Anxiety and other symptoms that accompany trauma and PTSD come in many forms - from manageably low levels of agitation to high levels of stress, intrusive memories, panic attacks and flashbacks that can make life feel unmanageable. Mindfulness can be an effective tool in trauma treatment to help manage these difficult episodes, and help sufferers learn to stay grounded and recover more quickly.
Our suffering is generally a combination mental activity and body sensations. In fact, feelings always include some sort of physical sensation. Then we attach a label to it and it becomes an emotion. At the same time, during these difficult episodes, we tend to tell ourselves that we are somehow not OK, or that we are actually unsafe.
But our experience is always in two parts - there’s what happens to us, and there’s what we tell ourselves about what happens. Mindfulness practices advance trauma treatment and recovery by helping us learn to change what we tell ourselves about these experiences - in essence, to remember that we are safe and well in the present moment, even if we are having a difficult experience.
In addition, our bodies tend to accelerate during PTSD and anxiety episodes - the heart rate goes up, we begin breathing faster, etc. Mindfulness practices help us slow down our physical reactions, which helps us clear our heads and return to a more grounded state. It can be an important part of trauma recovery, in that we are teaching the body a new response to these experiences.
So, with a mindfulness-based approach, we can reduce or eliminate the suffering produced by these episodes that would have previously been so unsettling or even terrifying. Mindfulness helps PTSD and anxiety sufferers to gently accept and feel their experience without being overwhelmed by it. One can work with anxious thoughts using mindfulness as an anchor, and keep from getting too wrapped up in agitating or fearful thinking, worrying, etc.