Mindfulness and Meditation

Guest post by Lisa Snopek

Most of us who are using the Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK Facebook group and this website are going to have some experience of dealing with trauma- be it our own or because we’re helping someone else cope with theirs.

So, what exactly is trauma?  Well, I researched it and trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. For us, an encounter with death.

I have had to deal with my own symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My symptoms will probably be different from yours. A few of mine have included:

  • Being afraid of the dark and unable to sleep.
  • Complete awareness of my heart beating. The sound of it echoing in my ears (this was frightening!).
  • Jelly legs!  Just thinking of leaving the house, the fear and my legs wobbling.   On the actual dog walk, thinking and pleading, “Please don’t let me die, let me do this.”
  • The flashbacks, the memory loss and the very poor language skills. All are waiting to be rectified by therapy.  Trying to write this, I’m thinking, “What’s that word?” and, “Does this make sense?”

Other symptoms can include:

Fury, alienation, over-reactions to startling events (yeah, I’m jumpy), bad dreams, intrusive thoughts, concentration problems, anxiety and panic attacks (yes, I run away from people in the supermarket), mental confusion, physical numbness, grief, shame and amnesia.

Wow, what a list to have to contend with. We try to do our best and carry on, but really a strategy is needed.

A number of studies have suggested that meditation can help with PTSD symptoms.  It has been shown to reduce stress hormones by calming down the sympathetic nervous system. This is what controls our ‘fight or flight’ response.

PTSD causes our brains to switch into psychological defence mode. It does this so we can carry on as normal with our lives. Long term though, we are unable to live and function in this way. Our brain’s limbic system senses danger and threats everywhere.

This is the simple, but clever part. Meditation calms, relaxes and heals. It also gets us to focus on our breathing. Our cognitive and language abilities can become impeded by the trauma. However, the part of the brain that processes images, sensations and emotions is sensitised in a positive way. Therefore, guided imagery and meditation is the perfect first choice for healing for this type of trauma. It goes exactly to the parts of the brain where the trauma sits.

Transcendental meditation is what I practise. Focus is redirected from emotions to the higher self of consciousness. It must be practised in a calm, quiet, relaxed and safe environment. They say if you have time, meditating in the morning clears away any negative feelings you have encountered during sleep, thus reducing stress levels for the day. The second meditation should be in the late afternoon, helping to relieve the day’s stress build- up.

In reality, I can fit it in once a day. My sessions vary from half an hour to an hour and a half.

When you start your meditation make sure you’re somewhere that you can let yourself go.  Honestly, the first few times you will open your eyes and think, “I’m still here. I haven’t gone anywhere.” Continue, and each time thoughts enter, this is your ego. Brush them aside and keep going.

It is better to sit up straight when meditating. If you decide to do it lying down, you will probably fall asleep.

I listen to one particular spiritual healer; you can find plenty of choice on YouTube or participate in meditation classes.  Either way, you will practise and learn to rest your body whilst heightening your self-consciousness. Practised regularly, this relaxation and silence makes us able to access deeper layers of accumulated emotional toxicity. Trauma that’s laying there, lurking …

I see swirling clouds, colours and pictures- nothing to cause me any distress. I have flown in my head. I have seen myself flying around free. It feels amazing. You may also find that you may start to cry. Don’t be alarmed. Even though you may not feel particularly emotional and your body is relaxed, the emotions need to be released. It’s good progress on your mindful journey.

To be mindful is to take care of ourselves. That expression of living in the moment. Own all that you do, think and feel. It’s improving your mental health and taking steps in your life development with training of the mind.

We all need to be completely aware of who we are and what we are doing.  We don’t want to be over- reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going around us.

Thinking about what you’re doing and what you feel about it at that moment is to be mindful. When you are thinking in a mindful way, parts of your brain that lay dormant when we function on auto pilot, light up.

It has been shown to make you feel kinder, calmer and more patient.

Living a life with our minds full stops us from noticing how we have become driven by our emotions and behaviour, which results in stress and anxiety.

Every day, take note of sensations you experience, from the food you eat to the feel of the wind blowing in your hair. Make a conscious effort to label your thoughts as they pass through. That thought that says, “You won’t be able to do that.” Make a mental note, “This one is anxiety” and see the patterns you think in.

Yoga, Tai-Chi and adult colouring books are all practices that can be participated in to aim for mindfulness. Wellbeing comes from inside ourselves; we can’t be given it.

According to research, five steps can help us achieve this:

  1. Connect-Connect with friends, family and the people around you.
  2. Keep Active- Even if you just walk. You are doing something physical and reaping the benefits.
  3. Learn- Keep your brain stimulated and keep striving for that next achievement.
  4. Give to others-Wellbeing can be gained by helping others.
  5. Be Mindful-Be aware of the present, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.

The thing to remember is, if it hasn’t gone right today, start again tomorrow.

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