“Too many people are overwhelmed by the daily stress of the pandemic, and the devastating events in Haiti and Afghanistan.” says Rev. Connie L. Habash, MA, LMFT, a psychotherapist, yoga and meditation instructor, and interfaith minister. The traumatic effects of disasters on the brain and body are not only long-term, but also far-reaching.
It’s hard not to feel helpless and sad when situations are beyond our control, such as the widespread spread of the Coronavirus. In addition, Habash notes that highly sensitive people (HSPs) experience empathy far more intensely.
People often take on other people’s emotions, altering their nervous system and emotions in the process. You must embrace your feelings, but not hold them deep inside your body where they will cause anxiety and stress. If you are sensitive (or suspect that you may be), it is even more important that you let those feelings be honored without holding them inside.
Habash explains that stress, anxiety, and problems with physical health might result as a result. If it’s not released by therapy and a change in emotional state, this kind of trauma can linger. Several beneficial practices can be employed for alleviating stress, anxiety, and trauma caused by the world’s painful events.
Trauma removal techniques
1. Therapuetic screams
Expressing and releasing pent-up emotions in a non-harmful way can be helpful. You can scream into a pillow, in your car, or in a closet if you want more privacy.
You will often feel a sense of relaxation in your body after doing this practice,” she says. If you would like, you could do a gentle yoga flow or candlelit yoga class as a follow-up.
Try this 20-minute calming yoga flow:
Habash explains that working with the breath is a very effective way to calm the nervous system (especially the exhalation, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and induces a ‘rest and relax’ response).
Inhale deeply for four counts, then pause for a moment before exhaling deeply for six counts. “Adjust the ratio or count based on your capacity, and if possible, try to exhale twice as long as you inhale,” she says.
Visualization can be a good tool as well, since it is a simple alternative. I like to imagine deep breathing in peace, slowly exhaling into the world, and then relaxing by breathing normally. Breathing in this way calms the body as well as the mind, giving it a focus to rid itself of obsessive thoughts.
3. Shaking or dancing away trauma
In addition to being fun and good exercise, dancing is also an effective way of healing trauma. “This is one of my favorite practices for releasing stress and trauma,” says Habash. “According to Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, animals shake vigorously to release stress and trauma,” she adds. This method also works for humans.
Maintain a hip-distance between your feet to ensure stability. Be free and spontaneous, without overthinking or a preconceived plan in mind when you dance or shake. Feel free to move in accordance with your natural inclinations.
It’s okay to shake your arm or leg if you’re not sure what to do, or you can go for a dance if that feels good,” she says. Stomp, jump, spin, and wiggle when you are frustrated, worried, stressed, angry, or sorrowful, any pent up feelings resulting from trauma. Observe your sensations for a few minutes, breathe deeply, and then enjoy some time for relaxation while your negative emotions are reduced.
With a little breath and a little movement, you can relieve stress quickly and easily. Habash says to begin slowly and modified according to your physical limitations (for instance, if you have back issues, bend your knees as you bend forward or omit it altogether).
Standing hip-distance apart, place your feet flat on the ground. You should have your arms straight in front of you as you interlace your fingers. Lift your arms above your head as you inhale. On the exhalation, with gently bent knees, bend forward while swinging your arms as if you were chopping wood with an ax, while exhaling vigorously.
Spend a moment in the forward bend before rolling up slowly. “You might be able to let even more energy out by making a sound while you ‘chop wood’,” she suggests. Do this several times until you feel energized and the worries and stressors have loosened their grip.
5. The ability to be compassionate towards oneself
Habash says that we tend to feel compassion for others, but we neglect to extend similar feelings to ourselves. Forget about comparing our situation with those around us and take a moment to be aware of what we are feeling, he says.
It’s helpful to incorporate touch into this practice as well. Hold your heart with one hand and your belly with the other. As you inhale, imagine spreading compassion to all beings as you extend it out to them as you exhale.
“Imagine how it would feel to feel compassion for your suffering as well as being kind to yourself and others,” she says. As you practice self-compassion for a few minutes, you will be better able to gently hold the difficulties in this world and not let the trauma affect you too much.
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