Recovery from Trauma

Restorative Yoga 

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On a non-professional basis, I recently met Fiona, a woman who was overcoming acute trauma in her life following the tragic death of one of her children. She was inspirational in all that she had done and was continuing to do in the process of re-navigating her life and her emotinal recovery. Fiona told me that a vital part of her trauma recovery was through Restorative Yoga. This prompted me, with Fiona’s permission and some of her words, to write something about restorative yoga and her personal experience of how this had helped her. “Days and nights blurred into one another as I lay on my bedroom floor, fetal position, swaddled in a blanket of paralyzing grief and despair. This was two years ago when the worst thing that could ever happen to me happened, a precious child of mine died. That moment, that very second in time that I laid eyes upon my son’s lifeless body ‘I’ was no longer. Disorientated I could not find my way out of this horrible immobilizing fog until the day restorative yoga showed me the way.” Restorative Yoga uses props like yoga blocks, bolsters and blankets to allow your body to fully relax in each posture. This helps you achieve physical, emotional and mental relaxation. Some poses target specific areas of the body, and others work with the entire body. It promotes stillness, relaxation and a calmer state of mind perhaps more than other forms of yoga and is known to provide healing , reduce stress, and particularly help you overcome emotional distress and anxiety following traumatic events. “Restorative yoga threw me a life line that I grabbed and desperately hung on to. Gradually I began to have body and breath awareness and some days I could transfer this to my day which helped me to cope. Once I became connected to my breath my whole nervous system seemed to calm down and become quieter….” “This meditative style of yoga has given me the coping tools to go to in difficult times. I practice almost every day no matter where I am and most definitely use breath awareness every single day to keep me grounded and going forward. In the home I would use couch cushions, bed pillows, blankets, thick towels. The idea is to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible with no strain and the more fully supported your body is the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be to allow the nervous system to calm down and drop the deepest layers of tension. This allows the Parasympathetic nervous(relax and renew) system to take charge for a while which brings the body back to a state of equilibrium, slows down the heart rate, dilates blood vessels, activates digestion, and stores energy.” It is not unusual to feel disassociated or disconnected from yourself following a traumatic experience. Practices such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation, in addition to talking therapies such as counselling can help bring the body actively into the healing process , alongside the mind, so that you can feel whole again. “While lying on my mat in deep relaxation I became aware of my body, mind, and soul being connected as one riding on the ebb and flow of my natural breath. There was no past, no future, just in the now, in this place of complete stillness and ease. My head and body was so spacious-everything was one with my surroundings-no thoughts, only a profound relaxed feeling of peace….” Fiona trained and qualified as a Restorative Yoga teacher herself in 2013 Useful links: http://www.bwy.org.uk/ http://www.samaritans.org/ If you are struggling to overcome a traumatic experience, or suffering from anxiety, depression or stress, I am offering a free initial counselling session.  Please contact me on 07936 556314 or e-mail: sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk

Grounding Techniques

There are occasions when emotional pain can feel so overwhelming that it may be helpful to be able to detach from your feelings and stay safe.  In particular, if you have suffered trauma either in the past or recently, you may find yourself struggling with intrusive and disturbing memories of what happened, either feeling overwhelmed with emotions, or perhaps feeling numb and disconnected.  There are certain techniques called ‘Grounding’ which can help you regain a sense of safety and help you tolerate the emotions.  The strategies work by distracting your attention to what is going on externally around you, focussing you on the here and now.  The techniques can be a useful support alongside seeking professional counselling and/or hypnotherapy to help you deal with the underlying issues.

Grounding can be done anywhere at any time and it helps you stay in touch with the present, and not focus on the past or the future.  It is an active strategy and can help with extreme negative feelings.  Here are some grounding strategies which may be of help:

  • Look around your surroundings and focus on the detail around you. For example, observe to yourself, “The walls are cream; there are 4 green chairs etc….” “I am on the train; I am looking out of the windows and I can see gardens; I am on the Bakerloo line and the next station is……”
  • Find something around you that you can see and which appeals to you. Ask yourself what you like about it; what texture it is; what size it is; what shape it is; what colour it is.
  • Say a safety statement such as:  “My name is ………….; I am safe now.  I am in the present, not the past.  The date today is….. and I am standing in the supermarket/office/street etc………”
  • Focus on your breathing. Imagine as you breathe in a balloon inflating in your stomach, and as you breathe out, imagine the balloon deflating.
  • Play a categories game with yourself. For example, try to think of songs, animals, tv shows, countries that begin with A, B, C etc.
  • Eat something and describe the flavours to yourself in detail
  • Describe an everyday activity in detail to yourself. For example, a meal that you cook (“First I peel the onion and then slice it; then I peel some garlic; I fry the onion and garlic and then….etc”)
  • Dig your heels into the ground and feel yourself connected to the ground, or stamp your feet and notice the power in your legs as you do.

One or more of the techniques may suit you better than others and it is important to go with what works for you.  It can be useful to practise the technique(s) regularly, and you do not need to wait until you are feeling in crisis to do this.  The more frequently you can use the strategy when you are not in crisis, the more familiar you will be with it for the times when you feel overwhelmed.

If you are struggling with emotional difficulties and wish to explore the possibility of counselling and/or hypnotherapy, please e-mail sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk or telephone 07936 556314 to arrange an initial session.

Useful Contacts:

http://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/