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Supporting Yourself and Others Through Trauma

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Likely you’ve seen it at some point in your life. Perhaps there was a catastrophic event, a death, an accident, abuse, or some severe emotional upheaval. You’ve maybe watched and held a friend through it. Or you’ve read about it, seen it in movies, and have an understanding without direct experience.

And maybe, you know it well. Perhaps there was a time in your life where the walls fell down, the ground slid out from under you, and everything you thought was alright just wasn’t that way anymore.

Trauma. It’s a word we throw around a lot these days. It is the Greek word for “wound”; described as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, or a highly stressful event. It overwhelms a person’s ability to cope with no clear divisions between stress, trauma, and adaptation.  Important to note is that it is the individual’s subjective and intrinsic experience that determines whether or not an event is deemed traumatic.

Physiologically speaking, when the body is in a state of severe stress, we are dominantly functioning in our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). Although this part of our nervous system may serve us well in the middle of a highly stressful situation (a Grizzly bear is chasing you or you need to high-tail it out of a burning building), it does not serve us to remain here for long periods of time. When we remain in this part of our nervous system for extended periods of time (chronic/long-term stress), a cascade of physiological reactions take place and some severe damage can be done.

Chronic Stress Causes:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Increased heart rate and cardiovascular function
  • Exhausted adrenal glands and strained liver
  • Gastrointestinal dysfunction and decreased nutrient absorption
  • Interrupted menstrual cycles and increased pms symptoms
  • Increased anxiety, depression, and insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Memory and cognitive impairment
  • Weight fluctuations and disrupted hunger signals

I am familiar with trauma. I know what it feels like in my body and I know first hand how much of a toll it takes on the psyche, the gut, the heart, the body, and soul alike.

Sigh.

What I’ve learned: there is ALWAYS an upside!

There is SO much you can do to help support yourself (or a loved one) through trauma. One of the beautiful things about living during the 21st century, is that we have so many means and different avenues to take towards healing. Being able to choose is empowering and, during the hard times, it is super important to feel like we have some control.

Supporting Your Self and Others Through Trauma

  • Therapy: Finding the right person to talk to, in a safe space, and in confidentiality, is imperative to filtering thoughts and emotions. Ask around, be patient, and listen to your intuition when it comes to choosing the right person for you.
  • Acupuncture: I love, love, love acupuncture and the endless healing it presents for us. Acupuncture can open up channels within the body that have been blocked up for years, encourage energy flow, and a deep level of healing that is difficult to access just through talk. Again, take the time to find the right practitioner for you.
  • Adrenal Support: The adrenal glands can easily become overworked and inflamed during prolonged times of stress. Supporting these glands, which regulate our hormones, can encourage a calmer state, reducing anxiety, aid with insomnia, and improve mood and overall ability to adapt and cope.
  • Immune Supplements: Since our immune system tends to become suppressed during times of trauma and stress, giving the Immune system some added support can help us avoid getting illnesses we may very well have trouble fighting. I highly recommend taking Vitamins: C (250mg as often as every 2 hrs), D (at least 2oooiu/day), E ( 400iu/day), and/or an Echinacea/Goldenseal tincture.
  • Essential Oils: Essential oils encourage healing through inhalation. Odor molecules travel through the nose and affect the brain through a variety of receptor sites directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. Particularly helpful during times of stress: Frankincense, Balsam Fir, Spruce, and the Blends: Hope, Harmony, Forgiveness, Release, Envision, Valor, Peace & Calming, and Joy.
  • Bach Remedies: Working through the healing powers of plant extracts, the Back remedies are safe, deemed to have no effect on the physical body or physical symptoms, they work at a mental and emotional level and are particularly useful for trauma. For more information, start here.
  • Calming Techniques: Invite as much calm into the mind and body as possible. Simple, at-home, practices that can be incorporated into every day life: warm baths with Epsom salts, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, quiet walks, journaling and reading.
  • Nourish Properly: As nutrient absorption and intestinal function is compromised at this time, optimal nutritional intake and good eating habits is crucial. Stick to a whole foods diet, avoid sugars, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, and problematic foods. Include as many nurturing foods as possible: ginger, garlic, turmeric, onions, curry, roots, broths, berries, salmon, sprouts, greens, cruciferous vegetables, lentils and chia.
  • Get Outside: No matter the season, fresh air, Nature (water, trees, mountains, earth), the break from work or inside air or children, is naturally calming and centering.  Focus on bringing your brain energy (racing thoughts, running to-do list, negative self-talk) down through your chest and belly and run it down your legs out into the ground.  This practice can often bring us back into the body and reunite us to the outside world.
  • Try Herbal Teas: Herbal teas are warming, calming, and soothing to the nervous system and the intestines. Try peppermint, ginger, fennel, rose, chamomile, and lemon balm.
  • Remember Love: Surrounding your self with people you love; people you trust; people who make you feel safe, is integral to bringing forth healing.  Remember the people you love and bring them in close, lean on them, and remind yourself of what it feels like to be loved and feel love.  There is no true healing that can happen without the love, people!!

We are not always able to move past the traumatic times in life, but we can move through them with grace, integrity, love, and in good health.

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