How is the body affected by stress and trauma?
Trauma comes in many shapes and sizes. There are examples that most people would consider to be "major" trauma events such as being the victim of an earthquake, or having been a soldier involved in combat, and then there are events perhaps considered by many to be more minor, such as having had a distressing childhood or being mugged.
Both the small and the large traumas however, will affect a person in many ways- emotionally and physically.
We know that what traumatises one person may not necessarily traumatise another; it is so personal. However, when a person has been traumatised the whole body becomes involved and continues to be so until such time as it may be resolved.
The body is an incredible organism; complex, intricate and in touch with all other parts of itself-what happens in one part of it will influence every other part.- even though we may be unaware of it.
If we are stressed we produce various stress hormones that impart this information around the body and the body reacts to these hormones in the way we are familiar with- tension, possibly tiredness, feeling short tempered, poor sleep,etc.
What many are not aware of is that during re-activated trauma -i.e. a situation that unwittingly triggers old and often hidden memories of a past traumatic event, the body remembers the state it was in during those moments and will replicate this state. So there may be a sense of dread, fear, shock, horror etc. and various muscles and visceral reactions may occur.
By working carefully and closely with the body we can help to re-process these "stuck" body and mind memories and work towards getting them released.
If you suffer from trauma, severe anxiey, phobias, etc, try to notice how various parts of your body feel when you are in a distressed state. Pay attention, for example, to how your breathe is, which muscles feel tense, if anything hurts, aches, or tingles etc. This will give you information about the state your whole body is in and help you to become more aware th enext time you begin to become distressed. If you work with these feelings and actively relax your body you can help yourself de-stress and begin to reprogramme your responses.
EMDR is an effective way of helping with this process and releasing harmful reactions to certain memories. Relaxation and meditation techniques are an invaulable aide to good health and ones that anyone can practice. You will find plenty of guidance on the internet or you could join a local group for guidance and support.
Just by becoming aware of how you truly feel and using this information you can begin the process of changing the physical and emotional responses you go through in particular situations. This gives you more control over your mind and body and helps you to identify any triggers that create stress and tension within you. From this point you may choose to work either on your own or with a therapist to look at these triggers and what they really mean to you. You can begin to unwind the threads of where difficult feelings stem from and where they sit in your body, and begin the process of dissolving them. Knowing yourself is the key to taking control of your life and finding happiness.