Nightmares are a normal way for the brain to process a traumatic event. Isolated nightmares are normal, but when dreams that consist of flashbacks, unwanted memories, visceral fear or anxiety recur often, they can become a debilitating sleep disorder, according to research done by the National Center for PTSD. The Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth & Technology has developed a new mobile application to help users rewrite bad dreams to reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares.
This is a mindfulness and meditation app that is built around you. Buddhify is perfect for those who are ready to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into their entire day, with meditations that target every aspect of your life, from sleeping, to traveling, to being online.
If calm is what you need, Calm is the app for you. It starts you out with a seven-day program. This is a great way for beginners to start meditation. Choose between options for sound and length of time, as well as scenes from nature for you to visually focus on while you meditate.
Other features include multiple guided as well as unguided sessions.
For individuals with chronic worry, anticipatory anxiety, and GAD, this app provides simple self-monitoring and documenting of worry within a pre-fixed menu, as well as a graphical tool that charts the worry entries by various factors. It also prompts the user to think about whether the he or she believes the actual worry was as bad as what actually happened.
A simple, intuitive, and attractive mobile app designed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology to teach breathing techniques to manage stress. The skills taught may be applied to those with anxiety disorders, stress, and PTSD.
Targeted to anyone who wants to learn meditation to reduce anxiety and stress and improve their attention and awareness; good for a beginner to establish a regular meditative routine. The skills taught include mindfulness and cognitive diffusion, breathing exercises, meditation practice, tips for increased relaxation, concentration; may be applied to anxiety and depressive disorders, PTSD, and OCD, especially in conjunction with a health provider.
One of two self-help apps from the National Center for PTSD, this app is targeted to help individuals suffering from PTSD, as well as those simply interested in learning more about this disorder. The skills taught may be applied to individuals with mild to moderate versions of PTSD and for whom self-guided assessment and treatment might be sufficient.
Anxiety can be crippling and unrelenting often preventing individuals from engaging in certain activities or living up to their true potential. What separates anxiety and fear from other emotions is that it is not just cognitively present but actually physically experienced. One of the main reasons why anxiety can be so debilitating is that it is often locked in the body associated with unpleasant physical sensations such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate and respiration, and stress and tension in the neck and shoulders.
Most often anxiety appears to rise without warning and seems to come out of nowhere. Ever wonder what contributes to your fear, but cannot seem to identify a logical explanation? The explanation may rest somewhere deep within your subconscious experience and may be connected to a past event stored in your sensory memory. Certain sensations and thought patterns are cued each time there is a slight reminder of this event such as a certain sound or tone, smell, and touch. Even the way someone looks at you or their communication style might send signals to your brain that danger is present.
Practicing mindful self-reflection and self-soothing strategies can unlock the mystery of anxiety while also allowing for its release. The first step in mindful self-reflection is to drop self-judgment and criticism over having the anxiety in the first place and instead utilize an introspective approach. Approach your anxiety with gentle curiosity by viewing it from a perspective of wonder. Stop and ask yourself: If my anxiety was a teacher what is it it wants me to learn about myself? Is this fear connected with a core belief about myself or this situation? Am I making assumptions about a person, place, or task? What does my internal dialogue consistent of when the anxiety is present? Where is the anxiety located in my body? Allow yourself to be fully present and connected with the anxiety for a moment, just noticing and witnessing. Become accepting of the anxiety as you are with other emotions that may feel more pleasant. Listen and explore if there are any images or memories associated with it.
Next try to separate from your fear by externalizing your anxiety. Try imaging it having a shape, size, color, and texture. Image yourself placing the anxiety in front of you. Viewing your anxiety as its own being can assist you in the journey of figuring out what the fear may need to feel more calm and soothed. Does the fear need encouraging words or messages or is it enough to sooth your fear just by being a compassionate witness to it? After you feel that you have learned the lesson your anxiety is trying to teach you utilize imagery and deep breathing to envision the tension and the anxiety getting smaller and smaller until you feel relief.
When a person experiences trauma, their body decreases the ability to control their emotions. As Mollon’s research suggested, the experience of trauma deregulates the individual’s ability to regulate emotional experience and manage physical arousal (Mollon, 2005). This process may leave the trauma survivor hypervigelent and vulnerable to any emotional, physical, and sensory cues reminiscent of the trauma. When a trauma cue is present the mind and the body become activated similarly to being exposed to the actual threat (Van der Kolk, 2002). This experience of hyperarousal makes it important for trauma survivors to build skills that will strengthen their ability to not only regulate emotions, but increase their ability to experience safety in the present moment.
Grounding techniques can be utilized to anchor the mind and the body in the present moment. Building grounding skills assists with differentiating between sensations and emotional reactions triggered from past traumatic experience by increasing awareness that there is safety in the present moment. An individual can anchor themselves in the present moment through the utilization of their senses such as sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. Utilizing the senses an individual can attempt to identify factual objects in the environment that shift their focus to the present moment such as counting all of the blue objects in the room or an individual may orientate their mind to focus on the current time date, and location in which they are (Lee & James, 2011). It is important to focus the attention outward or on external experience.
Enhancing a Calm State
It is also important to practice daily exercises that enhance experiences of calm and safety while promoting the individual’s ability to recover from hyperarousal (Shapiro, 2001). An individual may construct an image in the mind that signifies peace and tranquility (Shapiro, 2001, Miller, 1994). This place can be a real place or imaginary. The most important part of this exercise is to utilize the senses to enhance the experience by noticing sights, sounds, and smells you’d expect to experience in this place while paying particular attention to how the body feels when calm. The positive associations created during the exercise can be cued throughout the day by the use of cue words, objects, and scents. Lee et al., 2011 suggests carrying objects associated with safe memories or utilizing scents that signify safety and compassion as reminders throughout the day. If negative associations begin to develop during the use of the guided safe place imagery, distancing techniques may be utilized to regain safety during this meditation. Such as changing the picture to black and white or building an imaginary force field around the safe place that serves to prevent negativity from entering the scene (Rothschild, 2003). It is important to focus on the breath during this exercise to facilitate centering and relaxation. A person may imagine stressors being released during exhalation and the enhancement of pleasurable sensations during inhalation. For some individuals the utilization of soothing music during this exercise can enhance a calm state and disrupt distracting thoughts from interfering.
Containment exercises provide a way to separate from painful, intense emotions until they can be processed in the safety of the therapeutic relationship. The purpose of containment is to help an individual regain control of emotions by creating the freedom to choose when and where these emotions will be processed. Containment can be achieved by utilizing imagery of an actual container that is large and strong enough to hold painful emotions and memories. This exercise is enhanced by remembering that the container can only be opened when it is safe to do so. The container is then sealed and a person may choose to add negative emotions to hold throughout the day until they are ready to be examined further and processed.
It is equally important to utilize mindfulness, grounding, containment, and guided imagery/relaxation techniques when distressing emotions are experienced and to practice these skills daily even when distress is not present. Continued practice will lessen the frequency and severity of distress experienced overtime while providing an avenue to sooth difficult emotions when experienced.