I would like to emphasise that I am "standing on the shoulders of giants" and I would also like to express my immense gratitude to all the trauma specialists who have published their insights so proliferously and thereby enabled me to understand myself more which means I can now better help my clients. Please find below some of the wonderful books written on trauma by some great people, in no particular order:
· Bessel van der Kolk: The Body keeps the Score, 2014.
· Benjamin Fry: The invisible Lion, 2019. (This one has a 28-day recovery plan in the back).
· Janina Fisher: Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors. 2017.
· Babette Rothschild: 8 Keys to safe Trauma Recovery. 2010. (This one has exercises for the reader to do).
· Peter A. Levine: Waking the Tiger. Healing Trauma. 1997.
· Shaeri Richards: Dancing with your Dragon. The Art of Loving your Unlovable Self. 2011. (This is fairly spiritual, in case you are that way inclined).
10 Ideas how to Calm the Nervous System
10 IDEAS HOW TO CALM THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
If you notice that your system is gearing up towards anxiety, you might experience symptoms like an increased heart rate, increased perspiration, an increased rate of breathing, racing thoughts, brain fog, feelings of panic in the pit of your stomach, nausea, etc.
See if you feel drawn to doing one of the following. Everyone is different, so I would encourage you to find out what works for you:
1) Breathe out longer than in. For example, breathe in on the count of 3, out for the count of 4, or however long you can manage in your state of rising agitation. Leave a little pause after your out breath, before you take the next in breath. You can place one hand on your chest and one on your belly while you ate doing this. Open body posture.
2) Do some “door/window frame breathing”. Breathe in while your eyes are sweeping up one side, out while your eyes sweep across the top, in while your eyes are sweeping down, out while your eyes sweep across the bottom. You follow this rectangle for a while, co-ordinating your eye movements and your in- and out breaths. This stops you feeling fearful and anxious.
3) Count calmly backwards from 10 or 20 or 30.… The fear centre of your brain can’t engage at the same time as you are counting.
4) Count 5 red things in your surroundings, 5 blue things, 5 green things…..and name them.
5) Chew some gum. Salivating encourages a positive feedback loop to your brain, signalling “all is well because there is leisure to chew/eat something.” If we were in real danger, we wouldn’t think about chewing/eating.
6) Talk in a deliberately calm voice. Again, this encourages a positive feedback loop as we wouldn’t speak calmly if we were in real danger.
7) Do some Havening touch on yourself. Slowly and calmly stroke your upper arms, the sides of your face, etc. Try to really engage with how soothing that feels on your skin. You can also tap your acupressure points; in the middle of your chest, etc.
8) Listen to some calming music or sing.
9) Engage your senses in any way you like; smell some essential oils, cradle a hot cup of tea, become aware of the temperature/air movement in your environment and how that feels on your skin.
It is a good idea to practice these while you are calm so you know what to do when you notice yourself becoming agitated, fearful and panicky.
If you are worried about being sucked into the negative spiral of a trigger experience, plan ahead and maybe make a list for yourself when you next feel low, so you create choices for yourself in the future, rather than the passive experience of having to endure this bad patch yet again…. Practice helps. If you do this a couple of times, your brain will find it easier to switch to one or two of these activities when your anxiety, distress and agitation is building next time.
This also helps your awareness of what happens in your body when your agitation is building which means you might recognise the signals earlier and use one of the above techniques as soon as you can.
Some people create a box with a lot of love and care for themselves for when they next feel low, with ideas and helpful things, for example pictures, a sachet of hot chocolate powder, pleasant smelly things, sugary sweets, an uplifting poem or an uplifting letter to themselves, whatever you like. Maybe a telephone number of a friend or the Samaritans?
It is useful to create these things in advance as a kind of life line for when we feel low because chances are, we won’t feel like searching around in our brains what to do for the best when we feel lousy.
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