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Understanding Trauma

Healing from trauma is a powerful and challenging thing to do. It means facing thoughts, feelings,  body sensations, and perhaps images once tucked deep down inside.

What is trauma?

Trauma is any situation a person endures either where the stress is so overwhelming, they experience an inability to cope and integrate all the emotions involved throughout the event. Events can be traumatic for a person if it is direct, meaning the individual endured the trauma themselves such as a physical assault. Or, the trauma could be indirect, the individual witnessed or heard about a traumatic event such as a car accident, or counsellors hearing their client’s trauma. This may also be called vicarious trauma.

The onset of trauma can begin in fetal development and continues throughout the person’s life leading to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cPTSD.  Trauma which occurs after birth, and can be a single event or continuous, can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.

There are four types of trauma: mental, emotional, physical, sexual. Enduring one or all of types of trauma impacts an individual’s way of functioning and causes significant distress that impacts the person’s quality of life and relationships. Trauma impacts an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behavior and causes strong feelings of hopelessness, security and a loss of safety and trust with others. Many individuals who have experienced reoccurring traumatic events, search for a sense of numbness from the pain and emotions they are feeling, they struggle with addiction.

cPTSD or PTSD can bring on the following mental and physical symptoms:

MentalPhysical
Shock, denial, disbeliefFatigue
ConfusionInsomnia
Difficulty concentratingIsolation from others
AngerMuscle tension
IrritabilityEasily startled/edginess
Mood swingsAches/pains
Anxiety/fearStomach issues
Guilt/shame/self-blameMigraines/headaches
Disconnected/numbSleep distress
Disassociation

Healing from trauma is a powerful and challenging thing to do. It means facing thoughts, feelings,  body sensations, and perhaps images once tucked deep down inside, taking a deep breath and walking through a door and opening Pandora’s Box in a safe and comforting space. There are parts of trauma healing where it may feel things feeling worse before it gets better, and this is normal. As you are releasing emotions from the past, it stands to reason a sense of discomfort, but it will be you who guides the pain.

Trauma therapy guides the client through their process with unconditional positive regard and client-centered approach. Once you become uncomfortable, you can state you need to stop and take a few moments to process or build strength to continue. There are many different forms of therapy useful for working through trauma. Until you are ready, here are some activities you can do on your own:

  1. Exercise: Any kind of movement for the body resets balance between the mind and the body. This can also assist with disassociation, sleep or other stress you experience. Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are released in the brain, which helps balance out mood and reduce stress.
  2. Add mindfulness and grounding techniques to your daily routine to regulate your nervous system. These are easy to carry out and can be done anywhere. These techniques can be simple moving exercises like stretching, deep breathing strategies, Progressive muscle Relaxation, or mentally completing a task you do daily
  3. Rhythmic exercise is also useful as it engages both sides of the body. Rhythmic activities are walking, running, hiking and dancing!!
  4. Engaging in right brain activities
  5. Be as social as you are comfortable with, try not to isolate. Isolate can bring on depressive episodes, further reducing trust in people.
  6. Sensory input: What do you see, hear, touch, taste, smell
  7. Take care of the other aspects of health with your body
    • Eat a well-balanced meal
    • Reduce stress
    • Avoid the use of substances
    • Master a fun new activity

If the symptoms mentioned above become distressing and negatively impact your relationships, work-life and daily tasks, it may be helpful to find additional support.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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