by Dr. Jem Tosh
Trauma can impact on us in many different ways - from numbness to hypervigilence. Sometimes the best way to deal with the day-to-day tiredness that can result from living with trauma is to get away from it all. Finding quiet spaces in busy cities to distract yourself, calm your body, or feel safe can be helpful short breaks that promote self-care and long-term healing. These places will be different for everyone, some may find loud and busy places great for distraction and others may find them overstimulating. Here are my top five places to go in Vancouver when I am feeling overwhelmed.
1. Third Beach, Stanley Park
This is a great spot, especially on a rainy day. It's quieter than the beaches closer to downtown with the beautiful park behind you, the water lapping on the beach in front of you, views of North Vancouver to your right, and you can lie down and count the sea planes passing overhead. Whenever I'm doing a guided meditation or visualization, at some point I'm guaranteed to be imagining myself at third beach. Very close to the city but just far enough away to distance yourself from the busy-ness of your day-to-day life and a great spot for some mindfulness exercises with plenty of beautiful sounds and views to focus on.
2. Walking on the sea wall
It doesn't really matter whether it's walking around Yaletown, Stanley Park, or North Vancouver - each have stunning views and are right by the water (something I always find relaxing). My favourite part of these walks though, especially from a mindfulness perspective, is listening to the short snippets of conversation you hear from passers by. It's a great insight into people's lives and the diversity of the city and can provide a brief distraction from your own thoughts.
3. Beaver Lake, Stanley Park
While just about anywhere in Stanley Park could be a relaxing escape, there's something about Beaver Lake that appeals to me more. It might be how the plant life changes so dramatically around the year and the change of the seasons (seeing the water lilies is an explosion of colour) or the fact that you can people-watch, bird-watch, and even turtle-watch until your heart's content.
4. MacLeod's Books
While sci-fi fans will know that this place is where Peter Bishop from Fringe goes for his much needed info to solve a case, MacLeod's Books is a treat for book lovers and those who like somewhere quiet but aren't too keen on wide open spaces. Books are piled high and spending time reading the titles as you weave through the narrow corridors of free space can be a great distraction in a peaceful and quiet setting.
5. Ride the Aquabus
Especially after summer, when the crowds are quieter and the weather is a little cooler, getting a ride on the Aquabus can be a brief break if water is something that soothes you. The rocking motion and the sound of the water can make for a great meditation or mindfulness activity. If you need a little more comfort and self-care for the day, you can extend your journey or get off one of the stops near a park and spend a little more time in nature, or even take a walk around one of the museums in Vanier Park.