During this COVID-19 pandemic many of us are faced with challenging circumstances. The stressors of worrying about getting sick, the wellbeing of loved ones, paying the bills, and making sure our kids are taken care of can weigh extremely heavy on all of us at times. Although this April is exceptional, April is always a tough month for me. I lost my twin to an overdose on April 23 of 2015. I am also just a head case in general. Over the last decade of my life I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Due to these issues and the nature of my twin brother’s death I’ve become somewhat of an unofficial expert on dealing with stress without drugs. I hope that these techniques I’ve used for the last few years to deal with traumatic loss can be helpful to you whether you’re mourning a loved one or just mourning life before COVID-19.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s original purpose was to be used as a tool to make psychotherapy more helpful, but it is a tool that can be used generally in order to interrupt the stress response. In therapy you are trying to face and work through your issues. If you’ve had trauma, reliving those memories can be like touching a hot stove. EMDR causes an interruption in that stress response, allowing those who have experienced trauma face it more comfortably. EMDR is accomplished through tapping. Tapping can be done through tapping the sides of your head yourself or having a therapist tap your ankles. Because it has become more popular in recent years, companies have created “EMDR tappers”. These devices are either held in your hands or worn around your wrists and alternate vibrations on your hands or wrists (I will provide some links below if you are interested). You can also achieve the same effect from taking long walks or playing the drums. EMDR tappers are now used outside of therapy for many different purposes including general anxiety, autism, sleep, and focus. I personally them before bed and will wear my wireless wristbands to focus and get work done when I’m stressed out or anxious.
https://thetouchpointsolution.com/#shop_now (for wireless tappers)
Transcendental Meditation is a little different than the sort of meditation you are probably thinking of. While most forms of meditation are aimed at either emptying the mind or mindfulness (being intentional and in control of one’s thoughts), TM is about letting thoughts come and go with as little effort as possible. When you learn TM, you are given a personal mantra. You repeat the mantra in your head along with the rhythm of your breaths while you allow thoughts to come and go from your head. When done correctly, thoughts will be allowed to occur, but are gently ushered out by the mantra. This allows you to sift through your thoughts and let go of anything lingering that is stressing you out. When done regularly, it trains the brain to react calmly to things that would normally get us bent out of shape. In practice, TM is supposed to be done in 20 minute sessions 2 times a day. I can attest to the fact that getting in both sessions can be extremely beneficial, but getting in at least 1 will allow you to be much more centered for the day. If you want to learn more about TM, I will provide a link to the website below.
Acupressure and acupuncture are techniques from traditional Chinese medicine. It is based on the theory that there are meridians in our bodies that energy flows through. The aim of acupressure and acupuncture is to manipulate and unblock the parts of the body where energy blockages commonly occur. If you’re reading this and thinking that I must be insane for believing in this I don’t blame you. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am an extremely skeptical person. But, I was convinced to try it out and let me tell you, it does wonders for me. Though other things like meditation can give you relief mentally, acupressure is effective in releasing the stress that your body carries. Because I have a needle phobia, I opt for acupressure and use a prana mat. Using a prana mat is simple. You lay on the mat with a bare back and the small points on the mat press into your back and neck. I know this sounds painful, but when your weight is evenly distributed you will get some slight discomfort for a minute followed by deep relaxation. It becomes so comfortable that I’ve actually fallen asleep on the mat a few times before. It can be used while watching TV or listening to music, but for the best results do a quick meditation or breathing exercise. As an added benefit, prana mats are also great for back pain and stiffness. You can find prana mats easily on Amazon.com, they are an extremely popular item so you will have no trouble finding it!
I hope you found some of my experience helpful with your own grief or struggle. These techniques have provided a lot of relief for me in my mourning process. They are not a replacement for your therapist or psychiatrist but provide some space for us to be kind to ourselves.
Steve Stefani is a board member of Hope for Healing. Steve was inspired to start Hope for Healing with his family after the devastating loss of his twin brother Matt to an overdose. Since his brother’s death, Steve has worked hard to heal his own wounds and is inspired to help others who are suffering with addiction. He is a graduate from the University of Dayton with a degree in Political Science, concentrating on Human Rights, non-profit and NGO work, and international politics. In his free time Steve enjoys playing the drums, reading, and playing with his dog Bo.