Good morning everyone. I have not posted for a long time. I wanted to share some tools because the holidays tend to be stressful for many people especially for trauma survivors. I'd like to share some ideas from my still looking for a publisher book Unlocking The Puzzle of PTSD, A Holistic Guide to Restoring Inner Peace. I hope these ideas are helpful.
I am a retired therapist, Trauma Specialist with 25 years in the field. I also have 22 years of post Masters training.
Wishing everyone peaceful and safe holidays.
Susan Pollard, MS
Chapter 3: Taking Your Power Back
The ability to take your power back is essential to healing from any past trauma, especially healing from PTSD or Complex PTSD.
The following are tools that can be used to assist in healing. If any tool triggers you, STOP using it. You can always try again at another time if you want to.
1. Don’t overdrive your headlights. When you are driving and it is dark outside you will only see a few feet ahead. Then as soon as you have gone as far at the lights shine, you will see farther ahead. So, take your time emotionally and only go as far as you can see at that time. Reminding yourself about this can help change your thinking and reactions.
2. Breathe Deeply in through your nose to the count of 3, hold to 3 and out through your mouth to the count of 6. If you are panicking and can’t breathe in, Breathe Out! This will force you to breathe in. Try to breathe from your diaphragm not your chest. If you are breathing correctly (think how a baby breathes) your stomach goes out as you breathe in and your stomach goes in as you breathe out. Practice before you need it so that it is easier to use when you do need to calm yourself. Detailed instructions on how to do deep breathing are in Chapter 6. Remind yourself these are just feelings and they will pass. Reassure yourself if you can that you are safe and it is just that PTSD again.
3. Grounding is the feeling that you are in your body and connected to reality.
This is a simple grounding exercise, which works very well with flashbacks and panic attacks. Sit down, breathe deeply in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Press your hands down on your knees and your feet down on the floor. Continue to breathe deeply and slowly. Focus on what you see and hear around you. Say aloud four things you see and four things you hear around you. If you are having a flashback, remind yourself “This is only PTSD, it is a flashback, it is Not happening now. I am safe here now. This is just a memory.” Say your name and the date.
4. Another grounding technique to use with deep breathing. Stand and imagine, with your eyes closed if it helps you concentrate, roots growing from your feet to the ground. The roots are gathering energy and strength from the earth. Then allow all anxiety and stress to go into the earth to be used as fertilizer.
Next, raise your arms overhead and imagine grounding into the heavens. Allow all anxiety and stress to be released upward into the heavens and the Light. This means you are grounding both ways up and down. You can also do this outside, with bare feet if possible, on the grass so that you can feel the earth.
5. Inhale a pleasant aroma such as vanilla. Put some vanilla extract (use pure vanilla extract not an imitation) on a cotton ball and breathe deeply. You can also inhale vanilla from a bottle. This can help in grounding and in stopping an olfactory or smell flashback. It may also help to bring you back to reality if you are dissociated.
6. As soon as you open your eyes each morning, breathe deeply and set intentions for how you want your day to go. See if you can either visualize or imagine yourself living your intentions for the day. Practicing this daily will help your brain become more used to thinking in a positive way.
7. Unplug. Most people are on overload these days with a constant bombardment of stimuli. Giving yourself permission to Unplug and take a respite or break can be very healing to the Central Nervous System. Turn off the phone, get away from the computer and TV and from all other noises. Go outside to the beach if you are near one or for a walk in the woods or anywhere out in nature. Give yourself permission to experience silence. Sometimes silence can trigger people with PTSD or Complex PTSD because they cannot turn their minds off. Practicing allowing yourself to relax without constant stimuli takes time. NOTE: Chapter 6 has scripts for breathing, relaxation and guided imagery visualization. Chapter 7 has Activity sheets with breathing and relaxation exercises.
8. Opposite nostril breathing sends more oxygen to the brain to help you think clearly. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and breathe deeply and slowly in through your left nostril to the count of three or four. Hold to three. Now use your left thumb to hold your left nostril closed while breathing out slowly through the right nostril to the count of three or four. Keep repeating for a minute or more if you can. If you feel dizzy, stop and breathe normally.
9. Catch feelings and behaviors at as low a level as possible and intervene then. It is much easier to intervene at a lower level then it is to do damage control later.
10. Giving back the gift of unkind words or behaviors. Imagine you are in a tennis match. Someone serves to you and you hit the ball back. You serve and they hit the ball back. They serve and you hit the ball back. What if you did not hit the ball back? Game over. If someone says or does something hurtful to you, you can choose to thank them silently for their gift and refuse to accept it into your mind or body. You can send it back with love so that you are not putting more negative energy into the Universe. Do Not Bite The Bait! The way someone treats you is not about you, it is about the story that the person is telling themselves in their own head.
11. Power Shield. Draw a shield. This is not a drawing lesson so you do not have to be an artist. You can make it look however you would like. It can be a Force field, a huge Angel, a big battle shield or whatever you would like it to be. Divide the picture into 6 parts and either draw or write words in each part that make you feel safe. Practice visualizing it so that you can call it in when you need to feel powerful. You can also post it where you will look at and remember to use it.
12. Give yourself a pat on the back. Physically pat yourself on the back for all of your hard work that you have been doing in your healing. Pat yourself on the back frequently for all of the things that you accomplish no matter how small they seem to you. Another way to give yourself credit is, every time you catch yourself putting you down, reach round with your other hand and pull yourself up. Practicing this often will help with taking your power back.