I have been hearing from a lot of my clients and people in the Spirit Society family that they are having a really hard time managing their stress and fear right now. This is an understandable feeling, considering everything that is going on right now. It can begin to feel that every time you turn on the tv the news is just getting worse and worse. It also doesn’t help that a lot of people have lost some of their coping mechanisms due to the quarantine. So I wanted to spend a little time giving you some good news that is based on my doctoral research.
While working on my dissertation, I focused on trauma, specifically the positive effects of trauma. What I found was that most people, when experiencing a situation that is a challenge to their world view, i.e. trauma, experience growth instead of PTSD. There is an entire body of research based on Post Traumatic Growth, otherwise known as PTG. In this research, they have found that trauma survivors often grow in the following five areas: more value is placed on life and new priorities are established; relationships with others improve and deepen; people begin to see themselves differently, usually as stronger; new opportunities are recognized; and a spiritual life is created, changed, or deepened. The good news here is that we are definitely experiencing a global trauma or at the very least stress, which means that we also have an opportunity to grow globally as well as personally. I want to walk you through some ways to help with the growth process, as well as how to feel less stressed out and overwhelmed.
1. Dont Resist
The first thing we need to do is to stop resisting what is. In order to experience growth from stress you have to allow your world view to actually change instead of trying to put the pieces of your life back together in the exact same way they were before the traumatic experience occurred. I found in my research that the structure of trauma is very similar to rites of passages that occur in indigenous cultures. In these rituals, an initiate is separated from the community and put through extreme, and often life threatening situations, so that they can reenter the community as an adult. During this process, a shaman guides the initiates and it is his or her job to ensure that they do not try to put the broken pieces of themselves back into the same person that they were, but instead to rearrange them into something new and arguably better. Since most of us do not have the gift of shamans guiding us through this, we have to be our own shaman and rearrange our lives into a new more beautiful picture.
2. Focus on what is going well
Even in the midst of chaos there are always positive things that we can anchor to in order to help pull us through. We just have to make the choice not to get carried away with the storm but instead to look for what is going right or standing still. I do this every day by writing down five small things that I am grateful for. I encourage people to look for the small things because it forces you to pay more attention and be more present. For example, I could say that I am thankful for my family, which I obviously am, but it is more meaningful if I say that I am grateful that my brother sent me that “I love you” text for no reason today. It makes it more tangible and when we are in a shit storm, we need real things to hold on to.
3.Allow yourself to feel
Often times, when people are experiencing a traumatic or stressful situation they push away negative feelings and try to distract themselves because they are uncomfortable. However, I have found that those feelings often carry important messages that tell us what exactly needs to change and why. For example, if you can really allow yourself to feel the anxiety that comes up when thinking about not seeing friends or family and if you sit with that long enough and be curious about why you feel that, you could find that you rely on others for validation instead of being able to validate yourself. By not resisting feelings or trying to stay busy we can hear the messages our feelings bring and allow ourselves to deal with them, make adaptions in our way of being, and let them pass through. I find that journaling and constantly asking yourself why you feel this way really helps with this process.
4. Meditate -
Give yourself the space to be quiet and in the present moment. The benefits of meditation are endless. For one, it helps you to hear the thoughts and feel the emotions that are coming up for you (which is necessary for tip 1 and 3). It also helps you feel more connected to a higher energy source and to the world. I find that if I meditate consistently, it helps me to stay in a good frame of mind and deal with challenges more effectively. If you have a hard time meditating try a guided meditation (I offer a free guided meditation every Monday on instagram) or do a silent walking meditation. There are so many different ways to meditate so just find one that works for you.
5. Move your body -
Negative emotions and thoughts love to get stuck in our bodies. In order to get them unstuck it can be as simple as getting up and moving. Have you ever taken a yoga class or another exercise class and cried? That is you releasing old wounds or negative thought processes. Moving also helps us to think with the intelligence of our entire body instead of just with our brains. So do thirty minutes of activity every day. This can be something gentle like a walk, something calming like yoga, or something more high intensity like a dance class. Whatever it is, move your body to help move your thoughts and emotions more productively.
It is incredibly important to reach out to friends and family or even strangers. I know that this is a weird time of social distancing but feeling connected to other people who are going through the same thing you are is crucial to experiencing growth during times of distress. Some ways that I have been connecting with others is to do Zoom or FaceTime hangouts. Sometimes we just talk or other times we eat dinner together virtually. I have also been having little curb parties with neighbors where I sit on my curb and they sit on theirs and we hang out that way. Helping others also does wonders for your mental and emotional health during times like this. So find little ways that you can do something for someone else. Maybe thats sewing masks, maybe it’s picking up extra toilet paper and leaving it on an elderly persons doorstep, or maybe its sending random kind messages to strangers on social media. Just let people know how you are doing and also check in to see what you might be able to do for others.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that from great chaos comes great opportunity. Rumi said that “the wound is the place from where the light enters you”. So know that in this time of great global wounding, there will also be a whole lot of light coming in. Be ready for it, or better yet be the light yourself. If you need to talk or need some extra help during this time, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post in the comments or on instagram and let us know how you are doing, what you need more of, or maybe what you are grateful for. We are here to listen or do whatever we can to help. Wishing you all growth, ease, light, health, and love during this time.