Have you ever felt completely taken over by a thought or feeling, as if you're literally being shoved out of the drivers seat? And then left to feel guilty or regretful over how you've acted when you were in this triggered place. We've all been there, if we're being honest. It can be difficult to not judge these challenging moments (and ourselves) and to not feel shame. However, if we get stuck in the cycle of judging ourselves and then paralyzed with shame, it becomes more difficult to break free from these reactive patterns and ultimately, heal the deeper parts of us that are more than likely contributing to some, if not the majority, of these reactive patterns.
When I notice judgments (hello inner critic!) towards myself after a triggered reaction, I try to turn this into an opportunity to bring some curiosity to myself and maybe, if there's enough self- energy in that moment, some compassion and kindness. Remember, this is a practice. I often tell myself that I have the rest of my life to continue to be curious about parts of me and that there's no destination - healing is a life long journey (hello self-compassion!).
Curiosity starts the process of befriending the parts of us that became triggered for various reasons. I have found that the more I try to get rid of the thoughts and feelings around a trigger by denying, distracting, minimizing or shaming myself, the thought and feeling patterns tend to show up more often and feel more activating and consuming. Whereas when I acknowledge these triggered parts and bring curiosity to them, I noticed that they tend to relax. Through my work as a clinician as well as my personal healing journey, I have witnessed over and over again that the challenged parts of us, more than anything, need and want to be acknowledged and seen for their truths. It's like a young child having a moment, if we deny it or shame it in the moment, it can trigger a bigger moment for them. Whereas, if we acknowledge the child's experience, help them name their feelings and help them through those challenging moments, the child will start to decrease in activation and maybe even begin to relax a bit.
So how do we befriend challenging parts of us? It might feel counter intuitive at first but here are a few steps to start the process of befriending and un-blending from the more challenging parts of yourself:
Breathe. Repeat this process as often as needed. These steps don't take away the feeling completely, but they can help soften the activation around the feeling by externalizing this triggered part of you. When we constantly try to dismiss, deny or distract from challenging parts/feelings, we're basically telling ourselves that we can't handle these feelings - they're too big for us to face and we are helpless with them. When we befriend and get curious, we show the part of us that although it feels intense, we can handle it and can hold space for it's needs.
We fall asleep when we are distracted from trying to fall asleep.
If the thought of a good night's rest is foreign to you, first of all, I'm so sorry. Suffering from sleep issues is no joke; it can negatively affect one's mental, emotional and physical health. And ... you are not alone, research shows that over 68% of Americans struggle with some kind of sleep issue. Personally, I think that might be underreported based on how often this topic is brought up with clients, friends and family.
Sleepiness can affect one's vigilance, reaction times, learning abilities, alertness, mood, hand-eye coordination, and memory. Sleepiness has been identified as the cause of a growing number of on-the-job accidents, automobile crashes and multi-model transportation tragedies.
Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all model to fix this issue because there are many factors that go into sleep issues and everyone's experience is unique to them. There are, however, some things that can help support a healthier sleeping environment, which can help reduce the suffering around our sleep issues. I often compare these tools to when we are ill; we tend to nurture ourselves more when we don't feel well (hopefully). We might rest more, wear more comfortable clothing, eat nourishing soup and lay with our favorite blanket. These things don't necessarily take away the illness, but they help comfort us during times of difficulty/suffering. When we provide ourselves an environment during times of suffering, we're offering self-compassion, which inherently is on the path to healing. Here are a few sleep hygiene recommendations:
And this is where I can come with help as a mediation teacher. I have recorded a guided Yoga Nidra Meditation that supports deep rest and is evidenced-based in helping decrease sleep issues/concerns. This meditation has thousands of downloads on Insight Timer and has been featured as a fan favorite - and I want to share it with you directly.
Think of this meditation as an offering of compassion to yourself. It might not heal your sleep issues, but it's on the path to relieving the mental suffering around your sleep issues.
Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) is the powerful practice of conscious rest that systematically relaxes and unwinds our physical, emotional, and mental tension. Yoga Nidra helps to break down these patterns through a guided bilateral body scan, breath awareness and visualizations to reach resting states usually only experienced in the deepest levels of sleep. True healing begins with deep rest.
For a small fee, you can download my guided yoga nidra meditation here. Or you can find my free guided yoga nidra mediation at Insight Timer
Do you ever find yourself going from experience to experience without actually settling in when you arrive? Just going through the motions but never really being present in the experience or feeling like you are in a race to complete your day? I often ask client's when they come in how they are feeling in this exact moment, and more often than not, people respond with, "Hmmmm I don't know, I haven't actually checked in with myself." This is so common in our day-to-day lives, especially in a society that reinforces and glorifies being "busy".
The problem is when we don't take a moment to truly settle in, we are actually abandoning ourselves and not giving ourselves the true opportunity to have a felt sense experience, which is where we build true memories and connections with ourselves, others and our experiences.
Next time you transition to a new place, experience/situation or engage with a new person, I invite you to try this Somatic Body Snapshot to practice the art of settling in. Try to be kind with yourself, stay open and get curious:
After you take this snapshot of yourself, maybe thank yourself for the gift of truly seeing yourself. From here, maybe take a few deep breaths with your hand on your heart to offer a moment of compassion and kindness to yourself for showing up and holding space for yourself in this exact moment, acknowledging exactly where you are without trying to change or fix it.
Our felt sense is so incredibly powerful to our healing and growth. Insight and reflection can help, of course, but the bodies experience of our reflections and insight are key to integration and re-wiring the brain and nervous system.
Next time you find yourself in reflection or analysis of an issue/experience, I invite you to drop into your body and observe your overall felt sense ... What sensations are you aware of in your body? How's the quality of your breath? Bring curiosity to your posture and body position (are you slumped forward, caved in, holding yourself/crossing your arms, sitting up-right, relaxed, numb, etc.?) Track any desire to move in a certain way and then I invite you to act on that desire or if you prefer, just imagine acting on the desire.
I invite you to take a few breaths after this exercise and if there's room, add some length to your exhale to help bring the nervous system to rest and digest, where we feel safe and in the moment. This is the space from within where we think more clearly and make decisions that are based on our response to the moment vs. a reaction from the past (often times subconsciously).
This is integration. Being able to experience both out thoughts/reflections while simultaneously experiencing our bodies response to said thoughts/reflections.