If you are still in the middle of the anxiety and fear that comes with betrayal trauma, the last thing you needed was an unknown, highly-contagious, global pandemic to deal with. Suddenly, all of us are scrambling to adapt to a strange new reality. Many of the routines of our daily lives—work, the kids schooling and activities, grocery shopping, social interaction, and more—have all been upended. And suddenly, family finances may be at risk.
For many of you who are still experiencing betrayal trauma, your focus may need to temporarily shift, especially if you have children still at home. In the hierarchy of needs, life, health, food, and family must come first. Yet a huge dose of new fear and stress on top of existing trauma, and in some cases, PTSD, pushes us to our limit. If you are being pushed to your limit, below you will find some helpful emotional stabilizers, that I and others use. And if you have children in the home, this is a valuable opportunity to help them learn how to stabilize their own emotions with these helpful habits and tools.
1. Follow the precautions and take good care of yourself
Remember, if you are living with an active addict, or your trauma is relatively new, your system is already stressed. You’ve heard me, and likely others, say that betrayal trauma is hard on your physical health. So factor that awareness into your self-care during this historic period with multiple unknowns. Follow the guidelines doctors, scientists, and our leaders are cautioning us to follow. You and your health matter; especially right now.
2. Use the science of appreciation and gratitude to calm anxiety, soothe your system, and help you sleep
Did you know that noticing and expressing the good things in life literally changes the rhythm of your brain and heart? A nonprofit called HeartMath has, for three decades, researched the connection between our brains and our hearts, and what they’ve learned is empowering and healing. They have scientifically proven that if we know how to use a short, simple, meditative breathing exercise, while noticing and expressing gratitude for the blessings in our lives, we have the ability to synchronize our heart’s and our brain’s rhythm, and doing so calms our whole system. This link to a video on their website gives you an opportunity to hear from two war veterans with PTSD the power this simple exercise has had in their lives: HeartMath Education & Resilience Training
3. Use distraction to take a time out
Distraction is the process of diverting or shifting our attention from one activity to another. I think of it as “changing channels,” just like you do on TV. It’s an effective way to take a break from stress, whether it’s daily stress or a global crisis like the coronavirus. As you go through each day, check in with yourself (and your children) throughout the day. How am I doing? Am I overwhelmed? Do I need a break? If the answer is “yes,” use distraction like prescription. How you distract yourself will depend on the time you can steal from your schedule.
For me, the Cadillac of distraction is a good movie. But sometimes all we have is 15 or 30 minutes. So, choose the distracting activity to correlate to the time available, and give yourself a break. Only have ten minutes? Play some music and sing or dance along with it. Walk around the block. Or mix the dry ingredients for a batch of cookies; you can finish later with another short break!
4. Nature therapy
I love this way of calming anxiety, and I know from my clients that I’m not alone. Just today a woman whose husband is not in solid recovery told me she and her children have a plan for taking frequent breaks at nearby parks, because dad is working from home, due to the coronavirus. But did you know that in Japan, doctors and therapists write prescriptions for nature therapy? Who knew playing outside would not only be good for your physical health, but your mental health, too? And there’s tons of research to back this up.
5. Butterfly Hug
The Butterfly Hug was created during another horrible crisis. In 1997 a devastating hurricane hit Acapulco, Mexico, killing hundreds and leaving approximately 300,000 people homeless. The loss, PTSD, and overwhelming grief overwhelmed the ability to meet the need. So Lucina Artigas, an EMDR therapist who was there to help, used her training and creativity to develop the Butterfly Hug, giving the traumatized thousands a way to do EMDR on themselves. It’s simple, quick, portable, and free, and you can watch a demonstration here: The Butterfly Hug: Stress Reduction Technique – YouTube
6. Use the power of connection and supportive relationships
Depending on your health, you may, or may not, be able to connect face to face with those you love. If you have underlying health issues that require self-isolating, you may need to rely on the phone or Internet to reap the benefits of connection, love and support. However you do it, use connection to see you through the weeks, or likely the months, ahead. Staying connected to people who care about us is an essential ingredient in getting through trauma. And remember, we are here for you if you need to talk
With your healing at heart,