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Living with dissociation can be like living in an alternate universe. You’re in a world where you struggle to remember what day it is and have difficulty staying present in conversations. Days and nights blend, leaving you feeling lost and confused.
Dissociation is a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity. The coping mechanism allows people to separate themselves from a traumatic event. Episodes are a normal response to an abnormal situation.
Symptoms of dissociation can range from mild to severe and include feeling detached from oneself, feeling numb, experiencing amnesia, or having out-of-body experiences. Dissociation can be a short-lived response to trauma or can become chronic.
It’s no secret that dissociative episodes can be disruptive and uncomfortable. People who experience physical symptoms of dissociation, such as those often associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or chronic trauma, can find themselves stuck in a cycle of negative emotions, intrusive thoughts, and anxiety. But what if there was a way for you to help yourself manage these episodes?
What Is Mindfulness?
One of the most powerful things you can do to manage dissociation is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness brings awareness to one’s thoughts without judgment and allows us to observe thoughts and feelings without attaching any meaning. The technique helps create space between you and your ideas. You can then make more conscious choices about how you respond to them.
Mindfulness encourages us to accept our experiences without trying to change them or push them away, even when feeling overwhelmed. Mindful practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing techniques, and journaling can help us to stay grounded and present in the moment rather than getting lost in our heads.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness is used to help individuals become more in tune with their thoughts and feelings. This connection allows people to begin to manage them more effectively. Mindfulness helps increase self-awareness and self-regulation skills when practiced regularly. These skills can greatly benefit those suffering from dissociative symptoms.
Mindful Practices vs. Dissociation
By engaging in mindfulness daily, you can proactively prepare yourself for the eventuality of an episode. The routine will help you better recognize when one is about to begin. Plus, conscious efforts will give you the tools necessary to manage the situation before you become overwhelmed.
Many people who struggle with dissociation also struggle with self-compassion. When an episode strikes, they may become frustrated and discouraged with themselves. They may even blame themselves for not coping better or faster than they have been able to so far.
Acknowledging that this is a common reaction among those who experience chronic dissociation is crucial. Taking time each day to practice self-compassion can go a long way toward helping you stay on track during challenging moments. This mental exercise can also help you manage your emotions more effectively.
Creative expression is another excellent way to manage dissociative episodes. Writing stories or poetry can provide an outlet for unexpressed emotions that can otherwise feel overwhelming; creating visual art can give us a sense of control over chaos; playing music can bring moments of pure joy even when life feels too chaotic, or dancing can help us release pent-up energy quickly and safely without hurting ourselves or others around us.
You can try engaging in activities like coloring books or puzzles, which require focus and concentration but don’t necessarily cause further stress or anxiety. This will help pull your mind away from the triggers which caused the episode in the first place. Your mind can then move into a state of relaxation where the brain can heal without further disruption or distress.
Creating Structure & Routine
Creating structure and routine through daily habits is also vital for managing dissociative symptoms. This could include anything from making your bed every morning (or at least attempting to) to taking regular breaks throughout the day for self-care activities like reading a book or calling a friend for moral support.
Developing positive habits helps us build consistency in our lives. Patterns also give our days something tangible that we can look forward to doing even if everything else feels overwhelming.
Disconnecting From Dissociation
Dissociative episodes are challenging enough without worrying about how we will get through them each time they occur. However, by incorporating mindful practices into our daily lives, we can better prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. We can also learn how to deal effectively with them when they arise.
Dissociation doesn’t have to be life-interfering. We can take numerous proactive steps to manage how episodes affect our lives thanks to mindful practices, creative expression, and creating structure through regular routines and habits. With enough effort, we can all find ways to navigate this tricky terrain while keeping ourselves centered amidst the chaos around us.
Mindfulness can be an effective way to manage the symptoms of dissociation and help you lead a more peaceful life, but this method is not a cure-all. If you are experiencing dissociation and would like to explore how mindfulness can help, consider talking to a therapist. There is help available, and you don’t have to suffer in silence. Dissociation can be a symptom of underlying mental health issues, and addressing those issues with the help of a mental health professional can make a major difference. Many people experience these symptoms. Find someone who can help you through the challenges. To receive help from a qualified mental health professional, contact Alter Behavioral Health at (866) 691-4386.