Before I knew I it, I was hanging partially upside down with only a lap belt that kept me from falling.
This was not the pleasant ride on a path that I had expected.
It began as a nice Saturday in the mountains where my husband had taken me for a drive. Oh yeah, another part I should add, it was a ride in his four wheel drive vehicle up mountain rock paths. We went through a forest of evergreen trees, through a stream trickling water, up a waterfall pathway (no water) and onto other marked trails. Then the unexpected happened, we were slung off the path before we realized what happened, rolling over and stopped by a tree. I thanked God for the tree; otherwise we would have kept rolling.
As a therapist, I help others deal with hurts and pain, including, “the unexpected”.
Here’s some quick tips that help.
1. Stay Put and Hang On
When life is out of control, you’re thrown off your normal path, it can be best to stay put (at least temporarily). Ride out whatever is going on; hang on to the familiar. Ground yourself with what is right in front of you. The unexpected can alert your brain to go in reactionary mode causing you to do and say things you may regret and make the situation worse. Have you ever overreacted to a situation? . . .Yeah, met too. By staying put, you send the message to the fight/flight part of your brain to calm down. This will allow your brain to get or stay calm and respond with clarity rather than react.
In my story, I hung on to the overhead handles that I knew had been placed there to help brace myself, to keep me from banging my head or . . . who knows whatever else.
2. Check Yourself
It’s important to pause for a moment (or two), take a breath and see how you are doing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Are there some self needs that you can tend to or areas where you need help. As important as it is to tend to your needs, it’s important to realize in what ways you are okay. It will help you to stay calm.
For us that meant literally checking in with ourselves and with each other to see if we were physically and emotionally ok. We were able to breathe a sigh of relief and look to what was next.
it’s important to realize in what ways you’re okay.
3. Reach Out for Help
Seek the help of those around you whether it’s friends, family, helpful people/organizations or a therapist, counselor, pastor, other professional. You may not know the answers or which direction to go, but others can offer valuable resources, point you in the right direction and give practical help. We are meant for relationships, community and connectedness. Help is available. You need to ask and accept it. I know it’s not always easy, but others are more than willing to help . . . it’s actually a blessing for them. (Research shows we have a feel good chemical released in our brains - oxytocin- when we help others)
Needless to say, hanging at an angle on the high side of a vehicle tipped over, we weren’t sure what to do next. Thankfully, people came running to help us and give us direction. I was instructed to climb out a window which meant unbuckling the only strap holding me from falling downward and climb against gravity. Putting one foot and another on the internal roll bar, I climbed up, went out the window and had to fall toward a man who assured that he would catch me.
4. Keep Moving Forward
Here’s where you put one foot in front of the other to keep going and not become stuck. The unexpected has a way of causing paralysis. If you stay put for too long, your brain can become stuck, frozen in fear, unable to move at all. That’s why it’s vital to do something to keep going. I don’t expect you to climb a mountain, but do something that is familiar, something “normal” like talk to a friend, go to the store, do a task around the house or yard, go for coffee. It will calm your brain to know you can function and the hyper-alert signal will decrease.The longer you stay stuck the harder it is to move on any path.
To finish the story, our vehicle was pulled back over with the help of others using winches on their vehicles. Other than cosmetic damage and a lot of fluids being lost, our vehicle was still drivable. So . . . we kept going, not along the same path, but we still kept going. I must admit I was a little hesitant to go on a harder rock climb, but my husband went to keep from fear from settling in. I joined him as we went along the rest of the trails and enjoying the day. As a therapist I knew to keep checking in with myself, breathe deeply and assure myself we were fine (Extra tip on ways to keep your brain from staying in fight/flight mode or being hyper-aroused).