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Have you ever been told to just breathe when you’re feeling anxious or panicked? It’s more than a necessary life function—it’s also the beginning of a mindfulness practice that can help you let go of trauma.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is common in women and children who experience or witness domestic violence. The disorder can manifest both physically and emotionally with symptoms such as insomnia, nightmares, depression, anxiety disorders and high blood pressure.
In addition to other therapies, meditation has been proven to help survivors of domestic violence calm their minds, heal their bodies, and let go of trauma.
Physical and Psychological Benefits
More than 3,000 studies have looked at the effects of meditation on physical and psychological well-being. These are just a few of the benefits:
Meditation can help not only survivors, but also advocates. Whether you're exposed to traumatic stories and images, witness the violence yourself, or work at a hotline, the stress, exhaustion and feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming. Meditation can help those who experience vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue, as well as reduce physical and psychological stress.
Survivors should be aware that meditation and mindfulness practice can trigger flashbacks. As you start a meditation practice, it can be beneficial to work with an experienced teacher, so you can learn to be aware of your triggers and practice appropriate responses to them.
Types of Meditation
Meditation is all about making you feel calm and at peace, so it’s important to find a technique that works for you. There are many different types to choose from including these common practices:
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Mindfulness meditation. The idea behind this flow-like type of meditation is to be aware of what’s happening around you—the sounds, smells, feelings, and activities—and let your mind move from one thought to the next.
Focused meditation. As opposed to mindfulness meditation, in this type, you focus on a single thing throughout the practice. It could be a mantra, thought, your breath, or a physical object. The goal is to focus your attention and minimize distraction. You can find a step-by-step guide here to try focused meditation at home.
Guided meditation: Useful for healing and relaxation, in this type of practice, a teacher will guide you—in a class or through a podcast, CD, or video—to use your visualization powers to imagine a scene, journey, or feeling that makes you feel calmer. Transcendental meditation is a type of guided meditation. The UCLA Mindful Awarness Research Center offers free guided meditations in English and Spanish.
Spiritual meditation: For some, contemplative prayer or silent meditations during which they communicate with God or another spiritual entity can help focus on a single question and lead to an answer. For others, it just brings a feeling of peace.
Movement meditations: If you’re not the type to sit still or if silent meditation isn’t working for you, you can get many of the same benefits from active mindfulness practices such as tai chi, qigong, yoga, or walking a labyrinth. The point of these methodical movements is to help you focus your breathing, center yourself, and increase awareness of your thoughts.
Domestic abuse survivor Amy Phoenix found practicing meditation helped her to stop blaming herself for a part in the abuse. You can read her story of survival here.
There’s an App for That!
Try out Headspace free for 10 days—it’s a meditation app that can help stress and anxiety.
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