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How to Get Emotionally Unstuck During the Pandemic

How to Get Emotionally Unstuck During the Pandemic

One of the hallmarks of trauma are feeling powerless, stuck and unable to change the situation we are in. And that is because when traumatic events occurred we were a victim of our circumstances and had no way of avoiding or changing what has happened.

For example, when we were children, we didn’t have any choice in how our caregivers responded to us. And a real threat as this pandemic brings tied with the feeling of being stuck inside the house and maybe seeing that old soothing tools/things that used to make us feel better are no longer help us may bring us back to those early times when we had no choice and no way to make things better for ourselves.

If you feel this way, this post is to let you know you are not alone.

Feeling like we cannot find relief no matter what we do can be so challenging and you have all the reasons to feel activated and even angry at the situation. Actually, I encourage you to allow the anger to come up and release it in healthy ways – maybe going for a run or shouting into a pillow.

And I also want to let you know that even when things seem as stuck as they used to be, our current adult version has options.

Get unstuck

Here’s a few things that may help us show our nervous system that we are not back in the traumatic event, but in a present where we can do things to get unstuck:

  1. Notice when thoughts like “nothing works, there is no point” pop up and try to look at them like an observer “I am having the thought that nothing works” without arguing with that thought
  2. Get back into your body – get curious about the sensations you are feeling and gently look around and describe the place you are in (out loud or mentally) – this will bring yourself back into the present
  3. Seek evidence when the tools you use do work, or simply when you are feeling more centered. Take out your phone or a piece of paper and write down “I felt anxious and I have tried x or y soothing tool and I actually feel calmer” or “Even though this days I have the thoughts that it does not get better, I now notice my mind is more clear and I am enjoying my cup of coffee”
  4. If you tried soothing tools that did not work, that’s okay. Our job is to simply bring our attention back into the present moment as many times as we can with orientating tools like taking in the surroundings to show our nervous system that we are no longer back when we were stuck and powerless. With practice, this can help us heal the past and disconfirm the beliefs that we are powerless.

You are not alone and whatever you are going through makes so much sense.

Remember – We are navigating these challenging times together.

Sending love,

Sorina

What are the Fight, Flight and Freeze Responses?

What are the Fight, Flight and Freeze Responses?

Our bodies have two complementary nervous systems: 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝘆𝗺𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗰 (arousing) and 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘀𝘆𝗺𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗰 (calming). Both are needed not only for psychological balance but for survival. Without a parasympathetic modification, the heart would beat too quickly to sustain life.

In an ideal situation, there is a smooth balance between the two nervous systems. The sympathetic is dominant in action, exercise, emotional and sexual arousal, as well as in stressful situations. The parasympathetic takes over in relaxation, sleep, meditation, massage, gentle touch, connecting deeply with another person etc.

When there is a real or perceived threat, the sympathetic system automatically goes to a fight or flight response. Either fighting or fleeing can resolve the stress. If neither is possible or successful, the sympathetic arousal can get so extreme that it is too much for the body to handle, going into total shutdown mode, sending the person into a state of freeze.

This can be a full collapse, dissociation, or a more partial freeze such as an inability to think clearly or access words or emotions, or to move parts of the body.

We see this intense response in animals as well short term—example: the goat that freezes completely when scared. However, animals get out of the freeze response once the threat is gone. For humans, on the other side, it can continue even after the threat is gone.

Knowing how these states manifest is crucial for understanding how we should self-soothe and show our bodies we are now safe. Trying to convince ourselves to get out of these states is futile since even entering these states is not something we do with awareness – The amygdala perceives the threat even before cognition happens. That’s why we may have panic attacks even though nothing threatening has actually happened.

Photo source: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-stay-calm-in-a-chaotic-stressed-out-world/

 

 

How to Heal Avoidant Attachment Style

How to Heal Avoidant Attachment Style

Background

People with avoidant attachment styles have a tendency to stay away from intimacy or to diminish the importance of relationships. They often were neglected: left alone too much as children, rejected by their caregivers, or their parents weren’t present enough (or only present when teaching them some type of task). Those with avoidant attachment have disconnected from their attachment system, so reconnecting to others in safe and healthy ways is extremely important.

For a child who is supposed to be nurtured and soothed by their caregivers, having no one to reach out for having those needs met is terrifying. And, to stay alive, the child learned to repress those needs and pretend like they don’t have any simply because there was no one there to respond to them.

I know that having these survival mechanisms might have contributed to you finding no reasons for building a long-lasting relationship. And by all means, that is a personal choice we all can make.

But my mission here is to share with you the reason why romantic relationships can be nourishing and can actually enhance our good traits, because you probably may be thinking about all the reasons why romantic relationships are actually a distraction and a lot of work. Even the most successful people say they could not be where they are without the secure base provided by their partners. Tony Robbins, the international coach, public speaker and philanthropist who helps millions of couples repair their relationships mentioned in an interview how his wife Sage offers him the safety and security that enabled him to carry on ruthlessly in his professional career. He is one of the millions of examples available that shows us true love replenishes us and creates a safe base for us to thrive and develop our innate strength and capacities.

Blocks

Some of the people with avoidant tendencies are looking for a relationship and might feel like their intention is to find a good partner for them, yet the only problem is that they cannot find that good enough partner. What happens here is that even though the need for a relationship may come up, we subconsciously still find a way to sabotage it. The way we can do this is by looking for reasons why no partner is good enough, finding ourselves ending every relationship at the first small bump in the road. This is because when we look to escape love no matter what, we will find many opportunities to do so. The work is learning to love people despite their flaws, as no human being on this planet is perfect.

Another trait commonly seen with avoidant attachment style might be the fact they may be unaware of their needs. Let’s not forget that they had to repress their basic needs and emotions early on, so they are so used to repressing them that they lost touch with what they want and what their needs are.

If you have this attachment style, it is understandable why you repressed your needs and felt overwhelmed with how much your caregivers sometimes burdened you with their emotional turmoil. And this is why you are so terrified by people who seem to want it all from you. Because it felt terrifying back then.

But I want you to know that staying alive is no longer the only goal. You can thrive and you can enjoy receiving and giving a love that is balanced and nourishing. I know that love seemed draining so far, but that was simply because you had to keep it all together and not let yourself feel. Because, how could your inner child think it’s safe to feel when he or she never had those feelings acknowledged and seen early on?

I promise you that romantic love can be nourishing.

I want you to know that sharing these tendencies is simply for awareness purposes – we cannot change what we are unaware of. We all have some insecure traits on a spectrum so please do not feel like there is something wrong with you.

Here are a few steps to begin healing avoidant attachment:

• Understand and come to terms with the fact that the lack of care you received was unfair. But what you do from here is within your power
• Know there is no perfect partner that is going to be exactly what you need. Everyone will have flaws. You just need to differentiate between flaws and red flags. We all love someone who has flaws, and that is okay. We all have our dark side.
• Know that you are going to feel like wanting to run away when you will get close to someone. Your tendency will be to find flaws in them – that will be your weapon to feel at peace with the fact that you want and may run away
• Look at all the reasons why this attachment style is no longer serving you – we all need deep connection and this attachment style may push people away that actually might have been that special someone for you.

You have been hurt. I see you. I feel your pain. That was not right and a child should never have to go through that. You were just a child and you needed to be allowed to have needs.

If you want to learn more on attachment styles, the attachment course comprises all the tools to heal your attachment trauma, to reprogram your beliefs around love and to heal the pursuer distancer dynamic, there is a container teaching you exactly this here: https://mindfultricks.teachable.com/p/how-to-heal-insecure-attachment-styles

With all the love
Sorina

 

How To Heal Anxious Attachment Style

How To Heal Anxious Attachment Style

People with ambivalent or anxious attachment deal with a lot of anxiety in relationships. Their caregivers showed them love in an inconsistent way, the reason why they never knew when they will get their needs met, and when they will not, leaving them hypervigilant and insecure.

Having suffered actual abandonment or experienced the death of their caregiver, they can be overly aware of any hint of abandonment, which activates their defense mechanisms, sending them into the fight, flight or even freeze response. That means that at the slightest change in their partner’s behavior their defense mechanisms will show up in an attempt to keep them alive, leaving little room for the rational brain to come online (it can be even a slight shift in the way their partner responds or behave).

The tendency for those anxiously attached is to reach out to their partner to get comforted. Growing up with caregivers that were meeting their needs at times (maybe when they were crying louder or when they threw a tantrum), they learned that their needs can and should be met by others. As infants, they did not feel safe enough to explore the surroundings because they were afraid that if they are not hypervigilant and instead will go exploring, their parents will not be there when they will return.

This healthy exploration creates the idea that the world is safe enough for us to explore it. Without this foundation, we grow up hypervigilant and wary of people’s intentions.

A secure child not only has the foundation to go out and explore the world but is also taught how to self-soothe and process their own emotions by having a parent who is attuned with them (not one that takes over their emotional turbulence). In other words, an anxious parent will be distressed when the child is distressed, while a secure parent will hold space for the child’s emotions and bring them to a sense of calm instead of borrowing their emotional state.

The fact that people with an anxious tendency did not receive healthy modeling of how to deal with their emotions yet had their needs met at times, left them craving outside safety and soothing without allowing them to learn how to comfort and self-soothe themselves.

As I always say, these are simply adaptations. It’s the way we’ve learned to survive and it takes time and conscious effort to teach our nervous system that we are safe now.

Since for us, those with anxious attachment, rejection, and abandonment meant that our lives were in danger, the healing occurs when we teach our nervous system that losing a partner is no longer a threat to our survival. We are adults and we now have the tools to not only stay alive, but create a life where love is nourishing and stable. Where we are comfortable with knowing that even if our partner will leave, we will be more than okay.

“Yes, But . . .”

I loved the adaptation Diane Poole Heller talks about in The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships book. She talks about the “Yes, but” response that we develop as a survival response. As a child with unreliable parents, if you take in those rare moments of love and support, you open yourself up to a lot of additional pain when the abandonment happens later. So you learn to overlook the good things that feel too threatening. This continues in love relationships where even if the situation has drastically changed, your attachment system doesn’t know this. Our job is to be aware of this tendency and know that we have to be intentional in observing what our partner does good. I suggest starting a gratitude journal or keeping a notebook close to write down whenever your partner does something you appreciate. This way, whenever you feel like you tend to think that they never do something good or that they don’t love you, you have all the proof that says otherwise.

How to start healing this attachment style?

Our inner child needs the soothing they never had from the caregiver. To show up as our adult, healthy and loving self, we have to learn to provide that soothing to them when we feel triggered. To remember it’s not our partner’s responsibility to soothe us, but ours.

The moment we feel the abandonment and rejection kicking in – we have to pause. The stories about how we will end up alone and abandoned will keep on going. But the adult inside of us can take control.

Your mission is to show your inner child that YOU won’t abandon him/her. That’s all they want to know. And no one besides you will ever be able to provide them the love and comfort that they expect from you, the now adult.

After you feel calm again, take a piece of paper and write down similar affirmations, while holding the image of your inner child in mind:

You are safe now with me
I will always be here to hold you when you are scared
I won’t ever turn my back to you when you feel alone
I will always have your back when you need me
My partner’s rejection is not a direct reflection of my worth

In time, you will learn that self-love is not outsourced. No one can give us self love and validation, and that’s what we need the most. You’ll learn to be rejected and not feel abandoned.

I’ll say that again – We can all be rejected without feeling abandoned. Actually, we can be rejected and know it has nothing to do with our worth.

Don’t forget – the more we detach ourselves from our attachment tendencies and we can see them as the child within us who just wants love and protection, the more we are able to work with, not against our attachment style.

If you want to learn more on attachment styles, the attachment course comprises all the tools to heal your attachment trauma, to reprogram your beliefs around love and to heal the pursuer distancer dynamic, there is a container teaching you exactly this here: https://mindfultricks.teachable.com/p/how-to-heal-insecure-attachment-styles

Mindfulness Practices That Ease Anxiety

Mindfulness Practices That Ease Anxiety

The American Psychological Association (APA) is talking about anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” It is important to know that all of us have feelings of anxiety from time to time, especially before specific stressful events like exams, interviews or other life events that are perceived as difficult. Usually, when feeling that we are in danger, our flight or fight mode gets activated, so our body helps us survive the dangerous situation we might be in, like being attacked by a stray dog or hearing someone behind us when walking on a dark road at night. Nowadays anxiety doesn’t only get triggered when we are attacked by a bear as our ancestors were, but it revolves around work, financial security, emotional security and other stressful matters that cannot always be helped when the flight or fight gets activated. The system that once was helping us for survival can nowadays send false alarms to our brain and misbehave by perceiving a real threat even though there is nothing life-threatening happening.

Imagine being at the beach, with a nice drink in your hands, the breeze gently touching your face, while suddenly your heart starts racing like crazy. Laying on a beach is a situation most people would perceive as one of the most relaxing activities there are, however, our amygdala can get falsely triggered in any type of situation and make us feel as if we are dying even if we have all the conditions to relax. This is one of the common symptoms anxiety can have on an individual – a typical panic attack.

There are different approaches when it comes to treating anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) being the most widely-used therapy for all type of anxiety disorders. Medication can be prescribed as well if CBT alone does not provide results for a determined period of time.

However, recent studies are exploring the new approaches we can use in treating anxiety and depression. One of the practices that are becoming more popular for anxiety and depression is mindfulness. With practices derived from ancient Buddhist and Yoga teachings, mindfulness-based therapy (MBT), which includes mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR);  has gained popularity in the form of treatment in psychotherapy.

Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what you are experiencing in the present moment, with no judgement. Being mindful means bringing that awareness to your thoughts and experiences while detaching from them without giving them a meaning. In anxiety, a mindful approach can help us see anxiety for what it is – a malfunction of our amygdala, instead of getting caught up in worse case scenarios that might make us more anxious than we were to begin with. By being mindful, we are able to watch the thoughts as they come and they go, just like the clouds do on a sunny day.

If your worries are negative and don’t serve any purpose, you can train yourself to disengage with them. For example, when thinking “I am a disaster, no one likes me” with mindfulness you don’t identify with the thought anymore and look at it like: ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve had it before. But it’s just a thought, a certainty.”

Here are some mindful qualities we can cultivate that can help us in working with anxiety mindfully.

Patience – realizing the impermanence of any feeling, including anxiety, helps us know any good or bad state comes and goes. By knowing this, even if we feel extremely bad at a given moment, we know for sure there will come a period of ease. Therapists usually recommend writing down the anxiety levels on a 24hr or 48hr period, so you can see that anxiety decreases, and that it doesn’t always feel constantly as intense as it might seem when you look back and evaluate your life.

 

Acceptance –  Resisting and denying anxiety are one of the attitudes we might adapt when feeling long periods of heightened anxiety. We try to resist it, thinking it will go away, but as they say – what you resist, persists. As Eckart Tolle beautifully says in The Power Of Now, “If you looked in the mirror and did not like what you saw, you would have to be mad to attack the image in the mirror. That is precisely what you do when you are in a state of nonacceptance. And, of course, if you attack the image, it attacks you back. If you accept the image, no matter what it is, if you become friendly toward it, it cannot not become friendly toward you. This is how you change the world.” And this is how you change your attitude towards anxiety, too.

 

 

Nonjudgment – means looking at your anxiety detached, without any judgment or evaluation. Without trying to think “this is horrible, I cannot live with it”, but instead looking at it for what it is – anxiety, that will eventually come and go. Attaching a strong negative meaning to it can only make it worse – during a panic attack, those who experience it think they will die, thought that only attracts worst-case scenarios make things far worse at the moment. Instead, while having a panic attack, through mindfulness you can see the feelings of panic or the physical symptoms as they appear, knowing it’s just a malfunction of your amygdala – that almond-shaped section of the brain that is responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergency events, has perceived a threat that is actually not there. You are able to know being in a supermarket or in a crowd does not put your life in danger, so you are able to detach from that faulty system that tries to trick you into believing you are about to die.

 

Nonstriving, similar to letting it be, means allowing what you experience to just be. By practicing this attitude, we are able to look at what we experience for what it is, without trying to change it in any way. Whenever you are feeling strong anxiety or the urge of a panic attack, the first reaction will be to get out of the place you’re in. In this situation, by practicing nonstriving, you would be able to continue what you were doing before feeling the anxiety kicking in, without trying to exit the premises and look for a safe spot as soon as possible in order to ease your anxiety.

 

Self-compassion – How would you treat your best friend during a panic attack? Would you put them down even more by letting them know they are doing something wrong, or would you tell them they are just enough and nothing that happens is their fault? Anxiety might come with a lot of self-blame, especially when you know you shouldn’t feel scared but you still do, or when your therapist said next time you have a panic attack in a supermarket you should stay there, but you still run home as fast as you can. Knowing how to practice self-love and self-compassion will help you feel that you are doing the best you can. Even if some days might not look like it, there are plenty of other days when you put a brave smile on your face and still go to the supermarket, and still go see your friends even though you know anxiety might kick any time. And that is what bravery looks like.

 

As your self-compassion grows, you will come to know that you are there for yourself and you are doing the best that you can to deal with each situation you find yourself in.  In time, you will learn to ride a wave of anxiety until it dissipates, just as a storm runs its course in the sky, and then it all calms down.

 

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