Top Tools to Process Trauma
This past week, a mass casualty shooting occured in our home town of Dayton, Ohio. A man intruded on the Oregon District, an area that has worked tirelessly towards being known as a safe place, and took the lives of nine individuals and injured many more. He broke the pledge of safety among other human beings and has left his mark, without consent, on all of us. It's a tough reality to swallow. A reality that most of us have no former experience with, which means we have no way to make sense of it. As a result, you may be feeling so many emotions that you actually feel nothing at all, almost normal even. But you know that what you're feeling is not normal, and you know that what has happened is not normal.
I've been praying this week, knowing that this would be the topic at hand for this newsletter and hoping that I can offer some sense of grounding back under your feet. So here it is, tools to help heal in difficult times.
Let's first talk about trauma. It's one of those words that has negative connotation, like something is wrong with you if you are experiencing trauma. Here's a newsflash: We all have trauma. It is simply an experience that causes psychological injury or pain. In the realm of an individual's life, this could be anything. But there are things that are inconceivable in the minds of most of us, such as the senseless act of unspeakable violence that occurred in our home town. They impact society as a whole. Most of these tragedies remind us how small we are as human beings and send us into a spiral of emotion resulting in apathy or hopelessness.
Acknowledge that you feel this way.
Or acknowledge that you don't know what you feel. There is no one thing that you "should" feel, it will be different for everyone. Take a journal out or find someone that is solid in their listening skills and begin to talk/write it out. Be candid and honest with your statements:
I feel guilt that today I get to be alive
I feel gratitude that today I get to be alive
I feel scared that it only took seconds for nine people to lose their lives
I feel shame that I avoid the news because it feels like too much to take in
I feel angry that I find myself looking for exit strategies everywhere I go
Sit with these feelings until you can recognize them as just that—feelings. This may take a lot of time. Notice which ones stand out the most. Anger? Sadness? Guilt?
Remember, feelings are real and touch deep, but they are not who you are.
Let it go
We have been conditioned to believe that the drama of our emotions is our display of caring. So if you primarily feel anger, you must show that you’re fired up. But every time you get fired up, you store more and more trauma in your tissues. So for your own healing sake, you have to be willing to let. it. go. And there are a few ways I recommend to do that:
Yoga - this is mindful movement, meaning that as you move, you feel your body on the inside and out. Yoga is renowned for removing toxicity in our tissues to improve the flow of energy. The breath also calms your nervous system, allowing you to process and handle any stressful situation better. Most yoga studios create a safe environment for you to “leave it all on the mat,” meaning if you need to have a good cry, it’s safe to do it there.
Dance - since the dawn of time humans have been dancing. When you let your body move in a way that’s free, it sends signals to your brain that it’s safe to release.
Get out in nature - being in nature reminds you that there is a source that is bigger than you or I. This often reminds us that some thoughts and emotions are just not worth holding on to.
Step out of the ordinary - there are a lot of techniques for release. When you’re dealing with something unfamiliar, you might have to do something unfamiliar. Here are a few other techniques to try:
Once you have your mind and heart right begin to take action. This may be in the form of getting your two feet back on the ground through routine and the things that make you feel most powerful. Once you feel strong, you may have more outward contribution to the greater community.
In reference to our current situation, it’s easy to see what’s becoming the new norm and be against it. To be “against” something is using the same energy that got us here in the first place. So I encourage you to ask yourself what you stand for? Rather than being against hate, be for unity and oneness. Instead of focusing on the negative, be a force for the positive.
All of us have the ability to contribute to change and to our own well-being. It does not have to look a certain way. Do what you can and then maybe stretch yourself a little more.
Things like this take time. Give yourself the space and time to heal.
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