Trauma Life Hacks


Image Description: A cartoon by Bjenny Montero. The sun is rising out of the window. A person lying in bed asks the sun, “Again?” and the sun says, “Again.”

This week, I’m creating blog post reflections based on Psalm 23.

Part 4:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

During this difficult time, we have occasions to provide gifts of presence. I realize this may sound absurd since we’re largely quarantined and physically separated from one another. But just last night, the Canterbury House community from the University of Michigan gathered folks over Zoom. Together, we checked in with one another, and we shared, music, readings, and prayer. It was a lovely and meaningful time. Beyond this example, we may all have unique ways of providing virtual presence with family members, friends, coworkers, and larger communities.

Our memories can provide presence too. We can bring loved ones to mind. Here’s something lovely: In New Testament, the word typically translated for ‘remember’ means much more than “thinking about/recalling a person or an event.” It means that we “make it present.” We can do more than ponder our loved ones. We can live in vivid memory of them. Our bodies remember what it was like to be together. We can bring that to mind and even feel that comfort physically. We can make each other present to a certain extent.

During this difficult time, we have occasions to provide gifts of comfort. These things I’ve mentioned above are helpful, but we’re also going through a collective crisis, and it is trauma. It’s okay to name that. This is our individual and collective experience at the moment. We will need comfort from each other. We can also take heart and courage in sharing what we need. Then we can offer comfort and support toward one another in those very needs. It will be important to do that.

This is trauma. It may feel like the deepest valley.

Our bodies may feel this stress.
Our relationships may feel this stress.
It may ebb and flow.
It may occasionally feel acute.

We will need forms of presence. We will need comfort.

We will also need the wisdom of one another. I appreciate what Shannon Dingle has been writing on Twitter. She is a trauma survivor, author, and disability advocate. She’s also a Mom of six children and as of last summer, tragically a widow. She’s been sharing “Trauma Life Hacks.”

Here are just a few of them:

1) “Trauma life hack:

“Name it to tame it’ is an axiom used in therapy circles. There is power in naming things, in putting words to your own inner story.

“For starters, name this moment as a time of collective trauma. This feels like trauma because it is trauma.”

2) “Trauma life hack:

“Befriend your insomnia. Sure it’s an asshole, but when we judge us — our sleep, what we ate or drank last night, our anxiety, not turning off lights — we lose.

“If you’re awake, you’re awake. It sucks, but you don’t have to be awake *and* unkind to yourself.”

3) “Trauma life hack:

“Eat something with protein. We’re in traumatic times, but it might be that you’re mostly hangry.”

4) “Trauma life hack:

“If you deny trauma with your brain, it’ll demand to be heard in another way.

“… digestive issues, tension headaches, screaming or unkindness, substance abuse, or other forms of numbing, irritability…

“whatever you use to deny it, trauma will demand a hearing.”

And I especially want to share this next one. It goes along with a trauma life hack I also want to uplift.

5) “Trauma Life Hack:

“Naming feelings helps us process them. That feeling you’re feeling a lot lately… it’s grief.

“Grief for life as it was. Grief for the loss of certainty. Grief for funerals and celebrations that won’t happen as planned or at all.”

We will need to feel our feelings. As we do, I hope we find presence and comfort Beyond and Within (I call this God and the way of the Spirit) and in the ways that we show up for one another.

I’m a trauma survivor too. I’ve lived through a number of long-term, high-stress situations. Here’s the trauma life hack that I’d like to lift up. My biggest advice is to take this one day at a time. And if you’re in a place of acute stress, take it one hour at a time. Maybe even take it one 20 minute segment at a time.

As we do this, and as those days add up, some forms of our previous normalcy will find their way back into our days. Some forms will show up just as they were (and we’ll probably appreciate them even more) and some will show up a bit adapted. Then forms of totally new normalcy will creep in, and these will be gifts too.

I’ve lived this kind of process enough times to know that for a period — in our case, maybe even months — 1) high stress, 2) old normalcy, and 3) new normalcy will all mingle together. At first, this will be confusing because we’ll feel totally outside of what’s typical for us with a lot of unpredictability. But we can take this one day at a time: High stress is then concerned with what’s going on in that 24 hour period instead of feeling everything at once, or feeling all our fears at once (after all, we don’t know what it will be like a week, month, or year into the future, but it will have gifts and challenges alike). As we live day by day, old normalcy and new normalcy will also be appreciated as gifts.

We’ll need presence.
We’ll need comfort.
We’ll need wisdom.

And we’ll need Trauma Life Hacks.

What would you add?

Renee Roederer

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