These are calming activities done for severe panic disorders as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The sudden death of a loved one brings trauma. Traumatic memories are stored differently than other memories. Our brain boxes them up tightly, so we can function in other aspects of our lives. Survival.
The problem is that the brain takes this tightly packaged memory and stores it in the emotional section. Therefore, if we are triggered, met with a stimulus that pops the top off of this boxed memory, we experience the emotions as if the event is happening all over again.
To say that ‘this is overwhelming’ is an understatement. Here are some recommended activities that one can use to calm his or her self down from a panic situation. It’s explained it in the context of PTSD as a result of loss, but it is applicable to many other situations. Parents use this for children when they’re overcome with intense emotions, children who may fall on the spectrum. It can also be useful for anyone overcome with generalized anxiety.
- The A-B-C Trick – My long time friend and fellow writer, Trisha Lynn, talked about this on a Facebook Live that we did together last week (*Link provided at the end of this post.) She explains this activity as first, choosing a category. The example she gives is “Animals”, but you could decide on any category (i.e. food, cars, TV shows). Once your category is selected, go through each letter of the alphabet and name an item within that category. So for Trisha’s category, “Animals”, one could say, “A – Alligator; B – Baracuda; C – Chamillion…” And so on. Do not stop until you’ve reached ‘Z’. Repeat if needed.
- Shoulder Tappin – This was recommended to me by a fellow widower, who experienced intense trauma in his life. Here, the individual takes his or her arms and crosses them over their chest, each hand on his or her shoulders. Then just lightly tap their shoulders with their hands, remaining silent while tapping. (*Also demonstrated on the link provided below)
- Sinus Tapping – Notice the provided photograph. Here, you see where our sinuses are located. In moments of stress, it can be calming to (gently!) tap these areas of your face.
- Square Breathing – The fourth suggestion has four steps: 1. Inhale for 4 seconds. 2. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. 3. Exhale for 4 seconds. 4. Leave your breath held out for 4 seconds. Repeat.
- Totem – This is a term I’ve borrowed from the film “Inception”. In this case, a totem is an object that an individual can focus on in order to ride out the waves of their own emotions. An easy example of this is a fidget spinner or a stress balloon. You can take time to examine these objects in order to ‘reset’ your mind. There’s nothing wrong with distracting yourself with shiny things.
While these exercises won’t cure an individual of any mental health issues, they can be extremely beneficial “in-the-moment”. They don’t replace good sleep, healthy habits, and seeing a professional regularly, but I hope you find them useful for you or your family members during stressful times.
Big love, Megan
*See more on Grief and PTSD as well as some demonstration’s of some of the activities above in a Facebook Live: 31 Main Street FB Live with Megan and Trisha Lynn