By Jessi Frazier, MSW and Natalie Seidel, MAFP, CPD
If you’ve ever witnessed a truly dangerous situation or experienced a terrifying event yourself, you know that it does not leave you unchanged. You may have found that, down the road, the traumatic event left you feeling really uncomfortable and even afraid. And it all may get in the way of enjoying your life.
Sometimes we are haunted by traumatic events. We feel like we relive them when we’re reminded by certain images, smells, and sounds.
Of course, trauma can affect people in many ways. And something that is traumatic to one person, may not be to the other.
Thankfully, there are many different tools that can be used when going through times like these. This post will focus on ones related to “Mindfulness”.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means shifting your attention to what’s happening right now and accepting it. It means letting thoughts and feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant, exist without judgement. It’s important to learn to sit with discomfort or fear. In doing so, we recognize that they will pass and we will find we got through them.
There are many ways that mindfulness can help us heal from trauma.
How Mindfulness Can Help Heal After Trauma
Mindfulness can help you to feel the natural feelings that occur after a traumatic event. It can also help you think about and process the trauma. Mindfulness can help you to be more focused. It can make you aware of the present moment. That can increase your ability to live with the difficult emotions. Here are a few ways you can practice mindfulness:
- Practice Present Awareness.
- Tap into to your internal world. Notice your pain, emotions, thoughts, and urges. By being curious about them, you can notice how they’re taking up space. You can release the desire to control them or be defined by them.
- Then pay attention to your five senses. Pay attention to the world around you. Notice the things you hear, taste, smell, feel, and see.
- Note what’s happening around and within you but stay focused on your destination. Your goals, dreams, and values can help you. Identify the worries that are trying to blow you off course.
- Take a Savoring Walk.
- Notice the sights, sounds, and smells all around you. Look for things you can be inspired by or even in awe of.
- Take time to notice what brings you joy… and why. Maybe take a notebook to jot down the things you’re noticing and enjoying. Later you can cozy up with the notebook and reflect on the moment again.
- Engage in a self-care activity.
- Choose one that will benefit you in this very moment. That can look different for everyone, so honoring what you need is important. You might try stretching your muscles, working on a puzzle, or organizing a room in your home.
- When you’re truly caring for yourself, it’s easier to stay present.
Getting the Right Support
Trauma can sometimes feel like a tidal wave. It can flood you with pain and the fear it will never end.
Everyone reacts differently to trauma, and what helps can vary. Although Mindfulness can be helpful to support natural healing, it may not be the best approach for everyone. You know yourself best and if you find that Mindfulness does not feel right for you, talk with a trusted professional. Get the support you need.
Whatever route you choose, know that the process is unique to you. Your trauma experience matters and at the same time, it doesn’t have to define or control your life. There’s hope and healing on the other side.
- National Center for PTSD: Mindfulness Practice in the Treatment of Traumatic Stress
- Mindful: The Science of How Mindfulness Relieves Post Traumatic Stress
- Science of Psychotherapy: Is Mindfulness Safe for Trauma Survivors?