There are so many thoughts that have come up during my reading of Bessel van der Kolk's "The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma"! Many times I pause to appreciate how well he (a stranger) understands my experience of trauma, and to recognize how the themes connect with how I experience and understand my clients. A key theme in what is going on for me while I read is the importance of embodiment and attunement with my body.
Lately I've been paying extra attention to my physical needs, trying to maintain health and mental wellness during my dissertation phase. The past few days have had an extra dose of that. I began reading just as Hurricane Irma visited Florida, and have taken the book's discussion of the physical aspects of stress and trauma as daily reminders to care for myself physically. Since the storm, I've tuned in to when I feel less at ease and in what ways, noticing when tension comes into my hip flexors, back, shoulder, or face, and noticing when my stomach feels still or unsettled or hungry, even a little bit. Those are the regular cues I've learned to watch for in myself as I've been practicing for the past few years, and have increasingly attuned to recently. When I saw the tension coming back after the storm as I got back into the swing of everyday life after fearing unknowns Irma might bring, I looked for ways to care for those physical needs. A hot shower, a session of exercise, stretching and foam-rolling before bed, or just sitting in a different chair. A nice cup of tea also helps me settle down. These are simple things, and they could seem shallow, but van der Kolk's writing verifies what I experience: that caring for my body in these simple little ways when needs first arise (instead of putting them off) helps me feel more centered, and re-balances me. Even moment to moment I can re-balance by enjoying a nice breath.
While I'm paying attention and caring for myself like this, I have more energy. In fact, while I've been putting a little extra care into this practice, I found that this week my tap dancing in class had extra pizzazz, and just today I even choreographed a bit of original tap (something I used to find very hard to do and remember). I think those are signs of good self care!
There are a few more chapters in the book on the ways we can heal trauma, and I'm looking forward to taking them at a similarly savoring pace, and integrating what I learn for myself, then sharing it with clients, too. There are so many gifts in this book, I'm keeping notes and am sure I'll review it again soon.