Where were you 2 years ago today?
We have all been through so much in these 2 years.
There is a part of me ready to move on from the trauma of it all. I’m ready to look ahead to new life and put the past aside.
Yet I have learned that when we rush through experiences, especially intense and life changing ones, we cheat ourselves of the growth and opportunity to recreate ourselves that such times invariably bring.
It is necessary to create space and time to wring out the stress, intensity, and emotions that these times induced in us. If we don’t do the work of letting it move through us, our minds may “think” we have moved forward, but our bodies still contain the intensity of the trauma.
When I see clients in my mind body practice who have received a medical diagnosis, I ask them to think back to what was happening 2 years prior. I learned somewhere along the line in my training that stressful life events impact us deeply and often the reverberations of it don’t manifest into our lives (and bodies) until sometime later.
Although there isn’t a formula for how to successfully release stressful life events and move forward, here are a few tips that have seemed to help me and those with whom I work.
Acknowledge the experience. It is so easy to shove things under the rug, or convince ourselves it “wasn’t that bad”. We often use positive self talk as a way to deny the gravity of what we have experienced. While positivity can be helpful, when it is used to avoid feeling hard things, it can actually be toxic. So give yourself space to accept how hard and loss-inducing these last 2 years were.
Feel it all. Just like we can revert to positive thinking as a way to avoid, we can also use our big brains to stay in thinking, analytic mode as a way to stay distanced from hard stuff. You have to feel to heal. We are often so numbed out from our emotions because they scare us at some level. Who wants to cry? Or feel anger? Or acknowledge the deep grief we feel for all the losses in our world? We forget however that emotions pulse through us within about 90 seconds – if we allow an emotion to surface it actually runs its course fairly quickly. Feeling our emotions is one of the most health-inducing activities we can engage in.
Look for the lesson. In all challenging times, no matter how gut-wrenching, there is deep growth and lessons. In fact it is in the darkest hours of our lives that we have the greatest opportunity for transformation. There is a term in the psychological literature called Post Traumatic Growth. It is the idea that in the midst of deep trauma can come life changing psychological shifts in how we see the world. Those who experience this develop an appreciation for life, an increase in personal strength, awareness of new possibilities, deeper relationships with others, and a spiritual/existential approach to life.
Release. Once we are willing to do all the above steps, there comes a time when release and acceptance are more possible. I think too often we rush to this last step, believing this is what will give us ultimate peace. But if we have shortchanged ourselves by not acknowledging, feeling, or looking for the lesson, the release isn’t as authentic or as lasting. There are certain losses and life changes that we will never fully “get over”. However, with time and inner work, these losses become more of a source of strength than a source of sadness.
Although it seems we are nearing the end of the pandemic (according to a recent report in the medical journal the Lancet), we may need some more time to fully acknowledge, feel, learn from, and release all we have endured.
Join me today at 4PM for community yoga in person or online as we take some moments of silence to acknowledge the millions of people we have lost in the pandemic. We will work with a slow, mindful practice with lots of opportunities for release.
If you are interested in a longer experience exploring this topic, join and my colleague Dr. Rachel McClaren as we lead a workshop on post traumatic growth on March 23.