Mindfulness for Self-Care During Triggering Events
Feeling triggered by current events? Let’s be honest — the last few years have been really tough for many of us, and in recent weeks, flare-ups have reached an all-time high. Sharing #metoo stories isn’t just talking about memories— it’s reliving trauma, both for the survivor sharing her (or his) story and for all those who have also been affected by sexual assault. In a healing context, it’s incredible that all of these stories are coming to light — but what do we do now that this collective wound is exposed? We’ve ripped off the band-aid; what do we do to continue healing this pain?
As a survivor of many different types of traumas, my suggestion is that not only do we take time to process our pain — but we also give ourselves permission to feel these feelings deeply.
As a society, we’ve made huge strides in showing vulnerability, but still, many people struggle with sharing their authentic emotions. Afterall, most of the time we’re living in a glamorized world of social media highlight reels, a world in which we’re trying to keep up with the status quo by only showing our happiest and strongest moments. It’s interesting how we have come to categorize emotions in a polarized way in which some emotions are socially acceptable while others should be stuffed down and hidden away. It’s okay, for example, to feel happiness, achievement, and love — but it’s not okay to feel sadness, anger, or defeat.
Let’s change that unwritten societal rule so that it’s okay to feel everything, deeply.It’s time to start normalizing all emotions into a spectrum of completely acceptable human reactions to various experiences that we face.
But, given the systemic nature of the world around us, feeling emotions isn’t just as simple as…feeling emotions. It will take a multi-step approach to create a more emotionally-free society.
Because all sustainable behavioral change begins within individuals, we ourselves have to start by recognizing the ways in which we do not let ourselves feel deeply. What habits, or safeguards, do you have in place in order to avoid your emotions? How do you numb and detach? Do you clean your house? Stress eat? Scroll Facebook/Insta/Twitter? Fill up your calendar with obligations, keeping yourself too busy to be alone with your thoughts and feelings? Once you begin recognizing your avoidance mechanisms, you’ll have a more honest opportunity to process what you’re experiencing emotionally. And when you’ve resolved yourself to desire more healthy emotions, you’re ready to begin the next step:
We have to begin paying attention to the thoughts we are thinking in order to identify the emotions those thoughts trigger.
To be fair, it’s a bit hard to pay attention to our thoughts when we are constantly processing and digesting information. We are infiltrated with news and media in various forms, from notifications popping up on our devices to tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines demanding our attention. Our brains are taxed with engaging in a fast-paced, multi-sensory society that leaves little free time for doing something like observing our own thoughts.
We have to intentionally carve our time and space to simply sit with our thoughts.
Start with 10 minutes. Every day, give yourself a breather from everything else in the world that competes for your attention for just 10 minutes. Follow this process to begin mindfulness training — and feeling everything deeply. (Note: You’ll need a piece of paper and a pen to jot down any insights of breakthroughs at the end, in step number seven!)
Get comfortable, whether that means sitting, standing, or lying down.
Begin inhaling and exhaling on an 8-count (inhale for 8 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds).
As soon as you notice a thought creep into your otherwise quiet mind, imagine writing that thought on a piece of paper in your mind’s eye. Imagine the paper gradually appearing closer to you until you can grab it, hold it, and review the words splashed across it.
Determine the relevance of this thought. Is it a fleeting distraction (“Oh sh*t! I forgot to turn the oven off!”)? Or, does the thought hold deeper clues to the state of your emotional being (“I am so proud of myself for taking the time to do this,” or, “I could really use a break. I’m exhausted.”)?
When you discover a thought that has emotional relevance, simply allow that feeling to wash over you. Is it exhaustion? Let yourself be totally worn out. Is it excitement? Feel as excited as you’d like to. Is it sadness? Embrace yourself, holding space for yourself to just be sad before having to re-emerge into the “real world” of responsibilities.
Don’t try to change your emotions! Trying to force your way out of feeling a certain way is not only ineffective, but it can also cause more damage in the long run because you’ve stifled your authentic nature. Whatever the emotion is that you’re experiencing, give yourself full permission to feel it through until it shifts on its own. Remember: emotions are fleeting and will eventually change. Your job is to process it fully by feeling it.
Write down a few sentences about your experience (on the real paper that you have next to you). This helps by giving you another medium to express yourself and by keeping a running record for you to look back on to identify the trends of your emotional self.
In giving yourself this intentional space and time to process your traumas, to feel your deep-seated emotions, I believe you’re taking the first step to healing. You’re allowing these feelings to surface, and once they’ve arisen — you get to choose what to do with them next. That’s a powerful opportunity, but admittedly, a tall order. Healing is a process, and what works for one person might not work for others. For me, what worked was EFT — I felt like I fully released painful traumas and the associated emotions over the course of several sessions. For others, it’s therapy, trauma-informed yoga, or working with spiritual healers. Find what works for you.
Whatever method you choose next to release your emotions, the power to heal is yours — if only you’ll begin by conjuring the courage to first feel everything deeply.