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What is Resourcing? Your Tool to Coping with Stress

Anxiety, Coping Skills, Therapist Guide
4 min read
Therapist's Guide to Resourcing

Many people seek out therapy because they are struggling to deal with the stress in their lives. This stress may be due to unresolved childhood trauma, a demanding career, difficult life transitions (having children, moving to a new city, etc.), communication breakdowns in their relationships… the list goes on. In working with these people, I find many of them are needing more resourcing in their lives. Pat Ogden, the founder of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, defines resources as, “…anything that enhances the quality of our lives and relieves us from difficult circumstances.” 

Resourcing is how we cope and get through difficult emotions or situations.

In my work with clients, we explore what resources and tools are already in a person’s metaphorical backpack that they reach for when they are feeling dysregulated or overwhelmed. Oftentimes these coping skills and resources are lacking, so a big part of the work is adding to this backpack. There are two categories of resources, external and internal. 

Some examples of external resources are:

  • Going on a walk or hike
  • Calling a trusted friend, family member, or partner
  • Petting or playing with a pet
  • Writing, drawing, cooking, gardening, or other creative practices

Some examples of internal resources are:

  • Grounding yourself by placing a hand on your heart, taking some mindful breaths, and feeling your feet on the floor
  • Wrapping up in a blanket or putting a pillow or something heavy on your lap
  • Twirling your hair or biting your lip
  • Orienting to the present moment by taking a moment to look around the room and noticing three things that make you feel happy, calm, or neutral
  • Jiggling your foot or pacing around the room

I often feel anxious before giving a presentation. It can be helpful to take a moment to pause and notice the fluttering in my chest and my racing thoughts, my personal cues that I am anxious and stressed. I practice resourcing in these moments by shaking my hands to discharge some of the nervous energy and/or by reaching out to a friend or mentor who can offer some encouraging words.

What are the resources that you turn towards when you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or dysregulated? How effective are your resources at supporting you to feel safe, calm, and/or regulated?

It can be helpful to make a list of your internal and external resources. Are you noticing that there are gaps in your list? Do you need to add to your metaphorical backpack of resources? This may mean focusing on making new friends and building a support network, joining a gym or starting a sport, taking up a hobby like sewing or cooking, buying a weighted blanket, etc.

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About the Author: Ellen Ottman, LMFT is a somatic trauma therapist. She specializes in working with LGBTQIA+ folks as well as those who are interested in feeling more embodied and connected to themselves and others. To learn more about her approach, and explore additional content she has authored, view her Frame profile here.