It is peaceful here, I can hear the birds singing their morning song. A robin sits on the highest point, looking back and forth in all directions, it must have quite the view. The trees are mostly bare, their skeletons brush against the cloudy sky. I am surrounded by nature and feel peace as I sit here in the moment.
I stare past what is right in front of me and I see snow capped mountains. They seem so small and yet I know that there is an entire world that lives and breathes right there on that mountain. I can imagine myself there, I used to hike and climb mountains just like those. I mostly have fond memories of the trips. My husband was so fast and would often take off and leave me behind, I had many hours to get lost in my thoughts. I am lost there again. The picture painted above is no longer the one I can see. I see a lone hiker, going as quickly as she can. I start to feel anxious, she was never fast enough, never good enough. I am her, transported to another time to another place. I remember feeling so inadequate.
Just like that, I have left the present and I am living in the past. My peaceful morning now shattered by both the memories and the emotions I felt 15 years ago. Almost like a time warp. Trauma can send us back to the onset of the trauma and we can get lost there.
Pulling Myself Back
I have to actively pull myself back into the present moment. What can I hear right now? What can I see right now? Where am I at right now? What am I feeling in my body right now? I have to push out old thoughts and memories so I can return to the peaceful moment that is my reality right now. This is not always easy. Sometimes I can catch the moment when I start to drift back and other times I can’t. With traumatic memories it is sometimes hard to recognize, that was then, this is now.
Trauma comes with a curse. You don’t just experience the trauma one time, work through it, and be done with it. Trauma tries to absorb your present and make you fearful for the future. It makes living right now…very difficult.
So what techniques can we use to stay in the present?
- Tap into your senses: This technique helps ground a person in the present moment. What can you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? What are you feeling? Look around, is there any immediate dangers?
- Yoga: Creates a calm place inside for a person to slow life down and experience their body at the present moment. Feel yourself move from position to position, as your thoughts drift, pull them back to the present moment, the here and now.
- Meditation and Breathing: The exercise of meditation and breathing can help keep our minds in the present. Focus on what we want to happen in out lives. A brain is a powerful tool, use it to bring about what we most want in life.
- Walk away from Technology: Technology is one of the biggest distractors that keep us from living in the moment. Instead of focusing on our loved ones, we waste time on social media. Put the smart phones away, have moments of silence with nothing pulling for our attention. Sit in silence and soak up the peace that exists right under our noses. Take your children to the park or out to dinner. Leave your phones in the car.
- Use tapping techniques: Tapping techniques can be used to help us feel sensation in our present moment. If you start to feel yourself zoning out or being lost in trauma, tap your arm or leg. Feel the sensations, look around and notice where you are right now.
There are many other ideas for keeping ourselves in the moment. Remember when trauma tries to steal your day, and your brain tunes out, your best weapon is staying in the present. Bring yourself back and find satisfaction in everyday moments so that life does not pass you by.