Is your daily life affected by trauma and stress? A perspective

Breathing is the cornerstone of stress management

‘TAKING A deep breath will help you regain your focus, your clarity and your stability,’ notes the writer. (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘TAKING A deep breath will help you regain your focus, your clarity and your stability,’ notes the writer.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
We are living in times of great uncertainty. There are constant threats and rocket attacks in the South, threats and uncertainty in the North, and the constant threat of terrorism everywhere in-between. We live in a tough neighborhood to say the least.
Most humans live with trauma from their present and their past. This trauma can be in the form of a big life-changing event that occurred, and can also be those daily or unacknowledged experiences that deeply affect how you think, feel and function in the world.
Both the big and little traumas have a profound effect on your body and on your daily life. When they are ignored or unprocessed, they can build up and result in serious illness or irreversible mistakes in judgment.
Given everything that’s going on around us, it makes complete sense to be deeply affected. You may be internalizing beliefs you’re not aware of that are influenced by the events around you.
However, you can relieve yourself of those beliefs and identify your symptoms so that you can begin to pave a path to freedom and a less stressful way of life.
In my work with individuals and in workshops, there are some common statements I hear that people believe to be normal or which they have accepted as personal flaws. The truth is, they’re being impacted by trauma. If we don’t acknowledge that, we can’t make the important shifts where it matters.
• “My head is all over the place.”
• “I can’t get anything done.”
• “I can’t stop scrolling on social media.”
• “I’m constantly checking the news.”
• “I’m always on edge and anticipating the worst-case scenario.”
• “My kids are so unsettled and worried which is upsetting me.”
There may be an ever-present looming feeling of things going wrong amid so much uncertainty. When the day-to-day routine resumes to normal, you may have a feeling that it could all erupt at any moment.
That doesn’t make you a pessimist. It’s a very normal trauma response.
A STUDY by Marjie L. Roddick, MA, NCC, LMHC on how your body reacts to trauma outlines five common responses to trauma that you may be able to identify in yourself. The first important step is always awareness of what’s happening so you know what kind of care you can take to transform your experience.
Trauma response #1: To freeze
During an initial stress response, the body usually heightens its senses so it knows what’s going on. Think of a deer that perks up its ears at the sound of rustling grass. When in a constant, low-level state of trauma-related stress, your body may numb its senses so you become less affected by what’s around you. People experiencing this response usually feel unable to make decisions or think clearly.
Response #2: Fight or flight: This is when your brain and body prepare to either fight or run from a perceived danger. Your body interprets all stress as dangerous, even if you are not immediately being threatened. These two states cause your muscles to tense up, your heart rate to increase, and your digestion to be impacted. If you are experiencing this regularly, you may have a lot of body aches, headaches, digestive complaints and fatigue.
Response #3: Fright – This is when fear has become a normal state of mind and starts to block your ability to think clearly. People who share this have trouble concentrating or taking action on anything, and are often responding to a state of fear. Living in this state makes sense, given what’s going on around us.
Response #4: Flag response – This is when your body begins to shut down and slow down. You may say you “feel numb.” You’re not becoming emotionless or insensitive, your brain and body are actually just trying to protect you.
Response #5: Faint response – This may mean actually fainting, or the feeling of being completely disconnected from your body. You see this when people say they feel like they weren’t in their bodies, or that they were floating above themselves watching things take place.
Whatever the trauma response may be, you can see how it adversely affects your daily life and health. If you are starting to feel numb and not present – experiencing stress symptoms in the body, unable to focus, struggling with the fear of uncertainty, always tensed up – you are going to see how that impacts your relationships, your career, your health and more.
So, begin to identify it in yourself so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent the escalation of trauma and so that you can also begin to heal. This will give you an understanding and perspective so you can help your kids if you notice these signs affecting them.
HERE ARE some solutions. The first and most accessible tool to all humans is to become aware of your breathing. Breathing is the cornerstone of stress management. It will help you regain your focus, your clarity, and your stability.
• Do a body scan. Lie or sit down and go through the different body parts from your fingers to your toes. Talk through what you’re feeling and imagine releasing all tension. You can help your children with this too and even do this together
• Count your breaths.
• Relax your shoulders.
• Nourish your body with healthy foods and hydrate.
• When you notice the stress building up, take some time alone in the moment before reaction takes over.
• Instead of focusing on all the things you need to do at once, break down the to-do list into manageable projects and focus on one task at a time.
• Validate what you’re feeling and notice the feelings instead of pushing past them.
• Express what you need help with and what doesn’t work for you
• Respect your introverted side; take some time alone.
• Do a reality check with your thoughts. Check where you are taking on undue blame
• Celebrate more of what’s going well and be specific.
• Focus on what needs to be done now and don’t add any ideas to the list.
• Get out and move your body; release pent-up energy.
Acknowledge what’s going on in your body with understanding and compassion. When you become accustomed to the stress, no matter how much it negatively affects you, then you may cling to it because it’s familiar. Acknowledge that changing your experience is you learning a new way of being, and expect ups and downs – they’re part of the experience of learning.
Emotional healing will help you transform your emotional trauma into strength.
You can start to explore your feelings and deepen your self-awareness with books and articles on specific topics. You can also ask for help and support from a therapist, psychologist or coach. You can use modalities like art therapy, creative writing and journaling, counseling, hypnotherapy, etc. Find and try the modalities you feel called to try and that work for you.
Never hesitate to ask for help, because healing can be overwhelming. Do healing work with someone who creates a safe space for you. Invest in yourself and in your healing because it is the best investment for your life and personal growth. Ultimately, be very patient and gentle with yourself. You’re doing your best.
Healing is not easy, but it will always empower you and allow you to become stronger and relaunch yourself higher.
The writer is an internationally trained mind, body and nutrition coach and founder and CEO of Nourishment Vitality Coaching.