Let’s first understand what trauma creates in your body.
When affected by a traumatic event, the human body will create a series of defense mechanism to protect itself. It is important to note that the degree by which you are suffering will be different than what someone else might experience, as you are both unique and complex individuals.
Trauma is affecting the explicit and implicit memory in such a way that your brain is not able to assimilate the traumatic event as a memory, and instead perceives a threat in the present moment. You may be prey to some triggers, or stimuli, that will manifest often without context, and set off some part, or full, memory of the traumatic experience.
Your brain is sending signals to defend itself and it will feel as if the danger is happening right here and now. In my earlier post on EMDR and Trauma, I detail slightly more on what is happening in the brain during the traumatic event and I give more insights of my personal experience as a trauma survivor.
Let’s now clarify what mindfulness is.
If you have been reading my blog for some time, my interest in the work of Thich Nhat Hanh will be no surprise to you. I read many of his books, like Being Peace, True Love, The Art of Mindful Living, Savor, Teachings on Love, and Happiness, because they address mindfulness in every aspect of life.
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”
The fact of training your mind to be aware and focused in the present moment will help you deal with many symptoms of trauma like flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, overwhelming emotions, dissociation, etc.
So how does it work in these challenging moments and how can you apply it?
It is obviously not easy to take a step back while having a panic attack, and therefore bringing mindfulness in your every day is the best way to start: you are creating new habits.
For instance, allowing a few minutes to meditate, regularly doing a body scan in your mind eyes, or noticing your breathing for a few minutes at a time are simple actions that can be integrated in your daily routine.
These basic steps are meant to make you focus on the present moment. So the next time you are experiencing a stressful trigger, acute anxiety, or a panic attack, you may be able to recognize it for what it is. And then, your trained mind will be able to take a step back on the situation for you to become aware of the here and now.