When we’re struggling with the effects of traumatic stress, we can really feel challenged by our feelings.
We can either feel too much when memories start unexpectedly arising, or we can feel too little, by numbing out or hiding out deep inside our mind.
Whichever it is, it’s our body’s way of coping. Coping helps us to survive.
There are a couple ways of doing this, either consciously or unconsciously, intentionally, or on impulse.
However, coping is one thing, healing is quite another. Healing has to do with paying attention to that something that is triggering the need to cope in the first place. A body-centered therapy like Yoga is a great way of doing this, Focusing is another. Coping on the other hand has to do with doing what we can in the moment to bring down the intensity of what we’re feeling.
There’s a time for coping and there’s a time for healing. Each work in their own way to move us forward toward integration and peace.
As a side note, the psychological terrain we walk through in order to heal our pain and grow can be treacherous to go alone. It’s best to embark on this journey in the company of a skilled therapist, someone who knows the landscape and can provide us with the help we need to get through safely, even when the going gets tough. To find out how, do click here.
Learning how to cope with our emotional condition is something we can learn how to do.
Take overwhelm for example, when it feels as if we’re being flooded with waves of emotion we can’t control.
One way of dealing with these waves of emotion when we’re feeling too much is through a simple set of practices called “grounding”.
Grounding can help us to detach from what’s happening in the here and now and get us back in control of our emotional experience. This, when we’re in the throws of overwhelming feelings like anxiety or grief, or harmful impulses like wanting to strike out against someone, including our self. In these scary moments, we can re-focus our attention on something that will help us to reduce the energetic charge flowing through our body and re-gain inner balance as a result.
Grounding can also help us to deal with those times when we want to catapult out of the present moment, and retreat to a place inside that feels safer than does being in the world.
There are many non-pharmaceutical ways of getting grounded. Here are a modest 6 to consider:
1. Rock. Holding a rock in your hands you like to touch. Tuning into its weight, temperature, texture, and letting your mind linger here with the experience of feeling the rock cradled in your hands.
2. Animal. Spending time petting a favorite animal and noticing how you’re feeling while caressing its body.
3. Scent. Sniffing a favorite scent of an aromatic oil that calms the nervous system. Oils to consider for this purpose are lavender, camomile, bergamot, lilac or vanilla.
4. Relationship. Talking to a compassionate other who can be trusted, whether a friend, relative or therapist, is grounding too, and will go a long way to helping you find your emotional balance again.
5. Feet. Feeling your feet planted against the earth. With your shoes on or off, tuning in and feeling the weight of the balls of the feet and heels against the earth below.
6. Belly. Either sitting in a chair or lying down on a Yoga mat, with the knees bent and resting in a knock kneed position, place the palms of your hands on your belly, and allow yourself to breathe long, slow, smooth breaths, here. Do so for 5-10 min to bring deep calm to the bodymind.
Taken individually or in combination, we can work with these skills, and others like it, to regulate our emotional experience. This gives us what we need at our fingertips to take care of our self emotionally in those trying moments when we need a little extra support. This is good news. Grounding begins to give us back our power.
In the next edition, we’ll talk about what we can do if our tendency is to numb out or feel too little.