What I Call The “Pocket”

One element consistently in my work across the day, time, and people, is the feeling of responsibility to support others through challenges and adversity. These challenges are wide ranging and ever changing. It is my responsibility to have as many tools in my toolbox to respond to that range.  That is just a portion of my work.  

Likewise, the folks I serve have to work to manage and navigate through adversity. It has been my experience that challenges are surmounted more quickly and skillfully when the person I am serving comes to me with their own tools. These tools must be practiced and honed when the person is not in the midst of crisis as that is not an ideal or effective time to practice coping.

The best tools to navigate adversity are those that keep our feelings in the “pocket.” When our emotions take over in a crisis, we have difficulty making effective choices. When we go numb and can’t feel our feelings in adversity – we experience difficulty making effective choices. What I know (as an experienced and knowledgeable professional in the mental health field) is that there is an ideal threshold between the low end of activation and at the high end of escalation that helps us make meaningful and effective choices in crisis – this is what I call the “pocket.”

Keeping our feelings in the pocket requires practice, rehearsal, and application of tools. These tools we use to manage our feelings and keep anxiety, hypervigilance, worry, paranoia, anger, sadness, and fear in the pocket mitigate the intensity while keeping those feelings present. Before we can dial feelings back or incite a present mindset using feelings, we need to know what we look like when we have become too escalated (flooded) or gone numb (checked out).

The best time to get to know our stress response and apply tools is when we are experiencing mild challenges. Counting backward from ten, taking deep breaths, reframing and finding gratitude, compartmentalizing, practicing focusing and staying present are all effective tools at keeping us in the pocket.  

Surmounting adversity is not simply about conquering a challenge and getting to the other side. It is about keeping our feelings in the pocket. It is really about the time frame during the challenge, so that we can make effective choices. These choices will skillfully help us navigate challenges more rapidly and mitigate longer-lasting negative impacts. Challenges do not just happen to us. We face it. Surmount it. And conquer it with thoughtful preparedness.

Tips and Tricks When Challenges Arrive

  • Breathe first. Then try your hardest to do basic self-care activities as often those are forgotten in crisis, like food, water, warmth, sleep.  
  • Acknowledge\validate how you are feeling so your feeling doesn’t have to grow to be noticed.
  • Remember challenges ALWAYS change. This will pass, the best work in the meantime is to mitigate the lasting negative impact.
  • Feelings are a part of the challenge. If we keep our feelings in “the pocket” they will help us navigate through thoughtfully and skillfully.
  • Know what your personal signs and symptoms of being out of the pocket look like.  What do you look like when you are numb/checked out?  What do you look like when you are flooded?
  • Recognizing adversity and challenge can make us stronger and more developed, we know this.  
  • Everyone’s challenge is relative to only themselves and doesn’t compare to others’. Comparing yours to others doesn’t help.

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