Woman and daughter in kitchen, busyness is a trauma response 7 ways to slow down
Woman and daughter in kitchen, busyness is a trauma response 7 ways to slow down

Busyness is a trauma response that distracts you from your thoughts and feelings. Being distracted from your truth will keep you from healing and is exhausting.

There are many ways to slow down and take a moment to be still. You can spend time outdoors, watch pets or children play, pray or meditate, take time for self-care, and practice breathing exercises. Adding the coping skills you want to use can help you let go of strategies that no longer serve you well as you work on your trauma recovery.

Busyness Is a Trauma Response

Do you ever find yourself trying to watch a movie and struggling to sit still? Maybe you feel as if you need to research the location and facts about the actors in the movie instead of just watching it with all of your attention.

Did you know this is a trauma response you use to try to calm your nervous system? When you have suffered a traumatic experience in the past you struggle to be still. You keep your mind busy with constant tasks so thoughts about the past don’t have time to surface and disturb you in the present.

This is a fear-based distraction that helps you ignore what is going on in your mind and how trauma has impacted you. No matter how busy you keep yourself the fear is still there.

Woman with hand on face with lots of post its behind her

Chronic Busyness Is Not Helping You Heal

Chronic busyness keeps you from realizing that you need to work through your past. If you slow down what happens? Do you feel empty or worthless because you aren’t doing something?

Busyness can be addicting. When we are busy, busy, busy, all the time we lose the ability to be present with ourselves and others. We can become disconnected which makes us feel worse.

Trauma survivors find comfort in being useful to others. Sometimes they miss the difference between doing something for someone else and being present with someone else.

The first step in changing this habit is to recognize what you are doing and to desire something else instead. This is the beginning of a mindset shift that opens you to the possibility of healing from trauma.

The Coping Mechanism of Busyness Serves a Purpose

Keeping yourself busy is a valid way to feel safe after experiencing traumatic events. It is a tool that can be used to keep going and accomplish your goals each day.

Slowing down and looking at how you work through the past can take a huge dose of courage. It’s okay to want some new tools to use while you are doing the healing work to be comfortable in your own skin.

Healing from childhood trauma is incremental and you may not even know everything you need to heal from until you start doing the work. It takes courage to keep going day after day while still suffering from past experiences.

Woman sitting on couch relaxed

There Are Different Ways to Calm the Mind

Staying busy all the time is a coping mechanism that may have served you well in the past. Is there something you can do instead?

Adding new tools will help you let go of the survival mechanisms you have used that no longer serve you. The idea is to add in new tools and invite your body and mind to slowly and gently build new habits instead of focusing on ending the things you no longer want to do.

Here are some ways to calm your mind as you learn to let go of busyness:

Spend Time Outdoors. Being outside can help you relax. You hear the birds sing and observe the trees and plants which calms your mind and brings your life back into perspective.

Watch Pets or Children Play. There is something about watching animals and children play that helps you let go of your worries. To level up you can join them in their play. If you don’t have any pets or children you can watch funny pet videos or visit the zoo.

Ask Yourself, what do I need to feel cared for? You can journal the answer to this question to see what you need. You may need to ask yourself this question daily while you learn to take better care of yourself. It’s a good daily practice to enjoy.

Check-In With Your Feelings throughout the day. You can set a timer so you remember to see how you are doing as your day goes by. Learning to name and feel your feelings is important as you recover. It can bring insight into why you do certain things or show you that you how you react to triggers. This information helps you know what you need to heal.

Take Time to Rest and Care for Yourself Daily. When you take care of yourself it helps you to remember that you are important too. Sometimes using the excuse that taking care of yourself allows you to care for others will help you overcome your objections to spending time on yourself. You can make a self-care plan tailored to your needs to use daily.

Take a Breath. Stopping to take a few deep breaths is an easy way to calm your nervous system and thoughts. Take a few moments throughout the day to breathe and refocus to help you regulate yourself. Stress can build throughout the day so making time to do breathing exercises allows you to let go of it.

Prayer/Meditation. Take time each day, especially when you wake up and before you go to sleep to pray or meditate. This practice will naturally slow you down and give you time to yourself. You can use your mental health affirmations during time to reinforce the new thoughts you are working to establish.

Peaceful woman with eyes closed

Spending Time With Yourself

Spending time with yourself gives you the space you need to learn who you are outside of a controlling or abusive relationship. During toxic relationships, you mold yourself to someone else’s demands and even lose or forget who you are.

Taking time alone can help you remember who you were before an abusive relationship. In the case of growing up with abuse, you may begin a process of discovering who you were always meant to be. This can be fun and exciting. It can also be overwhelming. Go as slowly as you need to feel comfortable.

Here are some ways to find yourself again:

Journal. Journaling is a useful tool to open your heart and see what you love and who you are. You can write about your hopes and dreams. Putting down on paper what you love to do and your favorite foods, colors, activities, etc will help you open to the world of possibility that is available to you now.

Explore Where You Live On Your Own. A fun way to get to know yourself is to go on drives, and walks, and visit antique or boutique shops in your town. When you only have yourself to entertain you can do what you like and want to do. Maybe some things you thought you liked no longer spark fun and imagination. This activity is all about finding what you like without pressure from others to conform to their wishes.

Date Yourself. This is similar to the point above but more intentional. You will be taking time and money to make yourself feel important. Some ideas to try are to visit new restaurants, and coffee shops, see a movie, go to a museum, go to a show/concert. Have fun and do what you want. See how you feel as you spend this time with yourself.

Make Memories. Do something monumental like take a solo vacation to a place you’ve always wanted to visit. This is the time to mark things off your bucket list that you can do by yourself. Do you have a bucket list? Write one up as you think of things you want to do. Fun, right?

Woman sitting by water watching the sun set.

Trauma Survivors Benefit From a Quiet Moment Each Day

Can you take some time to be quiet and alone each day? Without any distractions?

I realize this is a big ask in our busy world.

Start with one minute a day of just sitting with yourself. You don’t need to think about anything. Just be. Challenge yourself to build up the amount of time you spend in quiet each day. See if you can mark off a long string of days on your calendar.

We make time for the important people in our lives. You are important too.

Seek the Support of Others

It’s a good thing to seek the support of other survivors. Being part of a group of people who share your experiences breaks down the feeling of isolation and helps you feel “normal”.

Find other survivors to spend time with in-person – support groups, moms groups, single parents groups, and a local church or shelter may know of resources.

Find support online through Facebook groups and follow the social media accounts of survivors, coaches, therapists, etc. Dr. Ramini is one of my favorite resources to learn about narcissism and narcissistic abuse.

Professional help is available if you are struggling with mental health issues. Also, don’t forget the importance of taking care of your physical health to support your healing from trauma.

Busyness is a trauma response and you can find ways to slow down and enjoy your life.

Remember, you deserve to live in freedom and peace.

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