Self-awareness is an ongoing part of the trauma healing journey. It can feel a bit overwhelming in the beginning, as you are literally choosing to counter your biology in choosing discomfort, learning how to navigate stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a hard look at your helpful but toxic coping strategies. Are you aware of your coping strategies? We can also call them habits.
Part of what I do to support my clients is to provide a bit of trauma education. I know it provided me with comfort to know that there was nothing wrong with me in how I had responded to and lived through my trauma. In fact, I was in many ways a textbook example of a child that grew up in a household with domestic violence and was being abused emotionally, physically, and sexually. The outcome, like so many others, was my living with toxic stress (Learn more about ACE study here) as a child and growing into adulthood with the toxic stress keeping my systems on high alert, all the time.
As I began to understand the impact of trauma and have a greater sense of how it was showing up in my habits and responses to daily life, I also learned that I was not alone. I slowly became aware of how big a part my biology played in how I would be able to heal from the past. It became easier once this realization hit me and I became relentless in my exploration for healing tools, trying anything if it helped me find peace in my mental, emotional, and physical state and helping me reconnect with people.
Learning about the power of my breath was an important piece of the puzzle. As survivors of trauma, we hardly notice our breath, our shallow breathing. We hardly notice our tight shoulders and the weight on our hearts or the knot in the pit of our stomach. It has been such a big part of your life that you assume it is what all people feel and experience.
When I started to get into meditation, about 20 years ago, I was fascinated by how the simple act of taking a deep breath could shift how I felt and how it gave me the space to think about how I wanted to respond to my thoughts. I practiced meditation and some form of breathwork of and on during most of my healing journey, but it was not until a few of years ago that meditation became a regular self-care practice and then again when I received my TRE certification. I reconnected with the power of my breath, the awareness it brings to my body, inside and out, and the power it has to shift from a place of tension to relaxation, one breath at the time.
Our breath is one of the systems of our body that can override our subconscious automatic systems. We only have to become aware of it and start to take the breath we need in order to make the shift from how we usually feel to how we want to feel now.
If you are new to mindfulness or meditation, here is a simple meditation for you to try:
The long term benefits of mindful breathing include stress relief, better control over difficult emotions, increased positive thinking, and more self-awareness, just to name a few. What is powerful about starting a simple breath meditation is that you can do it anywhere and it can always help you to come back to the present moment, where we want to be for connecting with other people. So much of our worry or anxiety about life is about the future or rumination about the past that we can't change. Start with just 1 minute a few times per week and notice how you feel.
To help you get started on a new meditation habit, I recorded the above steps in a short meditation that you can listen to yourself. I hope it encourages you to keep trying with meditation until you can feel the amazing, healing benefits for yourself.
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness or meditation, I am starting an 8-week mindfulness class at the end of January. Just hit reply and let me know if you want to learn more.
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