When it comes to healing from childhood trauma, anxiety, no doubt, rears it ugly head. And, might I add rightly so. Because your body is designed to keep you safe and because you grew up in an unsafe environment, your body stays on high alert so that you are aware and prepared. Despite not being in constant danger any longer, your body has been programmed to stay on the edge of danger. Which is why you often struggle with anxiety. As awful as anxiety feels, it really is a somewhat helpful tool just doing it’s job to keep you safe.
Thing is, you are not living in constant danger any longer but your body doesn’t know that. So, it “stands at post” so to speak so that you are immediately aware of impending doom and danger. Like I shared in my previous post, defenses that helped keep you safe are the same ones that, used now, prevent you from the connection required to overcome childhood trauma and live a hopeful, joyful life. So, the question remains, what do you do about an automatic body response that helped you at one time but hinders you now?
The Body’s Role in Healing Childhood Trauma
You learn to get in your body and stay in your body. One simple hack-learn to be present in your body. After all, you are more that just a mind. You are mind, spirit and body. Each part of this trio must be seen compassionately and taught new skills so you can start thriving in a world that no longer threatens your safety. Learning to stay present in your body actually helps the other two parts of you! How cool is that?!
It’s true! Body work helps heal your injured brain and therefore, sends the message to all of you, that you are safe. Sounds pretty simple, however, doing so can present quite a challenge when you have been abused. How so? Who wants to be present in a body that was hurt and traumatized? Suffering from childhood abuse causes damage to your self worth and sense of self. This includes your body. Additionally, many times, survivors struggle with body dysmorphia so connecting with your body might be the last thing you feel like doing.
The good news is that getting started might not be as difficult as you think. I can share that for the longest time, I hated my body, Didn’t want it. Didn’t like it. I had no interest in connecting with it. Which is why I know that the technique I am going to share with you here works. I used it when I felt at my absolute lowest and still use it today.
Healing From Childhood Trauma Requires More Than Mindset
Before I share some helpful tips for staying present in your body, allow me to share a quick story. For several years I had taken up mindfulness. I attended several 8 week courses. I even worked with a mindfulness trained therapist. Additionally, I participated in a 5 day intensive Mindful Self-Compassion retreat/workshop. I had bought into the mindset belief of change your thoughts change your life. Problem was, my life was not changing that much even though I practiced daily.
I started believing that I must not be trying hard enough. I felt so frustrated and angry but it was all I knew.
A couple of years later along came a new therapist. She told me, “Get out of your head and into your body.” She quickly told me how which is why I still love her to this day. Her ability to share the “how” rather than spew out platitudes truly transformed my healing into post-traumatic growth. She elaborated, “Get a journal and each morning check in with how you are feeling. Write down how you feel and where it is in your body.” She looked at me kindly and then added, “And say out of your head. No thinking just describe how you are experiencing your feeling in your body. That’s it.”
Delighted at not having to debate with my thoughts, I left her office and drove right over to TJ Max to look for a cute journal. I started doing what she suggested the very next morning and still do it to this day. The simplicity of it coupled with its tremendous impact transforms anxiety and thus, you! Which is what I want for you guys!
How to Stay Present in Your Body Even When You Don’t Want To
The following exercise reflects one of the activities from Key 4-RECOVER in my Bridge to Breakthroughs coaching program.
Gather the following materials:
- Journal (pick out one that you’ll want to use and like to look at it. That will help you want to use it) 😉
- Colorful markers, pencils, pens
- Downloadable Feeling Wheel
Keep it simple:
- First thing in the morning get your journal and utensil of choice
- Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?”
- Remember you can feel more than one feeling at at time so include all of your feelings
- Write down “Today I am feeling ____________.” (Fill in your feelings)
- Choose the primary feeling and then ask yourself, “Where do I notice this feeling this in my body?”
- If you are struggling with noticing-wiggle those toes or close your eyes and then ask yourself again.
- Be patient with yourself you are learning a new tool
- Write down in your journal what you notice. For example:
- My heart is beating quickly.
- My jaw muscles feel clenched.
- My shoulders are hunched.
- My stomach feels tight.
- If you choose to, you can draw an outline of your body in your journal and color in what you feel which will even further aid in staying present.
Daily Practice Helps the Healing From Childhood Trauma and Abuse
During the day, repeat the process by simple checking in with yourself and just noticing how your body expresses what you feel.
Reminder: stay out of your mind. Just go back to what you feel in your body, No mindset. No positive thinking. Just your body and what you feel. Observe what your body does without judgement. Just describe and notice.
Seems surprisingly simple. Which it is. However, its helpful impact is quite complex. Not too soon after, you might just start to notice that your anxiety has really started to shift.
This breakthrough in managing your anxiety will only further aid in making your next breakthroughs possible. Next thing ya know, you’re moving from surviving to thriving!
You go this!