Clients come to me after they’ve experienced a significant life stressor or traumatic event. They’ve just had a big fight or flight response and spike in their nervous system and need to learn coping strategies and skill building to manage through the the aftermath. But they also desperately need to restore. Restoration is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately and is the predominant subject of the book I’m currently writing. It goes hand in hand with mindfulness, wellness and retreat model work – all things I’m very passionate about because I’ve witnessed first hand how profoundly healing they can be.
Why do we need to focus on restoration? Because after a major life stressor, our nerves are shot! We feel easily overstimulated because our sensory system has been taxed. Little sensory changes can feel almost intolerable – like sudden noises, bright lights or temperature changes. We may find we feel irritable or anxious and these are key red flags that indicate it’s time to restore! It’s your system saying “STOP – I need to withdrawal, retreat and renew!”
People often describe feeling like they don’t want to engage in activities they normally enjoy or they feel less social or talkative. Sometimes, if the stressor or trauma is severe, clients describe also experiencing changes to their sleep or appetite as well. This is a response from your body and nervous system calling out to you to work on restoration. We need to help bring ourselves back to baseline and there are steps you can take to help yourself do this.
Treat yourself with compassion and kindness. We must remember that it takes time to heal our body and mind. These things do not happen quickly. Practice self-compassion and suspend judgement. Many times I hear clients say “I never used to be this way. I used to be able to do xyz easily. What’s my problem?” Try to recognize that you will restore and return to your baseline, but healing takes time.
Take time to discover what is most restorative for you. Do you need time to retreat and rest or take breaks from being busy and engaged? Or do you need to reach out for social support from others? What is the best way for you to recharge? What sounds more pleasurable to you? Being home alone, enjoying a quiet break? Or engaging with a few friends for supportive conversation?
Reduce stimulation. When you’re taxed from a stressful or challenging life event, you need time to repair your system. It’s best to consider reducing stimulation temporarily to give your nervous system a chance to heal. Turn off the TV, radio and reduce cell phone time. Allow for stillness and quiet for periods of time throughout the day. After large shocks to our nervous system, we release cortisol and adrenaline. We need opportunities to let the stress hormones ‘settle’ and the best way to do that is to reduce the likelihood of them firing off again by instilling quietude and a sense of calm.
Overall, focusing on the concept of restoration can help us heal and return to baseline. If we don’t spend time intentionally considering how to restore, we could be working against ourselves. The body and mind are so highly sensitive. It’s important we elevate our consciousness in this process and consider tuning in to help maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of our restorative practices.