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Healing Through Mindfulness: Slowing Down & Asking for Help

What does healing look like? We often think the answer will be sold to us in pretty packaging, but the truth is that healing requires conscious effort every day, and it's usually not pretty.

A person standing on a public street, talking on the phone, holding a to-go cup of coffee

Because our work involves trauma-informed systems change (what does that even mean?), many of the concepts we discuss are abstract, and it can be challenging to see how they apply to our everyday lives.

Today, we're going to explore two common trauma responses that we tend to overlook because society praises us for them: being overly busy and hyper-independent.

Yes, busyness and hyper-independence are trauma responses!

Then, we will break down how we can begin healing through mindfulness when it comes to these particular pieces of our personal development.

A person working through lunch, reviewing papers while eating

Keeping busy can be a trauma response

When we think about trauma responses, it's easy to recall the basics: fight, flight, freeze, and appease.

While this offers us a great model, trauma responses are more complex than "run away" or "fight." Being busy can be a trauma response. How often do you work through lunch or work during your off hours? When thinking about work spills over into your weekends and evenings, how do you respond?

For many of us, being busy is a trauma response. By filling up our days with task after task after task, we don't have to slow down and listen to our inner world. We can remain blissfully disconnected from our true thoughts and feelings and keep pushing forward, neglecting our self-care while being praised by others for being hard workers.

If being busy is your trauma response, you might gravitate towards activities and tasks. If someone else is busy, you might feel the urge to get up and help.

Why? It's possible that idleness meant danger in your past. Being busy might help you feel safe.

But when we rarely give ourselves time to settle down and think, we do ourselves a disservice. We miss out on quality alone time. We might struggle to relax or let go of work. We fail to be mindful and intentional with how we're spending our time.

In each of these cases, we find ourselves stuck in trauma brain. If you've been through our training, you might be able to see how these responses frequently push us into the roles of reenactments (aka unhealthy patterns).

A street sign reads "Slowly Please"

How to heal from being overworked and overly busy through mindfulness

Whether you're overworking yourself in your personal life, your professional life, or both, it is possible to make a change.

But I won't lie to you. It will be challenging. To heal, we need to face our discomfort with idleness and slowness.

It's okay to slow down. It's okay to create a space where you have nothing to do. In fact, it is healing for us to stop, slow down, and assess. We can just be humans being, not humans doing.

This practice of slowing down will look different for everyone. It might look like:

  • taking an hour for lunch most days

  • building a morning ritual to start your day with silence or meditation

  • being more intentional with how you spend your time (or who you spend it with)

  • pausing when you notice you're stuck in "go-mode" or getting swept away by chaotic energy

  • taking a breath before responding to a situation

  • taking breaks when you need them, even if it's inconvenient

  • spending more time alone or in nature

By slowing down a little bit each day, we start to heal. This is how we build a culture that is people-centered and not task-centered. We have to start by prioritizing ourselves over our own tasks.

If being busy is your trauma response, you might hate this advice: but you would also benefit the most from it.

A young girl looks directly into the camera. She is alone

Independence can be a trauma response

This is true of most of our trauma responses, and it's often especially true of people with hyper-independence: our current behavior can be traced back to our childhoods.

Hyper-independence is another commonly overlooked trauma response because, like busyness, it is often praised by society. If this is your trauma response, you might be praised as a self-starter, capable, reliable, an action person, or independent.

There's no trouble in possessing these qualities. The trouble comes when we experience a strong resistance to asking for or receiving help. How do you feel about the idea of asking a friend, loved one, or colleague for help with something? How often do you really ask for help?

You may believe that you don't or shouldn't need help or that needing help is a sign of weakness. No one would blame you for believing that: our cultural norms often teach us these beliefs.

So many of us struggle to ask for help. It might come from a time we were let down in the past after asking. Or, we may have been in situations where there was no one we could ask for help.

If we acknowledge that our resistance to help comes from a place of trauma, we can apply a new perspective to recurring situations.

A person receives a helping hand climbing up a rocky mountainside

How to mindfully heal from hyper-independence

Learning how to ask for help is a task that sounds easy but takes years to learn. Here's where you can start this journey.

Next time you think about asking for help, notice if your immediate next thought is resistance. Then, consider it an opportunity to push back, disengage your trauma response, break a pattern, and choose healing over comfort.

Remember that healing is not linear. Celebrate your successes no matter how small. For someone who never asks for help, a simple "Can you hand me that?" can be a big step in the right direction.

In addition to asking for help, you might want to investigate why asking for help is so challenging for you. This question will open up a new world when it comes to your personal development, and it's okay to take it slow.

A computer on a zoom conference call is out of focus, while a plant in the foreground is in focus

Final Thoughts: Mindfully slow down and ask for help

When we think about mindfulness, we probably imagine deep breathing or quiet retreats. That's not wrong, but it is only one method of mindfulness among a million other ways to be mindful and intentional.

At its very core, mindfulness and personal development are all about healing through intention. Being intentional with how we respond to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is how we develop a successful daily self-care routine that serves us and those around us.

For more resources on trauma healing and systems change, read more of our blogs or visit our shop, where we offer free downloadable resources.

A version of this article was originally published in Chefalo Consulting's September 2022 Trauma-Informed Newsletter.

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