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Beauty in the Darkness: Dealing with Grief, Trauma & Isolation in Winter

somatic experiencing

The holidays lights are up and twinkling, casting a seasonal warmth and merriment over Oswego, Aurora, Plainfield and Naperville (IL). A sense of good will and sharing permeates even the quietest neighborhoods, instilling hope for peace on Earth.

And then January arrives with a slammed door.

The skies become grayer, the nights get darker sooner and the ice and snow packing us in offer little inspiration beyond the prospect of Netflix and chill.

Winter is arguably our toughest season. For those of us going through a hard time such as divorce or domestic distress or managing a condition such as depression or anxiety, it can double down on the mental or emotional pain that we feel.

It also is a time when we can identify and appreciate the beauty that remains within the inner and outer darkness we think we're perceiving. The beauty is there, and it is ours to embrace through even the simplest micro thoughts and choices.

Some people refer to them as glimmers.

Personal Capsules of Positivity

Glimmers are the flashes of light, peace and calm we have the power to spark when we're feeling down, alone or empty. A glimmer can be the soothing sounds of a beautiful song, the quirky pitch of a best friend's laugh or a glimpse of our cat standing next to our bed waiting to be fed in the morning.

Life is full of such tiny but lasting treasures that surround us in ribbons of what makes this life so wonderful and our own lives so unique. Maybe you feel a surge of warmth when you open an old photo album of a happy, earlier time, or when you get an unexpected text or email from someone who was thinking of you.

All of these little gifts are healthy, natural antidotes to worry, grief and stress. Positive thoughts and emotions likewise support our physical health.

Each glimmer is capsule of emotion or experience stored by our brain for retrieval. The more capsules we form and file away, the more we have to snap open to let the natural powder of positivity work its wonders on our outlook.

Glimmers & Polyvagal Theory

Glimmers are also associated with the vagus nerve (the main neural component of the parasympathetic nervous system) and polyvagal theory, which centers on neuroscientific concepts of brain signals and activity.

Polyvagal theory puts forth that our bodies react in physiological and neurobiological ways to elevated stress, especially when it involves perceived danger or harm.

When we feel safe, our myelinated pathways are in control and comfortably connecting us to our parasympathetic nervous system, which keeps us in a state of calm. It also protects us with well-informed fight, flight or freeze responses to danger.

Polyvagal theory aims to treat mental and emotional stress by decreasing our frequency of fight, flight and freeze responses. The goal is to activate the vagal system so it is well-connected with the parasympathetic nervous system.

Glimmers support this activation by sending us signals that guide our body and mind back to vagal calm, which infuses us with a sense of connection and safety. In this way, glimmers are much like an immune system – they equip our nervous system to combat negative thoughts and emotions by engaging the vagus nerve. This in turn helps to perpetuate an even more positive, safe and optimistic emotional life.

Creating & Retrieving Your Glimmers

There may be times this winter when the day's concerns crowd in and add yet another layer to the night sky at 4:30pm. Whether we find ourselves in those moments or in others that are less laden, the following are but a few ways we can access and establish glimmers each day.

Nourish a gratitude mindset. Feelings of gratitude are built-in mood boosters. Near the end of each day, take a moment to reflect on what you may have been grateful for. Perhaps it was wrapping yourself in a warm home in your favorite blanket, receiving a hug from your significant other or being able to bring home groceries. If you're really inspired, keep a record of your daily gratitude in a notebook. Similar to physical exercise, this steady reflection will help to develop a strengthening positive outlook.

Practice mindfulness. The past is irretrievable and the future can't be predicted. Trapping ourselves in what we can't change or control segregates us from what we can embrace and revel in: the moment that we occupy. Sit still and look around you. You are here and you are alive, with your own special place in time. You can also consider setting aside a few minutes each day to shut out the noise and peacefully meditate.

Calibrate your mind. When you wake up each morning, you can start the day with a positive thought: "Today I will…." That could be call a friend, finish a task, get a cup of my favorite coffee or inwardly grin at anything unreasonable that might be said or done as I'm going about my business. From the moment you open your eyes, you really can set the specs of how your thoughts will operate.

Be kind for the sake of it. Compliment somebody today. Let someone in front of you in line. Donate items you don't use or need to charity. Do something unexpected for someone. This is the real you: the special candle you light for others in the darkness. Remember to be kind to yourself as well – and that sometimes it is okay to not feel okay.

Practice self-care. Give yourself time for sufficient sleep, observe a healthy diet with room for occasional indulgences, create an exercise regimen that you yourself look forward to. If you have a passion or a hobby, dispense with any reasons you give yourself for not pursuing it. Engaging it is a powerful expression of self-love.

Turn off the technology for periods. We all need technology to work and communicate, as well as for information and entertainment. We don't need it as an inner tube for drifting down rivers of endless distraction, comparison and silos of thinking. We will always be more fulfilled by time with ourselves and with family and friends when they are available. Keep close to those who are positive influences in your life – they can be an abundant stream of extra glimmers.

Get support when you need it. Life is beautiful, but it also can be draining and hard sometimes. If you feel overwhelmed or that you're starting to sink beneath growing negativity, reaching out for help is a profound act of self-love and self-respect. The right professional support can help you achieve your desire to heal, to adapt and to brighten your light, which cannot avoid attracting more of the same.

Find Your Peace, Shine Your Light: Contact Us Today

Empowered Life Therapy offers support for personal healing through the individually centered therapeutic process, including for people from people from Oswego, Aurora, Plainfield and Naperville (IL).

Together, we create a safe space in which you can explore thoughts, techniques and exercises for soothing the self, improving relationships, increasing self-trust and tapping into your inner wisdom and spirit to fulfill your purpose.

To find out more about how we can contribute to your healing and growth, contact us today at (630) 842-6585. We welcome people of all ages and backgrounds.

We're here to help!
We're a no-judgment zone, so feel free to come to us with any questions or concerns.