This blog was initially going to be about “self care during the holidays”, however this week the office was filled with people in a state of shock and disbelief over the path many people in our country have chosen. I think one of the more distressing things I’ve heard is that in two separate school systems, there were incidents of exclusionary and racist behavior, resulting in children crying in the lunchroom.
People have become very familiar with the term PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but traumatic stress response is a reaction to an immediate event. What people are experiencing now is a reaction to a moment of extreme disappointment mixed with fear for their safety in the future. So how does a traumatic stress response show itself?
The first thing to realize is everyone is unique and there is no “one” response. Some of the symptoms can be:
- An increase in anxiety and/or depression, dark thoughts, sense of hopelessness not experienced prior to this event, loss of motivation for daily activities and self care, isolation or not wanting to be alone
- Sleep disturbance such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and unable to return to sleep, disturbing dreams or nightmares
- Physical symptoms such as crying, heart palpitations, chest tightness and difficulty breathing, headaches, digestive upset such as loss of appetite, bowel disturbances.
What Happens To Your Body During a Stress Response?
On a physiological level, stress causes your body to switch over to the sympathetic nervous system for a “fight or flight response”. This sends a message to your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. Even if released in small amounts, it takes a while for your body to re-calibrate from release of these hormones and return to the resting or autonomic nervous system state.
But there is more to our body’s than physiology and on an energetic level, one of the first things that happens is you take a breath in and although you physically exhale, the energy is not released; it stays inside and becomes stuck. If not released, this stuck energy increases and can cause pain and inflammation.
As someone who works with people on all levels, emotional, spiritual, and physical, I see that during times of stress and darkness, it’s more important than ever for your well being to do self-care. Our society doesn’t address this concept; so what actually is self-care? One person referred to it as “spoiling yourself”; but that isn’t what self-care is about.