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Climate CoP Session Notes: Developing Universal Literacy About Mental Wellness & Resilience

SUMMARY: This session focused on the third foundational area that is necessary for building population-level capacity for mental wellness and transformational resilience for the climate emergency: Developing universal literacy about mental wellness and resilience.


RESOURCES:

NOTES:


First resilience pause- “Belly & Chest deep breathing”

Bob led participants through “Belly & Chest deep breathing”. Bob integrated the “Purposing” resilience skill. What is one’s purpose in life, especially as the climate emergency worsens, and what would one do differently if informed of how finite their future is?


Bob reiterated what was covered during previous CoP meetings. Session 1 consisted of an overview of what the climate emergency looks like, what it means, how it’s accelerating, and the need for a public health approach to building population level mental wellness and resilience. Session 2 covered how to get organized and forming a Resilience Coordinating Coalitions (RCCs). The next session moved on to how these RCCs can get started in communities and how to begin building community capacity. One option is to help people begin to heal their trauma through healing and resilience education programs. Another option is to engage residents in assessing how trauma occurs in their communities and developing related asset maps/systems maps.


10-minute Breakout Room Discussion: What have you gained so far from the CoP, how has this has influenced you and your work, and what do you still want to know?


In addition to what is covered today, the final two sessions will focus on what participants would like to learn differently and how they could apply and translate that for their own community’s unique needs and interests.


Bob then spoke to how mental wellness and resilience literacy follows from health literacy: The extent of one’s capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information to be able to make appropriate health decisions. While health literacy campaigns are common in the US, Canada, and many parts of the EU & other nations, oftentimes they shortchange the mental health aspects of health. Many healthcare professionals fail to grasp how there’s no physical health without mental health. Research has shown how mental wellness and resilience literacy is very low in most countries. Bob outlined 5 key elements of mental wellness and health literacy and understanding the effects of trauma & toxic stress on all levels, mind-body-emotional (see Powerpoint). Developing universal literacy about mental wellness and resilience should be a standalone focus and woven into each of the other four foundational areas of developing transformational resilience capacity.


It’s important to help others learn what happens when one’s natural reactions to trauma & toxic stress are not discharged, to normalize these reactions, and to understand how these reactions are natural survival mechanisms (see PowerPoint). When we discharge such reactions when they’re not needed, we remain healthy and resilient. If we don’t discharge these reactions, we can develop harmful coping mechanisms, psychoemotional, cognitive, and physical health problems as well as eventual personal and social breakdowns.


10-minute, 3-person Breakout rooms: Practice teaching the neurobiology of trauma & toxic stress

After teaching others about trauma & toxic stress, we can help others learn simple, self-administrable, age and culturally appropriate resilience skills like “presencing” and “purposing” to develop self-efficacy in managing the “push” of psychobiological drivers to find meaning, direction, and healthy hope to intensify the “pull” of purpose.


Elaine Miller-Karas, Co-Founder and current Director of Innovation at The Trauma Resource (TRI) Institute and Founding Member of the ITRC

Elaine’s observation of what happens when community resiliency model skills were brought forward: “If you hear it, see it, then do it”, it makes it easier to teach these resilience skills. In communities after disasters, Elaine and the TRI had community members share with each other some of their resilience and benign coping skills, allowing for simple “wellbeing contagions” to counter “stress contagions”.


TRI has an association with Medscape and provides an hourlong presentation, hourlong virtual Community Resiliency Model (CRM) workshop (https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/977302), and a 20-minute video by TRI’s leading researchers of community resiliency model on Medscape’s website.


TRI’s work after human-made and natural disasters as well as for community resilience skill development and prevention consists of the Disaster Relief Mobilization: Community Resiliency Model (DRM-CRM), which was started just before the Covid-19 pandemic. DRM-CRM has 4 goals to provide a structure for preparation and to further strengthen resilience so communities can respond to events with common language, strength, & compassion (see Elaine’s slides for details). CRM consists of 6 wellness skills that can be used across the lifespan, cultures, and different abilities. When teaching others, it’s important to talk about resilience and ask people what they think “resilience” is.


It’s important to remember our collective suffering as well as lean into our collective assets and strengths for greater optimism, hope, and a solution-focus for the purposing skills. An essential aspect of CRM is “embodied wellbeing” since, if toxic stress is embodied, we need to focus on how we’re designed for wellbeing. The ability to pay attention to and recognize distressful sensations as well as sensations connected to wellbeing is vital.


Positive experiences can change brain structure and increase neural connections (“Tuning”) while unused neural connections disappear (“Pruning”). When we pay attention to sensations connected to wellbeing, we experience inner balance. Increased focus on these sensations allows wellbeing to expand, allowing for hope and compassion to expand to others.


It's very important to create a common language related to “The Resilient/”OK” Zone” that each of us has. Thoughts, feelings, and reactions, positive and negative, move around the OK Zone. It’s problematic if one gets stuck outside of the “OK” Zone. There are 6 skills to help move back into the OK Zone, which can be learned through the free, iChill App.


Elaine discussed the 3 basic skills to practice during the Breakout session: 1. Tracking- reading the nervous system & inner sensations; 2. Resourcing- Important for Tracking, things (real or imagined) that uplift us; and 3. Grounding- allows one to be in the present moment, be compassionate, and engage with others (“gravitational security”). See Elaine’s slides for details and strategies.


20-minute Breakout rooms for participants to act as Community Resilience Model (CRM) guides, using documents from Elaine that outline how to be a CRM guide and related conversational resourcing skills and script (posted on Basecamp). Participants role-played as a CRM Guide, a Person Learning Skills from the CRM Guide, and a Supportive observer.


Bob closed the session by emphasizing the importance of “co-regulation”- Presencing/self-regulation skills, awareness of how to share those skills with others and/or notice what space the other person is in, and then try to develop the co-regulation. One can develop a Presencing safety plan to assist with a return to the OK Zone and create reminders of resilience skills to refer to when noticing movement outside of the OK Zone. See PowerPoint for the template.



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