‘Dissociation’ seems like a scary word, no?
Have you ever found yourself zoning out in a car, train or a lecture? Felt like you’ve forgotten chunks of your day or your past? It's something all of us have experienced at some point in our lives. While the term seems very clinical and can also scare us sometimes, it's important for our brain to take mental breaks and just reset sometimes.
Oftentimes, dissociation can be experienced on a spectrum, and it can range from simply daydreaming to occasionally forgetting a traumatic incident. We often observe our bodies and our minds needing a moment. For example, getting lost in thought while someone is trying to talk to you or diving so deep into your music playlist that you tune everything else out. But here’s the thing: dissociating from an incident is necessary for us. It's the brain's way of protecting ourselves from getting consumed by our intrusive thinking or those traumatic memories that cripple us from living our everyday life.
Dissociation can be very empowering. When we get triggered by something in our environment, our body may respond by dissociating as a coping mechanism. This coping mechanism might seem harmful but it also protects us from that memory or trigger. However, the overuse of this mechanism can make it our automatic response to every situation. So how do we help ourselves when we find ourselves zoning out?
When I dissociate, what helps me come back in the moment is grounding, quite literally. I lie down flat on the floor and feel the coldness of the floor against my body. The touch of the cold floor and focusing on the sound of my breath is what helps me come back to the present and feel safe.
If that doesn’t work for you, here are a few other things you can try:
- If you’re a person who likes something that involves the movement of your body, try playing hopscotch! Sounds silly, I know. But it helps focus our attention to the present while also regulating our body.
- ‘Smell’ is the strongest sense to bring us back to the present. So smell your favourite essential oil, perfume or coffee!
- Stretch! Stand on your toes and raise your arms like you're trying to touch the ceiling.
- Sway with the wind. Let your body loose and sway from left to right. Close your eyes if you’re comfortable and try to listen to the sounds in your surroundings.