I received some news this weekend that put me in the trauma zone. No one died or is sick, my health is good, I have a job. I just got some upsetting, disappointing news. A part of my life is not quite what it seemed and it’s thrown me for a major-ish emotional loop. Not to be vague, but the details don’t really matter. What matters is the remarkable thing I noticed when the wave hit–I did not fall apart. Don’t get me wrong, there was some kitchen-floor-based sobbing, but eventually I picked myself up and… made toast and tea. And then I did some exercise. And then talked to a friend. So boring, so lucid, so… kind. Wait, who am I and what have I done with my self?
Much of the time I’m on my case about what I’m not doing enough of or well enough or whatever, so I’m always blown away by the self-mothering instinct that kicks in when it matters. The surprising and not-so-familiar gestures and thoughts of gentle self-compassion–as if I was caring for a friend in the same situation. So I share a little list with you of some things I did and some things I can see doing to self-nurture in the midst of the storm.
1) Cry. Let yourself have that initial release. I cried, screamed into a pillow, and lamented; it subsided and so far hasn’t returned with the same instensity.
2) Bathe. I knew I had to rinse myself of the shock and toxic feelings so I took a non-eco-length shower. And cried some more.
3) Smell Nice. I happen to have a shelf full of essential oils from the health food store for every emotional occasion. I grabbed bergamot and rubbed it into my palms (it’s an uplifting scent), and put a little peppermint oil on my tongue to calm my turbulent tum.
4) Dress Protectively. I bundled up into layers even though it was pretty warm out. It just made me feel comfier, a kind of surrogate layer of emotional skin.
5) Try Some Naturally Calming Substances. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll just tell you what I did without recommending–I took some Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic blend designed to calm trauma; their tagline is “Yoga in a Bottle.” I took an amino-acid supplement called Zen, and I had a little cup of “Calm“–a magnesium-calcium powdered supplement that eases muscle tension.
6) Have Some Toast and Tea. I boiled water, popped a slice of my favorite multi-grain bread in the toaster and nibbled and sipped. So nurturing.
7) Sit By a Window. It felt good to get some light and remember the outside world without actually having to be in it.
8) Keep the Energy Moving. After the sadness came the anger and I knew I had to do something, so I alternated between bouncing on my mini tramp and doing sun salutations with vigor and some warrior poses with intensity. It’s important to keep things flowing so you don’t get stuck and depressed. This can mean just taking some slow calming breaths for a few minutes.
9) Talk to a Friend Who Will Soothe You. Save the tough-love truth-tellers for later. Right now you need empathy, listening, a gentle touch–you need to get what you need, whatever it is that helps you calm down. My buddy came over and let me ramble and we went for a walk.
10) Listen to Music That Will Balance Your Mood. Sometimes when I’m sad, bummer-y music helps me cathart, But other times I need to hear disco when I’m in pain. Sometimes only Krishna Das or Donna De Lory’s Hindu chanting will do. Go through your music collection and listen to snippets until you find something that feels right to you in your gut and your chest.
11) Read Poetry. Art uplifts and transmutes pain without distracting from it. Because my friend is really nice, she let me read one of my favorite poems out loud, “After Cages” by Cin Salach. It reminded me of the whole self-mothing thing, the instinct of self-care that lives in us, that comes out when we’re in need. At one point she writes, “You are your own mother. No one will ever love you more.” Amen–and that, suprisingly, is really good news.
Some features from Beliefnet that also may help with emotional trauma: