Current events seem like reason enough to feel triggered and tense these days. You feel edgy, you’re having sleep issues, and perhaps your mind keeps sinking into a dark place. It’s logical to look for factors in your present life. But, quite often, the problem is rooted in a much deeper plane. What’s happening during the pandemic may be aggravating long-term trauma you hold inside. That’s not to say that today isn’t tough. Far from it. What hidden trauma can create, due to underlying and unaddressed causes, is a situation where the stress of today is even more tough to bear.
How Trauma Gets Stuck Inside of You
When you go through a traumatic experience, the impact on your brain and physiology can cause some of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty regulating emotions: Your stress hormones may stay elevated. This impacts your sympathetic nervous system in a way that fatigues your body systems — leaving you “stuck” in a highly activated state.
- Hyper-vigilance: The amygdala is like a smoke alarm. It is the part of the brain that identifies threats so your brain can tag such memories with the necessary emotion. Trauma can lock the amygdala into the “on” position. You suddenly perceive threats everywhere.
- Being stuck in the past: Trauma causes an increase in a stress hormone called glucocorticoid. This impacts your memory’s ability to eventually recognize the threat as something from the past. The threat feels present. Thus, when you are triggered, your body is responding as if the threat is happening now.
The stress of the actual experience plus the legacy of the trauma can lead you feeling as if:
- You’ll never recover
- The trauma is your defining characteristic
- Everything you experience is viewed through the lens of the past
Begin the Process of Getting Un-Stuck From Your Trauma
Dealing with something like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is difficult and often requires help from a trained mental health professional. That said, there are some self-care steps you can begin taking ASAP. These may include:
- Sleep: Maintain regular and sufficient sleep patterns. Get to bed and awaken at roughly the same time each day.
- Eat: Make healthy choices. Take time to shop and cook and make your meals into a full experience. Consult a nutrition expert if you feel unsure how to do this.
- Exercise: Daily activity is a must! Find something that lights you up and get moving.
- Relaxation techniques: Classic approaches include yoga, stress management, breathing exercises, and meditation. But feel free to get creative. Whatever works for you is best.
- Tech breaks: Put down your devices and let your mind reset.
- Prioritize yourself in other ways: Pay attention to your sensory needs. You may crave a warm bath, a long walk, your favorite music, some time in the local coffee shop, or a cuddle with your pet and/or partner. Honor those desires.
The above steps can help you in two ways:
- Self-care is, by design, meant to soothe, calm, nourish, and rejuvenate.
- Engaging in self-care reminds you that you are worth the attention, and it brings you into the present moment — away from the past that is trying to keep you stuck.
Dealing With Trauma is NOT a Solo Journey
The legacy of trauma and PTSD are challenging to live with. The choices you make and the self-care you practice are indispensable. However, as mentioned above, it is hard to manage years or decades worth of repressed feelings on your own. Trauma often needs a relational home to heal. For many people, therapy has proven to be the path to recovery.
You and your psychotherapist will work as a team to discern what current situations are vexing you and what lingering problems are complicating things. Combining this with your self-help measures is a proven process of discovery and healing. Please contact me soon for a consultation