Updates & Resiliency Tools for Today
Good Day to You All,
We want to give you an update from our place in Sharon, CT and offer some additional resiliency tools to help you stay grounded, clear, and more equipped to handle the collective uncertainty we are now facing. (See more tools on our home page.)
First, the Update
Once this storm is over — and it is safe to re-engage in the community, we plan to offer our services to the docs, nurses and EMS teams who are on the front lines in hospitals and emergency services. Like warriors, they are in the midst of turmoil and chaos. Unlike warriors, they are facing this battle against an unseen enemy — sometimes without the tools to fulfill their oaths. We expect that the trauma and moral injury is going to come in waves, just as this virus has traveled around the world.
How does our work with veterans fit for these folks?
In a recent 60 minutes interview, Dr. Gul Zaidi of Long Island Jewish Hospital explained, “We’re all scared. I’m scared. But, I have to lock those fears away in a box because once I set foot in the hospital, it’s all about the patient.”
We at The Equus Effect know a lot about the cost of ‘locking fear away’. It is precisely what lands our veterans in the stuck situation where their nervous systems can’t settle down after the crisis passes.
In addition, like many veterans we see — especially medics — we expect to encounter professionals who are struggling with the moral injury that comes from having to decide who to save and who to let go. No one is ever really trained for that. As the dust settles, we believe that we’ll have our hands more than full.
To this end, we will also offer sessions to individuals who are having a hard time feeling grounded or moving forward and will keep you posted on the timing for that.
The Neuroscience Behind our Work
For those of you who are interested in the science of what goes on when we are having a hard time dealing with circumstances like this, here’s what’s happening and here’s why body-based, experiential programs like ours can help …
What’s happening: Trauma does not live in the thinking part of the brain. It resides in the emotional brain and the nervous system. It takes us from a parasympathetic (relaxed, safe, calm) state to one of sympathetic (fight, flight, freeze) activation. That’s what’s happening to a lot of us now as we shelter in place and watch events unfold that are way beyond our control.
Why our work ‘works’: Our horses offer a kind of connection and attunement that is particularly impactful in terms of settling us down. Their heart rates are about half of ours so when we put our hands on them, our own hearts slow down. They also completely accept us as we are right now, not for what we may or may not have done in any other parts of our lives.
For more insight and information about how body-based practices and attunement are a tremendous antidote to trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s highly acclaimed book The Body Keeps the Score is a great resource. Dr. van der Kolk is a friend and colleague whose understanding of trauma fits with and informs our approach. David Brooks refers to his take on the mental and emotional toll of this crisis in the NY Times on Friday, April 3rd. In case you missed it: Mental Health in the Age of the Coronavirus: The struggle between fear and comfort.
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— TOOLS TO RESET AND RENEW —
So, here are some things you can do to ‘reset’ yourself when your sympathetic nervous system starts to take over, and more important, some practices that will provide a reset plan when you’re not in those states. Being prepared is far better than waiting until you’re ‘hijacked’ by your sympathetic nervous system and inevitably, hijack others’.
Grounding in the Physical
Sit down, notice your hamstring muscles directly on the seat of the chair and then very deliberately and slowly, travel upward and push your spine against the back of the chair. As you do this, take a few breaths … in to the count of three and out to the count of six. This reminds your body and brain that you are supported, grounded, and that the parasympathetic nervous system is close at hand.
Like this virus, emotions are contagious. Before a call, a conversation or a Zoom meeting, wiggle your toes, feel your feet, and take one minute to inhale through your nose to a count of three and exhale through your mouth to a count of six. That’s all it takes to reset your own adrenaline and cortisol levels … and influence others’ reactivity.
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Meanwhile, if anyone has come across an interview or has a personal story that will help us gain a deeper understanding of what you or others are experiencing, please let us know. Or, if you have any questions or comments about these practices, you can reach Jane at: 860-364-9985 or Jane@TheEquusEffect.org.
We will continue to offer more tools and practices in the weeks to come. For now, our very best to you and to those you love.
The Equus Effect Team
April 14, 2020
Listen in on Marshall Miles with Jane Strong’s interview about trauma felt in our world today — and the correlation between the work we do with veterans and what we’ll have available for front-line hospital workers (and everyone).
Please feel free to reach out to Jane with any questions or topics at Jane@TheEquusEffect.org
September 12, 2019
The Saturday, Sept. 7, fundraiser for The Equus Effect had the largest turnout so far of any event for the nonprofit. The gala party and silent auction were held at the farm on Drum Road in Sharon of John Brett and Jane Strong, The Equus Effect Founder.
December 12, 2018
In learning about the rising suicide rate among veterans, Jane Strong and David Sonatore decided to focus their attention on this group of men and women who were sometimes resistant to talk therapy and whose symptoms were often only masked by medication … General Patraeus (Ret.) recognized this program for its soundness and sensitivity to these men and women who have served their country in this way.
Are you interested in helping us?
The Equus Effect is a registered 501(C)(3) corporation. All contributions are 100% tax deductible.
IMPORTANT! If using Waze app, set destination to Sharon Town Beach, Mudge Pond Rd., Sharon, CT. When arriving, Drum Hill is directly across.