Why You Are Not Your Thoughts.

Has anyone else been struggling with panic, paranoia, or just anxious, unwanted thoughts? That your thoughts have been playing on a loop? Maybe it’s because I decided to take a break from drinking again (for how long? a week.. or forever.. I haven’t decided yet,) only to realize that it’s a lot HARDER than I remember from the last time I did it. Yet, that’s another post for another day.

I found this book at The Chakra Shack, in Laguna Beach, California. I didn’t think I needed it back then. Honestly, I didn’t REALLY realize I needed it until I decided to quit this past weekend. Coolest store by the way, if you’re into crystals and shit.

Or maybe it’s because it’s that time of the month, I burned myself from this innocent looking, sloth heating pad I got from Urban Outfitters, or that the 800mg of Advil still doesn’t take away the needle stabbing pain from my IUD. (But completely worth the pain because hormones and pills…. or hormones in the form of a pill are things I try to stay clear from.) The mind and body are more connected than we may realize. Which is why I’ve learned that if your body isn’t at it’s best, your mind will suffer. Anyway, back to the point of this post: this morning I remembered I wrote this on my old blog back in January 2019. I hope it helps you if this is something you’ve been battling. (The trick is, to not battle with it. You’ll see what I mean as you keep reading.)

Sloth Heating Pad From Urban Outfitters.

You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are, well, just thoughts. For so many years, I let negative thoughts hold such power over my mood and actions. Whether it was a negative thought about how I perceived myself or an unsettling memory from when I was a kid, I would let one thought push me into a downward spiral and taint the rest of my day. I believed that I had no control over this. There was this strong belief that those thoughts were a reflection of me.

If you or someone you know struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder or any form of addiction, you may have noticed that they will get hooked on one thought or urge. It’s can feel like the individual is blind sighted by anything else but that thought. And the more you (or they) try to not think about it, the more you do. (Ever heard of the saying: Don’t think of the pink elephant?) It’s beyond frustrating and can leave one to think that there’s absolutely no hope in changing their present mood or actions. This can apply to those who suffer from depression as well. There may be a hopeless feeling or thought that they feel they cannot let go of. If you can resonate with any of these scenarios, I want to tell you this:

Your thoughts aren’t you. You are not a bad person for thinking those thoughts. Furthermore, your thoughts don’t have to dominate your emotions or actions. You are not a victim to your thoughts. And most importantly: your thoughts don’t have permission to make you give in to an urge or addictive behavior. That stupid little thought doesn’t have power over your arms or legs. You do. (Now I get it, easier said than done, but bear with me.)

Now, it is impossible to control the thoughts that may arise from time to time. But it is in your power to chose how you respond to them. 

For example, someone who may suffer from depression may think a negative thought about themselves. Such as:

“I should be able to do more like everyone else.”
“Why is it so hard for me to have hope and stay motivated?”
“I feel so guilty for burdening everyone around me.”
“I’m a jerk.”
“I’m always sad. It’s easier for others to be happy.”
“I am a bad person because I did x, y, and z back in 2010.”

Then, along with that thought probably comes with hundreds of reasons that support that belief to be true. The more we focus on that thought, whether negative or positive, our brain will try to find all the evidence it can to back that thought up.  And man, anyone who is thrown into a sea of thoughts like that is bound to be depressed.

So, right now, I want you to imagine you are standing beside a stream in the woods. As you hear the rushing water cascade down from the forest’s peak, you look down and notice thousands of fish swimming down the stream. Some are grey, camouflaging with the stones that lie at the bottom of the stream. Swimming alongside the grey ones is a bunch of bright blue fish.
Think of these fish as your thoughts.
You cannot control how many grey ones are swimming in the creek just as much as how many blue ones are there. Now, as all of the fish are swimming down the stream, you reach down to pick one up. You get to decide on which fish you pick up. It not in your control over which fish passes you down the stream at that moment in time, but- it is your choice of which color fish you pick up and look at.

Also, it is completely in your power to decide how long you are going to hold and observe the fish, whether it is for five minutes, or the rest of the day. (Don’t ac

tually do this! ) You can also just notice that grey or blue fish as you let it swim by past you instead of picking it up at all.

That’s how it is with your thoughts. Sometimes there will be negative thoughts about yourself that arise through time to time. That doesn’t mean that thought is true. It’s just a thought. The reason why it may feel true is that for most of your life you’ve just focused on that thought and created the evidence to support it.

Now, I know that there are genetic and biochemical factors and components for depression, OCD, and addiction. I’m not saying this is a cure-all concept or idea, but it can definitely save you from going into a downward spiral for the rest of your day.

For example last night, I ran into someone I knew years ago. I used to have this belief that they thought I was a chaotic mess. This morning, as I was folding my laundry, a negative assumption of how they may have perceived me passed through my mind. Immediately, (as I unconsciously picked up the grey fish) I began to go back to that scenario of running into them last night and picked apart all the reasons and evidence of why they may have thought negatively about me when we ran into each other.

Suddenly, I stopped myself. I let myself get hooked onto the thought and the storyline of how this person might think that: I’m too whimsical, unorganized, and can’t keep up with life. After I became aware, I told myself “that’s just a thought.” Because really, there are tons of thoughts that were going through my mind at that moment, I just chose to delve into that specific one and the storyline of what they thought of me based on past interactions from years ago. Swimming alongside with that thought were other thoughts such as the moments of laughter I had with the friends I was with that night or that I ran out of coffee this morning and need to go pick some up.

***I think that a lot of us may have felt a certain way about ourselves based on one or two experiences in life, and then have continued to believe that story and perception of ourselves as well as projecting that belief onto people who we meet in the future.

Even as intuitive as you may be, we never truly know what the other person is thinking.
Even if that person I ran into did think that way about me… It doesn’t mean I actually am a mess. I could have spent the rest of the day believing and living as if I am chaotic or disorganized. I could have stopped folding my laundry. But I didn’t. I chose to pick up the other fish and create my own story of how I see myself.  And I had a fucking great day.
Also, constantly focusing on the thoughts of how we perceive ourselves, how the people around us to is going to drive anyone crazy. Try observing something outside of yourself. It gets you out of your mind.

Next time a negative thought about yourself or an urge to *drink, smoke, blah blah ..etc..etc..* arises, just watch it like a fish down the stream. It may stand out to you more than the others, but this is because you are used to giving that specific thought more attention. Over time, the thought will not seem as true, threatening, or loud once you practice observing it and not believing it.
Sometimes, the thoughts may seem intrusive or you may feel like the words are shouting out at you. But remember, the response is in your power. Instead of picking up the thought and finding evidence for it. Just respond like this:

“Hmm, interesting. Anything else you (the thought) would like to say before I move on?” “Yeah I know it would feel great to __ right now. But I’m not going to.” 
When the thoughts are strong: the trick is to respond curiously and almost neutrally. Because the more you argue about giving into an addictive behavior or stream of negative beliefs about yourself, you are still giving tons of energy and attention to that thought and it’s going to wear you down.

Trust me. The more attention you give something, negative or positive, the more it will come to fruitation. So, if you are trying to stop the thought or argue with it—don’t. Just let it know you see it, and then try to observe all the other thoughts/fish that may be swimming in the background of your mind.

The present moment is all that matters. What you did 3 minutes ago or 10 years ago doesn’t have to be the determining factor of how you live right now. You are a good person. Don’t let one event or a few interactions with others affect the rest of your life.
Even if someone did straight up say to you that you are a *insert negative noun* -it’s just one of those grey fish in someone else’s mind. That thought of theirs..it just doesn’t matter. Because it’s just an opinion. 

And you know what? Maybe I do act disorganized, whimsical, and have a hard time keeping up with life. But that doesn’t mean I AM disorganized, whimsical, and have a hard time keeping up with life. I can be organized and grounded when I feel like it….. And the same goes for you!
So fuck those grey fish. They are only as real as you believe them to be.
Next time you catch yourself picking up a grey fish and are about to fall down a staircase of negativity. Just watch this video before you continue your day: (A video my dad made me watch in the midst of a panic attack at some point during high school haha.)

Why You Should Break Away From Extremes

How you do one thing, is how you do everything.

-Iyanla Vanzant

Yeah, I’m a Gemini, but in no way will I ever use that as the reason as to why I’ve always struggled to find “The Middle Path.” Just over year ago, you’d most likely find me at the local yoga studio downtown, sipping on cranberry kombucha, slathering coconut and eucalyptus oil on my body every night before bed, taking long hot baths with Epsom salts, and living off of sweet potatoes, green juice, and quinoa. Then, the next week I’d be at least three shots in of Smirnoff (of my 100 lb frame at the time) during my evening biology class that usually followed up with smoking cigarettes in my car until I was sober enough to drive. I’d swing from the chandelier, (almost literally) from one side of the spectrum to the other. There were moments of putting lavender and eucalyptus essential oils on my wrists, keeping citrine crystals in my bra or pockets wherever I went, and juice cleansing for a week. Then there were also the moments of landing at midnight in San Diego, still drunk and letting my cousin give me acupuncture while she was high. Which then led to continual drinking the rest of the time I visited family, ruining my mothers “girls wine tasting trip” to the Funk-zone in Santa Barbara when she turned around to find me lying down on the sidewalk, under a tunnel, and had to peel me off the dirty pavement. We have never gone on one since, and I can understand why.

The Funk Zone
Hangover Acupuncture from my Californian cousin.

Once my therapist quoted to me, “How you do one thing, is how you do everything.” At first, I really didn’t get it. I mean, I got it, but I didn’t really take a deep look into applying that to my life. A common theme has been extremes. If I felt like I relapsed a little bit, I’d run with it. If I felt like I was finally getting my act together, I’d run with it. What was the precursor to either extreme was by all or nothing thinking, and disregarding listening to my body. 

How you do one thing, is how you do everything.” If you’ve been the person who always said, “tomorrow I’ll start,” and then ended up drinking 10x more than you would, smoked your entire “last” pack of cigarettes, started a 10-day water fast or some weird shit like the 70’s Vogue Diet only to resort back to your “higher calorie” trail mix and kale chips…this post is for you.

A food journal entry from a few years ago… yikes is right

There are three categories of tools to use in times of stress, overstimulation, or just feeling overwhelmed. Category 1, 2, and 3. Category 1 sums up the habits you probably are trying to break. Category 2 consists of the things we do but prefer not to talk about, and Category 3 is mostly what we understand as “positive” coping tools. The idea is for you to categorize your own tools, coping habits, and incorporate new ones as well. Once you see them written down on a piece of paper, you’ll be able to understand the dynamics of your cycles and patterns, see how often and why you use negative coping tools, to navigate a starting point of recovery when you aren’t sure if you really want to recover yet, or just feel like you need to find awareness of what you have been doing. By writing it all down on one piece of paper, it also takes away the shame and all or nothing thinking-because, in the end, they are all coping behaviors.

Category 1: Wine, cigarettes, weed, starving, counting calories, water fasts, Xanax, Tito’s in your GT’s Synergy Kombucha, keeping airplane bottles in your car..basically any form of using booze to escape, throwing up, sleeping pills, casual sex with randos, laxatives, Tinder Men (especially Tinder Sams and a few of the women on there), Men who keep asking for pics, credit cards you shouldn’t be using, running so often that you get stress fractures in both legs, or bleaching your hair after drinking a bottle of wine.

My “Tinder Sam” Saga Back In March
Archived from my Instagram story
Meanwhile, I should’ve been doing homework.

Category 2: Hours of reading the elephant journal or about astrology, spending almost all of the money you saved for groceries on new journals or mediums, three cups of black coffee, taking too much b12, dark chocolate, Instagram, running out at 10 pm before CVS closes to buy a vibrator because you threw your old one out for using it too much, spending an unnecessary amount of money on crystals, sage, maca powder, and goji berries.

Category 3: Hot lemon water, epsom salt baths, Peppermint or Kava Tea, Essential Oils, Hot Yoga, Yoga, singing at the top of your lungs, L-Glutamine/Amino Acid therapy (highly recommend if you are quitting drinking), long walks, short walks, binaural beats, affirmations, meditations such as “Fuck That Meditation” and “Aaron Doughty’s Meditations,” headstands, green juice (for minerals and electrolytes), coconut oil, crystals, Yin Yoga, FaceTime your friends, journal with spelling and grammar errors in a stream of consciousness style of writing, walk in the forest or on the beach, turn off your phone, sparkling water, Tito’s-free kombucha, Self-Defense Class, Acupuncture, Reiki, reading life changing books such as Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself, The Body Keeps The Score, Quit Like A Woman, The Fuck It Diet (by my cousin Caroline…where you’ll also probably learn a lot about my family’s past weird diets, and the not so normal moments that I thought were normal, for example: when my mom poured a bowl of “frozen blueberries” for my neighborhood friends, called it dessert, and none of the kids on our street ate at our house ever again.)

Anyway, you can tell Category 1 coping tools aren’t anywhere near the “goal” and that Category 2 isn’t preferable, but it doesn’t have as many repercussions as Category 1. Category 3 is what we may have learned about in self-help books, rehab, or therapy-it’s what we “should” be doing.

Now, I want you to try to categorize your own tools you use. Once you do that, I want you to realize and accept that it’s actually better to end up in mostly Category 2, while integrating parts of Category 3. I know it doesn’t sound ideal, or like your perfect version of “Recovery,” but I promise it’s a lot better than going all in for 3, and end up burning out and then resorting back to all of the coping mechanisms in Category 1.

If you feel impatient with your progress and want to resort to an extreme method or if you’ve relapsed, I suggest learning about The Middle Way. For example: If you started smoking again after you quit, instead of hyper-focusing on not smoking, start incorporating behaviors from Category 3. It’s extremely difficult to quit cold turkey when you don’t have any coping mechanisms you’ve practiced and have evidence that they’ve worked. It’ll be smoother (as much as it can be) when you decide to quit again.

**Another Tool I learned today in group therapy (after discussing my recent impulsive decisions) is to set a fifteen-minute timer every time you feel an urge. Once it ends and if the urge is still there, try it again. However, if you feel like you CANNOT possibly set that timer again or that you don’t know if you want to quit whatever it is, then let yourself do engage in the habit-after the 15 minutes. This actually helps your brain over time, rewire itself to pause before taking action instead of going straight into engaging in the habit. This technique is definitely a form of practicing moderation. However, I go back and forth with this idea because there are some habits and urges that you can’t fuck with, like oxy or mixing liquor with Xanax or perhaps just drinking in general. I think in therapy she was referring more to the most recent event of deciding to bleach my hair while drunk. (I did pause, for what I recall being ten minutes, with a bowl of bleach in my hand.)

TRAUMA AND THE BODY

Let me first start by saying Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is a brilliant, brilliant man. He’s an author who has dedicated tons of his research towards PTSD. You may have heard of his book, The Body Keeps The Score. After reading this book a while back and listening to many interviews with him, I was not surprised when I found out his approach to treating trauma is done through bodywork, such as yoga. In fact, yoga addressed many trauma wounds that talk therapy was not able to reach or heal.

 Dr. Bessel van der Kolk talked about the two most common therapies that are used in a New York Times Magazine post: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. He stated that the purpose of this therapy is to “desensitize” the patient to the fear, which isn’t effective therapy for trauma because desensitization is not the same thing as healing. The other therapy commonly used, CBT,  is where the patient will look at their thoughts and see the illusions with a rational perspective. However, again, he pointed out that this is another ineffective therapy for trauma because “Trauma has nothing to do with cognition, it has to do with your body being reset to not interpret the world as a dangerous place.” Trauma needs to be reset in the primitive parts of the brain, which talk therapy, or CBT, cannot reach.

Most therapy uses the “top-down” approach, which addresses the “evolved” part of the brain, otherwise known as the neocortex. This is where you’ll talk and learn to observe your emotions and thoughts. Now, of course, this is helpful, but trauma is stored in the body through sensory. You cannot rationalize with that part of you that goes into “fight or flight”. This is why therapies such as EDMR, brain spotting, somatic therapy, yoga, and hypnosis really help propel one’s recovery from sexual abuse.

This is also why addiction is hard to break when it is just approached by addressing emotions. We must understand that aside from emotions and genetic factors, the limbic system in the body is highly activated. You cannot rationalize with surfacing addiction urges, just like you cannot rationalize with PTSD triggers. This is why this “bottom-up” therapy approach can help with addiction, especially if trauma related. I talked in my podcast (Episode 2) this past week about how to deal with this part of the brain, which is the limbic system.

I thought that by avoiding certain people, places, sounds, or experiences would prevent me from being triggered. Yet, after trauma your entire nervous system is still on high alert, meaning your body is still acting as if you are still in the trauma. If you are someone, or know someone that experiences frequent flashbacks, nightmares, or can’t seem to be brought down to earth, then here are some suggestions that have helped me, and still to this day continue to. The “bottom-up” approach to healing trauma is essential. It really gave me a glimmer of hope when I felt like I was failing talk therapy that I had been going to for years.

Types of Therapies That Address The Body:

-Trauma Sensitive Yoga

-EDMR

-Somatic Therapy

-Brain Spotting

-Neurotherapy

-Hypnosis

-EFT (tapping)

-Accupressure

-Massage

-Acupuncture

Books, Videos, and Resources:

The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté

Episode 2: Breaking Away From Old Thought Patterns, Behaviors, and Addiction.

Gentle & Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Sequence for Grounding and Upper Body Release (Video)

What Once Served A Purpose

It was at a hot yoga class a week ago when the instructor had us go into frog pose. My body tensed up at just hearing the words “frog pose” and even more so as I sank deeply into it. Even though I’d focus on loosening up my shoulders, jaw, and hips one at a time, my muscles still tightened up seconds after I went focused on the next part of my body. I was ready to sprint the hell out of that 90 degrees heated room.

Like life, nothing is permanent, not even frog pose. Eventually, the instructor-led us into a restoring savasana and said, “This savasana would feel very different if we didn’t go through all of the poses before. It wouldn’t have felt as rejuvenating.”

That got me thinking.

Trauma is experiencing extreme discomfort that isn’t controllable. To self protect, survivors have learned to dissociate and find other coping mechanisms such as addictive behaviors to escape that discomfort. The behaviors had served the purpose of protecting us from feelings, memories, and experiences that we felt unable to handle. However, if we’re constantly numbing ourselves from the discomfort, we won’t be present to feel the pleasure in life either.

Numbing yourself with drugs or alcohol before sex can be a way to protect you from those flashbacks, but that also comes with never being able to truly connect with someone through sex. That trust and safety that you really desire within, will never come from numbness. In fact, it distances you not only from your partner but your body and spirit as well. The same goes for eating disorders, those behaviors give you that illusion of control but you are actually destroying your body as well as many other areas of life such as relationships, work, school, or inspiration for the future. Addictions such as these becoming replacements of where the trauma is in your mind but takes away your attention from everything else too.

Ah, just one of the 4am walks across town that I barely remember.

One of the greatest milestones in healing from sexual trauma is learning to remain still and present during the discomfort. If we learn to be present in those moments, we also will start to notice other ways to respond to it rather than numbing out. Not being stoned, high, or drunk during sex gave me the awareness to know what exactly causes anxiety as well as the opportunity to speak up about it. It gave me back my own power in what I experience, rather than hoping for the best while numbing out from it. Making the promise to stop abandoning oneself while passing through the obstacles of discomfort will illuminate the opportunities of solutions to it.

Doing your best to remain grounded during these moments is key. Try scanning your body to locate where the anxiety is manifesting and then breathe into it. If you feel like you’re pulled up into a tornado of thoughts, focus on bringing attention to your lower body like your legs or feet.

If you are alone and are experiencing panic, one of the best tools I have learned was EFT, also known as tapping. Now, at first, I thought it was stupid and tedious. Yet over time, it has become one of the most helpful coping mechanisms that bring me out of that whirlwind of panic after experiencing anxiety. A great resource is Brad Yate’s YouTube channel. Try his “Trauma and Abuse” and “Sex Issues” EFT videos.

When we learn to observe the discomfort and remain present, we can ask ourselves what we need to feel safe. Maybe you have been in survival mode for most of your life, but now, I want you to know that you deserve to thrive and live a life of adventure and freedom while also feeling at peace. I promise, with time, you’ll learn how to move through your own versions of frog pose in life.

Stay With Yourself

I can’t tell if my head is throbbing because I’ve been crying for days on end or extreme dehydration from sweating out the remaining water in my body during hot yoga this past week. I’m writing this post on a Friday morning. Whereas I usually already have a blog post written and published by then. My world seems like it’s crumbling down. It feels like I’ve washed ashore, coughing up all the saltwater from the sea.

Last weekend I filed an emergency PFA. Right now, it’s too fresh to talk about in-depth and I want to speak about it when I’m in less of an emotionally charged state. What I will say is that it hit me hard with heavy emotional parallels from the past. I haven’t felt such an inherent sense of sadness in a long time. I can understand why most people don’t report because the court process is the most overwhelming experience. I honestly would’ve given up if I wasn’t so concerned about being protected.

I left work early because I couldn’t stop crying. Last night, I began to romanticize in my mind three glasses of wine and Xanax. Or the field trips to multiple liquor stores throughout the week because of the embarrassment of about what the cashiers would think of my frequent trips if I continually went to the same one. I’ve come too far from those habits to go back to them. Right now, I need to be that dependable person that I needed when I was younger. I cannot worry like my mother did, about what others would think, losing relationships, causing ruined relationships. Instead, I need to take my power back and become that person I would be in a heartbeat for someone else.

If you’re like me and tend to escape the chaos through substances or getting another tattoo, try pausing and using these tools below instead.

“Stressors” from Feb 2020

Write: Just write down a list of stressors, they sound irrational but it’s a cathartic release. I learned this from my woman’s studies professor who would have us write what we were stressed about before class.

Do Some Fucking Yoga: The waves of sadness and frustration washed ashore through each vinyasa flow. Pigeon pose will also aid in the release of emotions.

Focus on Health: Instead of red wine, I’ve been drinking a ton of GT’s cranberry kombucha. Instead of relapsing or living off of only green juice and cigarettes, I’ve been making berry smoothies and salads. Lot’s of Liposomal Vitamin C and Zinc to support immunity. Also GABA and L-Theanine for stress. If you don’t know about amino acids and their functions I suggest reading Julia Ross’s books.

Cry: It’s detoxifying, healing, and extremely embarrassing when it happens at work.

Take a Walk in Nature: Listen to podcasts (I personally like Aaron Doughty’s and That’s So Retrograde). Repeat mantras and affirmations (there are tons of YouTube videos.)

Make the promise to never abandon yourself. There are so many “should’s” that cloud our minds as well as concerns about people’s opinions. But you can’t let that stop you from protecting yourself. No one has the right to release their anger physically on you, no one has the right to tell you and decide if their actions and words are making you uncomfortable. Go with yourself.

If you are struggling with dark thoughts and feel like there is no escape, here is a link to a post I wrote on my old blog about moving through the darkness.

Coming Back To The Body

“The next morning, I pulled off my clothes and slid into the lukewarm water. I sat there smoking a cigarette with the window open. A light swish of air came sweeping through the white tiled bathroom. For as long as I can remember, I hated taking baths. I felt like they made you sink to the bottom of yourself, all the way down to the basement of your body where all the clutter you refuse to look at resides from childhood. But, my habits soothed the discomfort. So even if I had sunken down past the floorboards of my surface self, I wouldn’t have been conscious enough to feel or recognize it. Last night’s dream kept replaying like a tape. The feelings began crawling into the corners of by body, as I felt it over again. Quickly jolting out of it, I noticed the ripples of water began to smooth. The bathtub water became a clear surface, reminding me of the calm after the nightmares. Climbing out of the pools of memories and into a white towel, I squeezed the excess water out of my hair. Through the foggy mirror, I saw my freckles magnified by my streaming tears. I splashed cool water on my face and opened the door. I knew what was coming.” 

-excerpt from “The Pavement” by Fiona McHugh 

After the sexual assault, there’s a sense of extreme discomfort when living in one’s skin. Sometimes it feels easier to leave your body abandoned. Addictions such as drinking, eating disorders, smoking, OCD rituals, all sorts of drugs, self-harm, sex (which may not make sense, but I’ll talk about this one in a future post) are often ways one escapes the present discomfort of living in the body. Some survivors have attempted to/have taken their lives because of the many overwhelming effects of the trauma that feel impossible to escape. I’ve personally been there, when the flashbacks happened constantly throughout the day and night- I lived in terror more than the present moment.

Abandoning the body is a form of self-protection, it is a natural human response to trauma. I don’t know about you, but I used to (and still do sometimes) feel like I’m floating above myself rather than living in my skin. At first, any type of action that was grounding terrified me. Breathwork, putting lotion on my body, baths, being held or hugged, seated meditation or savasana, all freaked me the fuck out. All of these actions brought me out of my head and awakened my physical senses. Almost every time, I’d go into fight or flight mode and find the nearest escape exit from the situation.

As someone who had an incredibly difficult time sitting still in one’s skin, I learned that going from being dissociated to grounded is an overwhelming feeling and oftentimes left me going into panic rather than a sense of calm. The trick is to ease yourself back into your body, and not to rush the process.

For example, instead of doing a cross-legged breathing mediation, try going on a long walk while doing breathwork or doing a vinyasa flow while repeating a mantra/affirmation. Or if putting lotion or coconut oil all over your body is too overwhelming, try your arms and then next time, another part of your body. If baths freak you out, try sitting in one for the length of a song.

This may sound ridiculous or absurd to someone that hasn’t gone through trauma. Like, taking baths??? Putting on lotion?? Even a freaking hug?? If someone has been dissociated and detached from feeling the sensations in their body, actions like this can trigger an overwhelming sense of fear because it draws oneself back to their body.

The first steps to take are to remind yourself that your body is safe to live in. I’m not saying you have to claim that you love your body right now or that you feel confident and 100% safe being in it. The trick is to do small things that bring you closer to feeling safe in your skin. And even in moments when you don’t, (because, hey, I still have moments like that) you know that you have the power and ability to decide to leave the situation.

So, some practices that can help you come back to your body are:

  1. Walking barefoot on the grass, soil, or along the beach.
  2. Focus on how your body feels while doing sun salutations.
  3. Hold onto a crystal or stone and focus on how it feels when holding it in your hands.
  4. Plant your feet on the floor, (or even stomp) to bring you back to your present surroundings. Or jump up and down while focusing on the balls of your feet.
  5. Clench your muscles in a certain part of your body, count down to three, and release. This is called the Muscle Relaxation Technique.
  6. Be intentional about the clothes you wear, or your hair and makeup if you are into that. (This act is a reminder to oneself on how to act gently towards the body and taking care of it.)
  7. Splash your face with cool water.
  8. Paint your nails
  9. Dance
  10. Sing or chant
  11. Try going to get a massage, fitness class, or acupuncture session.
  12. YOGA
  13. Write a list of the good things that would come if you stopped the abandoning/self-harm habits.

Like I said above, small steps. I know how overwhelming it feels to dive deep into a grounding practice. When you slowly start doing small things to bring yourself back to your body, you are teaching it that it can trust in you- and it can. This wasn’t your fault, and I want you to know you are safe and your body still loves you. It has done everything to keep you alive and is more than willing to trust you.

Not My Image