In my last blog post, I gave you new tools to apply towards treating traumatic stress. Today, we’re going to go over yet even more avenues for addressing trauma through techniques that are mindfulness-based, and powerful.
Fixing your eye on a spot in your gaze field which corresponds to a strong and brave feeling inside. Staying there with awareness until it intensifies
Directed attention on a visual point is a great way to direct our most salient sensory system to help heal.
Mental Thank You
Gratitude practices support personal growth, but they also emphasize the centrality of interpersonal relationships to our happiness and success. As you go through the day muttering reflexive ‘thank you’ to cashiers and others in our path, you may lose touch with the power of thankfulness. For an instant happiness boost, think of someone who you are grateful to have in your life. Send them a telepathic thank you, noting what you appreciate about them as specifically as possible.
Butterfly Hug is a bilateral stimulation technique that involves using tactile stimulation across both sides of the body to ground ourselves in the face of stress. Butterfly hugs are effective for retaining a sense of safety and stability while minimizing negative intrusions.
The Havening Technique was developed by Dr. Rondal Ruden, who understood that bilateral sensory stimulation (touch, sound) had promising results in reducing trauma. By creating a systematic movement that could be standardized and taught to patients in an easy way, he brought the powerful positive effects of bilateral stimulation to more practitioners. It combines the emotional aspect of visualization and recall, followed by the grounding feelings of safety that come from soothing touch. One easy exercise is to cross your arms, left arm touching right shoulder, right arm touching left shoulder and stroke your own arm in a downward motion.
Splash cold water on your face or put a cold washcloth on your neck
The sensations of cold temperature is useful for improving but cold water specifically is especially effective. Cold stimulates the vagus nerve momentarily, and vagus nerve stimulation is known to reduce anxiety in pranayamic meditation paradigms.
Holding an Ice Pack
When you put your face into cold water or you put a zip-lock bag with cold water on your eyes and upper cheeks, and hold your breath, it tells your brain you are diving underwater. This causes the “dive response” to occur. (It may take 15–30 seconds to start.) Your heart slows down, blood flow to nonessential organs is reduced, and blood flow is redirected to the brain and heart. This response can actually help regulate your emotions. This will be useful as a distress tolerance strategy when you are having a very strong, distressing emotion, like anger or anxiety.
Breathe deeply into your belly. Slow your pace of inhaling and exhaling. Try for about five or six breaths per minute. Breathe out more slowly than you breathe in (if you inhale to a count of five then exhale to a count of seven).
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos are mental health tools definitely geared towards the digital age. ASMR videos feature sounds and sights that evoke feelings of calmness or reduced stress, such as tapping on a wooden object, brushing hair, and soft whispering. The videos are popular on YouTube, with many people swearing by them to assist with sleeping and studying. They’re still relatively unstudied in clinical settings, however, due to being low-risk and having some promising healing effects on depression, they definitely are worth a listen. Headphones are also recommended.
Whether or not you consider yourself a gym buff doesn’t matter when using resistance (or strength) training for mental wellness. All forms of exercise are known to improve our mental state, but did you know resistance training specifically has powerful anti-anxiety effects? This is crucial for managing the challenges brought on by traumatic experiences.
Harness the flow state
Have you ever gotten so engrossed in an activity that you suddenly looked up and you have found that hours have passed by? This is what’s known as a flow state, where your mind is so occupied by a task that you “block out” the rest of the world around you. People in flow states often accomplish things they normally struggle with otherwise, like painting their best portrait, writing a song, completing a puzzle, etc. These tasks are usually medium-difficulty tasks that you are typically skilled at.
Entering flow is simple: start a task that you usually enjoy, but are not an expert at. This task can be anything as long as it is not work-related i.e. something you do for a day job. Block out any distractions like cell phone alerts; if your task involves the computer, turn off your notifications. Do not look at the clock, and begin your task. The calming effects of the flow state become apparent afterwards, and you will find yourself with a new perspective, and another fun task completed.