You may not have been in an accident and suffered a physical injury but we have all suffered through the last year of a global pandemic. What I am talking about is psychological and emotional trauma. That is where there have been exceptionally stressful events which cause us to lose our sense of security leaving us with feelings of hopelessness that can be hard to shift.
In this case trauma is the aftermath – the lasting result of these exceptionally stressful twelve months. It leaves lasting damaging effects on all levels. Trauma’s markers are upsetting emotions, negative thinking and physical health problems. From one end raging anxiety to the other becoming numb and disconnected from those around you. It leaves us with less flexible ways of dealing with life generally.
Some of us may be more or less debilitated by the trauma of the last twelve months and that’s because we are all unique physically, mentally and in our life experiences to date. To explain this let me give you how trauma can result;
1. Once off events - accident, injury or attach and especially if it was during childhood
2. Chronic stress - stress that’s ongoing and relentless such as growing up in an unstable or threatening environment, ongoing bullying or fighting a serious illness
3. Lesser well known - this is in fact the biggest way that trauma can result and that’s because they are often overlooked. This includes surgery, death of a loved one, breakup of a marriage/significant relationship or even a humiliating experience can all effect how we then operate in the world
Being a human means we will all suffer trauma to some degree as a part of life. But it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Trauma triggers our stress responses as it is interpreted, quite rightly by our nervous system as a threat. Trauma becomes an issue if it’s not acknowledged and steps taken to help our nervous system find flexibility again. Now here’s the good news there are three simple steps that can help kick start this;
Step 1. Find comfort first
Many refer to this as self-compassion which can be a bit of a mouthful and a little too cognitive for me. I prefer comfort as by its very nature it implies the physical too. Touch is the mother of all senses as it’s the first to develop in the womb. When touch is safe it is a trigger of safety for your nervous system. This can be as simple as a nice mug of warm coffee with the sun on your face through the window.
Step 2. Resources
Once you are feeling stronger you can then start to gather your resources. A little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of insight is the key here. Most of us have a default setting for stress. Me I’m more of a stress head and anxiety can rule, while you might ‘zone’ out and call it depression. But the reality is we can dip in and out of either depending on circumstances. I love the whole notion of ‘glimmers’ that Deb Danna uses. Glimmers are just little moment of positive emotion e.g. that nice cup of coffee in the sun. Just noticing these micro moments even once a day have a far bigger impact on the nervous system that the mere time involved. The more ‘glimmers’ a day you can build up the more cues of safety the nervous system gets which can give it the ability to hit a tipping point towards safety.
Step 3. Tools
Now pick a tool to help build your resilience with your resources. Pick one that targets your nervous system as this quickest and easiest way to see results. This is because everything happens in ‘state’ whether it’s exercise or healthy eating. And if you aren’t in a safe ‘state’ most of the time then no amount of healthy food, exercise or sleep will have a lasting effect.
Your nervous system is constantly scanning the environment for cues of safety and danger. The more cues of safety we can put in its path such as those ‘glimmers’ above the better. But we can also help the ability of the nervous system itself to detect these glimmers by strengthening one every important nerve – the vagus. The vagus nerve is unique as it’s connected to the heart’s pacemaker allowing it to slow the heart rate, which is a powerful trigger that we are safe. To strengthen this vagal break, try two simple hacks now;
Sighing - as it naturally extends the out breath which strengthens the effect of the vagal break on the heart
Humming & singing - as it naturally extends the out breath too
If this sparked an interest & you would like to find out a bit more about how you can build your resilience and perform at your best, then…I'd love to hear from you!
Give Frances a call on 085 862 3009