I’m so happy you’re here as I review these broad categories of resources. There are nine on my list. These are resources that can generally be helpful to anyone. Many times you already have access to these resources because no matter who you are, you have your own inherent strengths. When my patients show up for therapy with me for the first time, they may think the only thing I’m doing is categorizing perceived weaknesses, but that’s untrue. I’m looking for their strengths and how we can utilize those to help them build a worthwhile life.
I’m going to help you do the same thing. The good thing about these resources is that even if you are missing some of them, you can develop them over time.
What are resources?
During childhood, when we grow up in environments that are caring and supportive, we acquire a personal repertoire of internal capabilities that support our overall development. Some of you may be thinking, “but I grew up in an invalidating or toxic environment, that’s why I’m listening to your podcast right now!” While not ideal, you also developed some resources from that environment as well. Most people I know that have survived traumatic experiences are scrappy and have access to a wealth of survival resources. You just have to reconfigure those resources so that they can actually allow you to thrive in life.
In each category of resources, there are internal resources (those that are within you and part of who you are) and external resources (those that are outside of you and part of your environment). Both internal and external resources can help us feel stronger, more capable, creative, safe, and an overall sense of peace. They work in concert with each other so that gains in one of them will bring about expansion in others. So, keep in mind that our ability to access external resources stems from our internal resources.
As I review these categories, I would suggest that you write them down, take an inventory of what resources you already have that you’d like to maintain, and which ones that you would like to expand. This will provide a road map for you.
Don’t let your perfectionism get triggered—you don’t need 1,000 resources, you simply need a wide range that can help you in a variety of different contexts. Also, if you haven’t developed some of these yet, avoid telling yourself that you “should know how to do this already.” Even if you’re 78 years old, as long as you keep trying, it doesn’t matter when you arrive at the destination! Getting caught up in the “shoulds” is exactly what can keep you from having a bountiful life.
The first category we will discuss is relational resources. As you may have guessed, this primarily focuses on your ability to value and relate to others.
Internal resources include: a general belief that others can be supportive, a sense that you value and deserve healthy relationships, the ability to seek help, the ability to set boundaries, the ability to give and receive support, general communication skills, and a connection with pets.
External relational resources include: close friends or family, romantic relationships, colleagues, supportive groups (these can be therapy groups, but it can also be your kickball league or your book club), and having different friends and acquaintances across all spectrums of life (different ages, genders, etc.).
I learn a lot from people I’m close to whether they are 10 years old or 80. I have many friends and family members with children that allow me to remember lessons I’ve forgotten—like the importance of play even when you’re an adult. My friends who are older than me are teaching me things that I won’t fully understand until I’ve had the opportunity to live a little longer.
Now remember what I said about how the internal influences the external. If you walk around telling yourself that everyone is horrible, you’re not going to seek relationships. Instead, be brave and put yourself out there in environments that appear to be safe. I’m super introverted and I’ve lived all over the country, which means I’ve had to figure out ways to make friends. In the past, I’ve used websites like meetup.com to find people who share my interests in activities like horror movies. I was even a horror group organizer for a while. It was nerve-wracking for me, but because I put myself out there, I found that in less than a year, I had developed a couple of burgeoning friendships, and at a minimum, I was getting my social needs met through the group activities.
The next category we will discuss is somatic resources. Somatic refers to the body. Most of us carry our stress and our trauma in our bodies and then we totally ignore it as a resource. We don’t take care of ourselves physically and the physical breakdown only exacerbates our mental struggles.
Internal resources include: good health, good posture, deep breathing, sound muscles, capacities to walk/run/dance, flexibility, enjoyment of sexuality or sensual activities, and ability to regulate emotional arousal.
External resources include: health practitioners like your medical doctor, psychologist, chiropractor, personal trainer, or massage therapist. Additionally, gyms, pilates, yoga, bikes, martial arts, or skateboard parks. This category also includes things that please our senses like tastes, colors, textures, and scents.
If you can’t afford to pay for the gym or certain fitness classes, there are so many free resources on platforms like YouTube. And if you like podcasts, my podcast network even has a fitness show called Get-Fit Guy you can listen to. You don’t have to make it complicated. The somatic resource I enjoy the most is a nice long walk. It clears the mind and makes my body stronger.
It may sound silly, but good posture can make a big difference. Trauma causes us to hunch over, to make ourselves smaller, but when you stand up straight and you feel yourself fully supported by your spine and your muscles, you feel empowered. Take up some space—you’ll realize that there was room for you all along, you simply needed to claim it.
Emotional resources relate to your capacities to experience and embrace your wide range of affective experiences.
In terms of internal resources, one of the most important is your ability to embrace the full spectrum of emotions—from high-arousal ones like passion and joy to low-arousal emotions like contentment, tenderness, and peacefulness. You need a good mix because high-arousal emotions burn up a lot of energy and we have more capacity for low-arousal emotions on the daily grind. For instance, if I experienced incredible joy 24/7, I would be tired and not able to focus on anything. Could you imagine experiencing a hot burning passion while standing in line at the DMV?
Other internal resources include: the ability to regulate or tolerate unwanted emotional experiences (like sadness or anger), not having your actions dictated by emotions (this relates to the emotion mind concept that I reviewed last week), your ability to express and communicate your emotions, and to use the information provided by your emotions to guide your actions in ways that make sense.
External resources include: friends, family, and pets that provide us with emotional support, and engaging in circumstances that allow us to explore and enrich our experience of both high and low arousal emotions. A circumstance could be going to a museum and being inspired to engage in your own art or sitting quietly and journaling while having a warm beverage to feel peace and relief.
Journaling is a personal favorite of mine—I have been engaging in this practice since I was 12 years old! The great thing about journaling is that it not only builds your awareness about your emotional experiences, but it can be incredibly cathartic for high-arousal emotions, and allow you to appreciate more low-arousal aspects of your life, which develops gratitude.
Internal intellectual resources include: your capacity to think things through and problem solve, think creatively, self-stimulate yourself cognitively, reading ability, interest in developing your mind, and taking pleasure in learning.
External resources include: institutions of learning like schools, colleges, or libraries, and activities like watching documentaries, public television, or listening to public radio. Other external resources can be completing various types of puzzles like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or other brain games that you may have on your phone, listening to or reading books, or even cognitive training that you can receive in therapy.
If you’re a little or a lot nerdy like me, this is a great source to tap into. Growing up, I used to read about 100 books a year and it was a fantastic resource because it’s something that you can do alone or with others, and as long as you have access to a public library, it’s free. There’s also a lot of free or low-cost learning you can do through various online platforms ranging from YouTube to Skillshare, or podcasts like mine!
Do you have an artistic bend? Then creative resources may be for you!
Internal resources include: the ability to access the creative process within yourself through dance, writing, music, poetry, sewing, cooking, acting, gardening, building, or any creative outlet.
Most of us have some sort of creative talent. It’s not about being “good” at it; it’s about the enjoyment and self-expression that comes with these activities. I’ve written poetry since I was 10 years old and regularly engage in letter writing, which I strongly believe is a lost art form. I don’t know what my life would even be like without writing. I also know people who build elaborate worlds in Minecraft or The Sims. So, think outside the box—you don’t have to engage in creative processes in ways that are more traditional.
External creative resources include: sharing your creative activities with others, taking lessons—like dance classes or joining writing groups—attending art shows, live theater, movies, or special interest groups.
If you have a hobby you want to explore further, I encourage taking advantage of any groups or classes that are available. I’ve had patients start to attend cooking classes, pottery classes, and sewing classes. It’s really endless what you can do and it’s never too late to deepen your experience of a creative endeavor.
I am not a material girl, but the next resource category is material.
Internal material resources include the ability to create financial security, earn an income, or enjoy material things like your car, home, couch, or other material objects that you may have.
External resources are having a job, transportation, comfortable furniture, phone, computers, or any supplies that you may need in your life. For instance, supplies you would use for other resource categories count, like running shoes or paint.
For some of us, particularly with the way COVID has impacted our lives and the economy, material resources may be more strapped. I grew up in poverty and what I can tell you about material resources is that you can always start small and it doesn’t have to be anything grand in order to be a worthwhile material resource.
When I was growing up, my biggest material resources were my journal and my poetry notebooks. I still have all of them and they mean a lot to me. If my apartment was burning down, the fire could have my TV or my computer, but my journals and poetry are in my go bag!
So please—when you think about material resources, don’t think “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” think about material possessions that would have meaning for you or would enhance your life.
Next up are psychological resources.
Internal psychological resources include: the ability to reflect on your behavior, thoughts, or emotions, having a good self-esteem, being non-judgmental, a sense of competency, the ability to notice your experiences, and a sense of being okay.
External resources include: having access to a therapist, self-help books, or podcasts like this one, and any therapy groups, support groups, or workshops that may be available within your community. Simply by listening to my podcast, you are already tapping into one of your resources.
If you need more help, look at what is available where you live. In most communities, there are low-cost or sometimes even free services. For instance, lots of times organizations like NAMI will have free support groups, and resources like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous are free as well.
I may not be a material girl, but I am definitely a natural woman. Shout out to the late and great Arethra Franklin. The next resource is nature.
Internal resources include: your ability to appreciate and connect with nature including all the sights, sounds, and smells. This can be enjoying activities in a natural setting like hiking or a picnic, gardening, or taking care of houseplants.
External resources include: mountains, lakes, trails, nature walks or drives, the ocean, sunrise or sunset, bird watching, or anything else in nature that you find to be delightful.
Growing up in a town with less than a thousand people, I spent a lot of my childhood in the woods enjoying nature and I will never lose my love of it. You may be wondering how I live in NYC, but a secret about the city is that there are lots of places where you can find greenery if you don’t have a need to be in the middle of it all. So, get out into nature and literally smell the roses—it might be good for your mental health!
Our final category of resources is spiritual.
Internal resources include: your ability to connect to God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Earth, or any deities, spiritual teachers, spiritual energy, or faith. It can also include prayer or your sense of your spiritual nature or ability to experience reverence.
External resources include: participation in spiritual communities like your church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or meditation center. It can also be activities that have a spiritual component to them, like Shabbat, family prayer, or group ceremonies. Soon, I will start posting several different types of meditations that you can follow along with, which can help you access these resources as well.
What resources are you going to start using? Do you have any particular types of meditations you’d like me to do? You can let me know on Instagram @kindmindpsych. You can also reach out to me via my email at firstname.lastname@example.org new email, or leave a voicemail at (929) 256-2191.
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.