8 Simple Ways To Have a Mindfulness Moment

Mindfulness has been somewhat of a trend in the recent years, and there’s a good reason for that! Research has shown that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can improve mood, concentration, and relationship satisfaction, as well as reducing stress and pain levels. Brain imaging shows that a regular mindfulness practice can decrease the size of the part of the brain that causes the fight/flight/freeze survival response, which tends to be overactive in trauma  survivors. Integrating the practice of mindfulness into your daily routine is one of the simplest ways to find relief from emotional distress.

So what is mindfulness, anyway? At its core, mindfulness is about non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. We can be mindful about all sorts of things: our breath, our bodily sensations, the sights and sounds around us. When many people picture mindfulness, they see an image of someone sitting in contemplative meditation– while that is certainly one way to do it, mindfulness can also be active! We can mindfully eat, walk, crochet, or just about anything else you can think of. Although it is rooted in Buddhist meditation practices, mindfulness as a skill is separate from any religious or spiritual traditions, and can easily be implemented as part of a daily self-care routine.

Here are 8 simple ways to get started on a mindfulness practice today.

Continue reading “8 Simple Ways To Have a Mindfulness Moment”

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Maybe Not.

Once again, the holiday season is upon us. For some people, this really is the most wonderful time of the year, as they look forward to time off from work and school and the opportunity to spend quality time with their family and friends. But for many others, the holidays are a difficult time rather than a joyful one. The pressure of buying gifts and traveling to visit family can create a lot of stress, especially for those who are struggling with financial difficulties. For people who struggle with seasonal affective disorder, or the “winter blues”, the shorter days and reduced amount of sunlight that accompany this time of year can lead to feelings of sadness, fatigue, and other symptoms of depression. Holidays can also be a painful reminder of loved ones who have died, especially when the loss is a recent one.

This time of year can be particularly painful for trauma survivors. People who have experienced trauma may find that their traumatic stress symptoms and triggers worsen around this time of year. The holidays can exacerbate the feelings of “otherness” that many trauma survivors feel, as they see the contrast between the joyousness of those around them and their own pain and suffering. For people who are survivors of dysfunctional childhood families, the thought of “going home for the holidays” may be bringing up feelings of dread rather than excitement.

Here are a few ideas to help you survive the holiday season this year:

Continue reading “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Maybe Not.”

When the News is Triggering: Self-Care Tips for Survivors of Sexual Trauma

Anyone who has been paying attention to social media for the past month is aware of the increase in the conversation happening online about sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. It all started with the revelations that movie producer Harvey Weinstein had been threatening and assaulting women for decades. Since then, many more women and men have stepped forward and shared their stories of abuse and coercion at the hands of powerful men in Hollywood. The list of public figures who have been named as abusers grows longer each day.

In response to these revelations, the hashtag #metoo went viral across multiple forms of social media, as people shared their own stories to bring attention and awareness to the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment. “If all women who have been sexual harassed or assaulted wrote “me too” as a status,” the viral campaign stated, “we might be able to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

These conversations are so important, and they need to be happening. Sexual assault and harassment are incredibly common, and yet so often these painful experiences are shrouded in shame and secrecy. Continue reading “When the News is Triggering: Self-Care Tips for Survivors of Sexual Trauma”

Giving Thanks to Yourself.

This time of year, everyone seems to be talking about being thankful. But how often do we direct those feelings of love and gratitude towards self-appreciation? As we give thanks to the things in our lives for which we are grateful, from our friends and family to the food on our table, we almost always forget the most important one: ourselves.

Those things that exist outside of us are the easiest to focus on, as it doesn’t take any self-reflection to see them. Turning our focus inwards to pay attention to the things we love and appreciate about ourselves can be overwhelming at first. For trauma survivors, it can be especially difficult to learn how to love and honor the self. However, the practice of self-love is essential to the healing process. When you can truly see and appreciate all aspects of yourself, you increase your capacity to see the truth in others and experience deeper and more authentic feelings of love and appreciation all around.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few easy ways to tap into some gratitude for yourself. Continue reading “Giving Thanks to Yourself.”

Victim vs. Survivor, and Why It Matters.

Anyone who has spoken to me in any depth on the topic will have heard me use the word “survivor” when describing individuals who have experienced childhood abuse, sexual trauma, or any kind of interpersonal violence. Some people have asked me, why do I choose to use the term “survivor” over the more commonly used term “victim”? And why’s the distinction so important anyway? Let us see what the dictionary has to say on the matter:

vic·tim: one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent; one that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed under any of various conditions; one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment.

sur·vi·vor: one who lives through affliction; one who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks. Continue reading “Victim vs. Survivor, and Why It Matters.”