me? Humans have become the most successful species to date on this planet because they have been very good at working together and looking after one another! It is vital for our survival to be part of a wider unit.
So if I was to boost my resilience and dial down the constant stress response I needed to be able move more freely from a 'right old state' to calm safe state and back as needed and in the presence of others. Dr Porges's work tells us that we can help train the nervous system to feel calm thereby putting us into a safe state. There are a number of popular effective simple 'hacks' that can be used via the calming effect of the vagus nerve on the heart which can help e.g. exhaling twice as long as your inhale or extending the duration of your phrases. But what I found super charged this was the Safe and Sound Protocol (or SSP for short), a novel scientific research-based intervention developed by Dr. Porges. Its really easy & convenient to use and simply involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to retune the nervous system.
The SSP is a unique, innovative, and really easy to use the tool. Working with your own innate desire for regulation helps nudge your amazing nervous system to a balance allowing a solid foundation to work from. To me, it is the missing link between physical and cognitive tools for supporting my resilience and equipping me with a nervous system that allows a healthy reaction to stress control. It should never be seen as a magic bullet but rather as an excellent novel application of neuroscience to support and boost our resilience.