In my last article I talked about using mindfulness to expand the tennis ball in the pool or the whale in the ocean. This is one form of resilience. Creating more space between us and our stress is helpful – but not always possible.

I stumbled on Bird Box this week. As I rarely watch TV and don’t have Netflix, I had made it a full month without hearing anything about it… and I wish I had escaped it even longer. I made it through a tense 45-minutes before choosing to go in the other room, look up the ending for some closure and reassurance, and enjoy the peacefulness of a book instead. Bird Box (like John Krasinski’s even more horrifying Quiet Place) was terrifying to me; not in a fun haunted house way but in a “these are all of my deepest fears and sadness jumbled together” way. For mothers and those who are pregnant, heads-up not to watch it – and again this goes perhaps even more for Quiet Place.

After surviving the anxiety-provoking first half of Bird Box and being immediately reminded of the – let’s call it trauma? – from watching Quiet Place, I knew that I needed to get control of my mind but mindfulness wasn’t going to work. Forget the pool or bathtub, it felt as though I was holding the tennis ball and standing in a bucket of water. There was no escape. These movies probably need to come with a warning.

My mind does not regularly ruminate, cycle, and obsess so this was new to me. I was replaying the scenes in my head and imagining her children as my own boy and girl. How would it be to face that world? Scenes of Bird Box would spiral quickly into replaying scenes from Quiet Place and I knew I was losing it. I shared my illogical obsession with my husband and he very kindly confirmed that I was being too sensitive. “It’s just a movie,” he said. Yeah, okay. Tell my illogical racing brain, thumping heart, and tense full body that.

I know I’m not alone in this. Perhaps my biggest fears of post-apocalyptic life and the overwhelming need to keep my children safe are not the things that spiral you into that dark place – but I know there’s something. That place where we know our thoughts don’t make sense and we know we are overreacting but we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of it.

That’s when I decided I needed to get intentional with my mind and I remembered a favorite quote from Donna Farhi, author of Bringing Yoga to Life:

Today it is rainy, but somehow the sky does not become wet.

Bird Box and Quiet Place both produced a feeling of being drenched in rain for me – until I tried some deep breathing exercises, recalled some helpful mindfulness imagery, and discovered that even while holding that unnecessarily scary tennis ball, my skin could become slick like a duck’s feathers. The rain could roll off of me like water on a Rain-X windshield. The sky could stay dry despite the rain falling. After some intentional mindful awareness strategies, I was able to stop the scenes playing in my mind, calm my heart rate, kiss my children, and get on with life.

This is another form of resilience. Who knew that mindfulness could even be helpful with horror flicks!

Want to learn more about how to integrate mindful awareness into your own life to better manage your stress – or secondary traumas from scary movies? Consider joining Kelsey for the next Mindfulness for Stress Reduction 4-week workshop.

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