In the realm of trauma recovery, calming skills are super important. They are needed to ensure that the client is able to take care of himself and regulate his emotional distress, when he is out of the therapy room. It is also essential when dealing with chronic stress and anxiety. Chronic stress can be considered as a form of trauma as well. It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts.
It also gives the client more control over his feelings of distress and prepares him for trauma reprocessing work. In trauma reprocessing, there can be exposure to the traumatic memory and that can rapidly increase the level of distress and disturbance in the session.
We all have a window of tolerance. When we are within the boundaries of this window, we are able to tolerate distressing symptoms and yet be present in the here and now. If the level of distress goes beyond the boundaries of this window, then we can go into either hyperarousal (severe anxiety, nervous breakdown, panic) or hypoarousal (emotional shut down, spacing out, fainting). For people who have a long history of trauma, especially from childhood, this window of tolerance is often quite small.
The calming and mindfulness skills can help you stay within your window of tolerance and with practice also expand this window, so you are able to handle more distress, without freaking out or shutting down.
Breathing can be our friend, when it comes to calming. The process of inhalation is linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which is our fight or flight mode and it increases the heart rate and spikes our adrenaline. While the process of exhalation is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our rest and digest mode and it lowers our heart rate and calms us down.
If you slow down your breathing, without it becoming uncomfortable and inhale for a count of 2 and prolong the exhale for a count of 4, then you start to experience a calming effect.
Mindfulness, when used as a calming technique, can help you stay in the here and now. Traumatic memories have a knack of taking you back to the past and mindfully focusing your attention on external objects, sounds and smells with all your senses, helps to bring you back into the safety of the present.
I had created a vlog article that describes these calming techniques in greater depth. Click here to go to the video.
Free Phone Consultation
If you have experienced distressing thoughts and flashbacks of traumatic memories and you want to learn these calming skills, then contact me for a free 30-min phone consultation.