4-7-8

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I could feel my heart race as I thought about the circumstances my friend was facing. The trauma, fear and confusion from betrayal that I once experienced all came back to me. As my friend’s story of heartbreak, infidelity, and lies unfolded, I felt a cold and unwelcome darkness begin to wrap around me. Then the panic began to set in.

Though I’ve been working on my healing for over two years, I still have triggers that set me back a bit. Thankfully, the triggers are much less intense and far less frequent than they used to be. I’ve learned that I can manage my triggers before they send me into a full-blown panic attack. I’ve tried a few different methods to control my triggers and lately I’ve found some success with breathing.

Breathing exercises were not very effective for me in the early days of trauma. At times I came close to hyper-ventilating as I tried to breathe through my panic. I thought the simple act of breathing was supposed to make some miraculous change in my emotions, but that never happened. I was also a bit confused about how breathing, something I do every minute of every day, was supposed to be helpful with triggers. When I got the advice to “just breathe” I was confused. I was already breathing! Duh! Otherwise, I would be passed out!

I didn’t give much value to breathing exercises until I witnessed my 11 year-old grandson successfully use breathing to calm down. He was very upset over the possibility of missing an application deadline for honor choir. It was difficult to help him figure out solutions because he was so focused on the challenges that could prevent him from making the nearing deadline. He became visibly agitated and impatient with his mother who was trying to explain some of his options.

One of my breathing exercises suddenly came to my mind, and I calmly asked my grandson  to sit with me for a moment and try something. He agreed. Together we did the 4-7-8 method of breathing.  For 4 seconds, we slowly inhaled. Then we held our breath for 7 seconds before slowly exhaling for 8 seconds. We repeated our breathing one more time.

“How are you feeling, now?” I asked my grandson.

“Better!” he replied. Though his concerns didn’t disappear, he was more calm and able to listen to his mom’s suggestions.

I realize the actual breathing was only one factor in my grandson’s shift to calm. The real magic was in distracting his thinking as he concentrated on counting the seconds of inhaling, holding, then exhaling his breath. He was able to focus his mind on something else just long enough to stop the downward spiral of his thinking. Counting his breath helped him to clear his mind from the muddle of his panic.

It was the very next day that I felt the panic of reliving my trauma from betrayal as my friend shared with me. As soon as I felt the panic begin to overtake me, I began my 4-7-8 breathing. I repeated my breathing four times. It was slow and subtle, but eventually I could feel a sense of peace.

There are scientific reasons to explain why breathing through triggers can work. I think the science is interesting, but I really just need something that I can use easily and instantly. There are other breathing techniques that I may use in the future, but for now, 4-7-8 is working for me.

 

 

 

Paper Brave

pen and paper-7The are times when I can give awesome advice. There are times when I have unstoppable courage. There are times when I am so in tune with the Spirit, I have no doubts concerning the most important answers about life. When I am writing in my journal or invited to respond in writing to a question or concern for someone else, I have expotential courage. Oh, yes! I’m a valiant warrior woman when my pen hits the page. Sometimes I feel I am my bravest self when my life is written on paper. I project magnificence on the printed page!

It is a careful and methodical process when I attempt to write down the perfect thought to share with others. Surely, I can inspire and buoy others with my profundity. Yes! I know all about the addiction cycle and how someone behaves when in addict mode. I have great ideas about boundaries. I’m doing the 12-step dance every day along with scripture study and prayer. You need an article? Give me a second and I’ll find the perfect conference talk for your solace and comfort. Look at me! I’ve got this!

The reality is that writing down my thoughts gives me time and forces me to think things through.

I can quickly delete or erase any of my misdirected thoughts when I’m writing. The end result is that I sound mighty terrific! I can easily give the appearance that my healing progress is right on the mark. No foul-ups. No overly emotional responses. Ever.

Paper brave does not, however, save me from the moments when sobbing and hugging the floor is the only thing I can manage to do. My paper brave self cannot eliminate triggers that, without any warning, jump out and catch me when I’m off-guard. Paper bravery does no even exist when my imagination conjures up horrific images or scenarios that terrify me to the core in order to “fill in the blanks” of my husband’s disclosures. There are moments when my unstoppable courage halts, when I can’t think of any decent advice, and when detecting the Spirit is a challenge. Those are the moments when trauma takes over and my bravery cowers in the corner.

Fortunately, during times of trauma, I can read my journal filled with audacious counsel and guidance. As I read, I wonder, “Where is that warrior woman? Where did she go?” I keep reading until

I find myself again.