What’s really happening to you when you’re feeling triggered or having a “reaction”? Perhaps you’ve found yourself anxious or fearful of what might happen, even if you’ve never actually experienced anything “bad”?
Or perhaps you have experienced a traumatizing, difficult or scary situation, and even though you are physically no longer in that place, your mind still races at the thought of it, or your body begins to give you signals that something is “wrong”.
You find yourself stuck in these thoughts, or your body in fight, flight or freeze mode, even though, at the end of the day… it really is just a thought. So if it really is just a thought, a memory or even a dream, why do you find yourself stuck in that place- anxious, fearful, frozen- without being able to see your way out of it?
When Perception Becomes Reality…
Behind the scenes, your brain is working hard to process factual memories (explicit) with feelings memories (implicit), and sometimes, in trying to do the work to protect you from danger, it can forget how to recognize what real danger is, and is not.
Your brain does this by constantly trying to figure out what information to keep, what to throw out, what needs your attention and what doesn’t. When your mind and body are stressed and out of sync, you may find it difficult to evaluate situations in a balanced way.
When your brain’s alarm system is in a state of high alert, it sends signals to your body, and your body reacts accordingly to the signals that your brain’s alarm system is broadcasting.
Thoughts and functioning can become disorganized, your mind and body overwhelmed by the shut-down that happens in the “thinking” part of your brain.
Internally, you might be struggling with non-stop thinking or worrying (also known as rumination), nightmares, flashbacks or feeling on edge. You might also have an unconscious tendency to remember certain things that only reinforce the “danger” of the situation.
Externally, you may find it difficult to trust people, let new people into your life or find it difficult to express emotions. This may make it difficult for you to share with others what is happening with you, for fear of being misunderstood or perceived as weak.
When your mind and body are reacting to trauma or chronic anxiety:
- Worries become uncontrollable, anxious thoughts
- A reminder of something fearful can send your mind and body in a tailspin
- You have trouble focusing during the day, and sleeping at night
- You constantly catastrophize about how badly things will go
- You may have physical symptoms such as headaches, chronic pain, hard to explain or diagnose gastrointestinal problems
- Your family, personal or work life is impacted by the struggles you deal with in isolation
- Connecting with others is… just. really. hard.
Your mind and body are not two separate things – they exist together, working in a symbiotic relationship. When that relationship is working well, you will be able to notice how different aspects of your physical and mental health affect each other, and how YOU can also make an impact on the functioning of that relationship.
In the case of trauma or chronic anxiety, your emotional health is better achieved through a combination of talk therapy and movement.
Talk therapy can help provide you with a supportive environment to process your experience, as well as help you to learn strategies to promote “thinking brain” activation with the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Movement can help you to naturally release the pent-up tightness that is encapsulated throughout the body, which develops as a result of trauma or chronic anxiety.
Animals “shake it out” after a stressful situation. We should too.
If you are ready to try some targeted mind-body practices to help release your body from that encapsulated energy, here are some ways to begin:
- 5 minutes per day of deep breathing exercises in sequence can be a helpful and discreet tool that you can learn to use when your emotions or body feel unbalanced
- Safely practicing Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) to help get your body’s natural response to gently soothe your body’s nervous system
- Start with 5 minutes a day of quiet mediation or listening to calming music to help relax your mind
- Before heading out for the day and before going to bed at night, sit in a quiet space, rocking gently side to side or back and forth, in a rhythmic manner, taking notice of how relaxing this feels and taking notice of how relaxed your body feels
Talk To Someone
Working alongside a licensed therapist can help you to develop and implement the coping strategies that are right for you. Your therapist can help you learn to take notice of how your emotions are showing up in your mind and body, so that you can also learn to manage your emotions and stressors in more positive and healthy ways.
Whether it is you or your loved one, you do not have to get through this alone. When you are ready, reach out to see how if we are a good fit for your needs.