Meditation is receiving a lot of attention in the wellbeing space – more so than ever in fact.
Whether it’s online meditation programmes or apps, never before has this tool been so widely available.
Meditation’s positive impact is beyond question; research has consistently shown that there are a number of physical and mental health benefits from the practice such as a reduction in stress levels and an increase in resilience.
However, there are some specific circumstances where meditation may not be the best starting point for certain individuals looking to reduce their stress levels. If an individual has a history of trauma or anxiety, meditation can sometimes have the reverse effect.
Trauma Is More Common Than We Realise
Trauma may sound like a dramatic word to use, but many more people in our society have experienced it than we realise.
The important thing to remember is that trauma is never about the event. Events in and of themselves are not traumatic. Trauma is the internal reaction to a single or ongoing event or events whereby the nervous system and the brain become overwhelmed.
We tend to experience trauma when we find ourselves in a situation or ongoing situations where we perceive ourselves to be helpless, powerless and lacking control.
Why Meditation Might Be A Bad Start
Focusing your attention on your internal world and your breath as is required in meditation can often be overwhelming for these individuals. The fact that many practices instruct you to close your eyes whilst doing it could even exacerbate the problem further.
If your mind is already racing with thoughts or your breathing is shallow and dysregulated, directing your attention to these areas can be very stressful.
In these instances, it would be more helpful to teach these individuals other exercises that allow them to feel safe and regulated in their minds and bodies before perhaps progressing to meditation at a later stage.
Keep Your Feet On The Ground
Grounding exercises that encourage individuals to become aware of the experience of their feet being on the floor or of their backs being supported by a firm chair will help them to feel safe in their bodies and comfortable and present in their environments.
Another helpful exercise is to imagine in your mind’s eye the people in your life, either now or in the past, that you feel a connection with and who allow you to feel safe and calm.
“Psychologists are now starting to recognise a new pathway for trauma,” says leading therapist Khody Damestani, who co-founded the mental fitness company, MyMindPal.
“Trauma is not just experiencing shocks like car accidents or relational abuse of some form. It has now been shown that everyday stress without adequate recovery can produce traumatic effects in the mind and the body.
“Stress and trauma are widespread, now more than ever. A multifaceted approach to wellbeing is vital to address this in a comprehensive manner.
“Meditation is undoubtedly a great tool, but there needs to be a range of other strategies and approaches included in any well-being offering to ensure that all individuals in an organisation can find exercises that provide them with the support and coping mechanisms that they need to thrive.”