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How Trauma Changes Us: The Body Keeps Score

Have you ever experienced something so traumatic that it changed you and your life forever? It’s a human experience that many of us have had, yet few of us talk about. We’ve heard the phrase “the body keeps score” but what does that actually mean? It means that our bodies are physical manifestations of memories and experiences stored in our brains. Our brains can hold onto these memories for years without being aware of them, causing physical pain or emotional distress without any mentaI explanation. Let's explore how trauma changes us and why the body keeps score. It’s common knowledge that trauma can cause physical and emotional distress. We know it as an event or experience that causes us to feel overwhelmed, scared, and helpless. While the effects of trauma are varied, they all share a commonality - they change us in ways we don’t always realize. Our bodies do so much more than just cope with traumatic events - they ‘keep score’ by changing our responses to stressful situations and providing visible signs of how we’re dealing with our experiences. In this blog post, I want to focus on what changes your body goes through after experiencing trauma so you can better understand yourself. Looking at the specific elements that make up these changes will help us gain insight into what rehabilitation techniques may be most effective for individuals struggling with past traumas. I hope this conversation sheds some light on how powerful (and often mysterious) our inner healing process really is! What is trauma and why it can have long-term effects Trauma is an emotionally distressing experience, and it can have long-term effects on individuals that last even after the traumatic event has ended. Studies have revealed that trauma, especially when left unaddressed, can lead to physical and mental health issues including depression, anxiety, drug abuse, and memory trouble. Additionally, many studies have also reported situations of relational and connection struggles for those who experienced traumatic events. Trauma is not something to be taken lightly - it's a powerful force that has the potential to shape one's life in significant ways if left unnoticed by either being denied or ignored. As clinicians who practice evidence based practice, looking at deep rooted childhood or past experience becomes an essential part of any therapeutic process; this kind of integrated approach helps individuals reestablish a sense of safety within themselves and improve their relationships with others. Understanding the physical impacts of trauma Trauma can be debilitating, especially when it causes physical pain and exhaustion. Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk’s Book The Body Keeps Score explores this topic by describing the science behind how trauma hurts our bodies, from depression and panic attacks to weight gain and chronic fatigue. In addition to exploring the psychological implications of trauma, this book looks at the little known physical effects it can have on our bodies and provides ways to cope with the painful symptoms that might accompany them – allowing readers to start a journey of healing from traumatic experiences. Learning to recognize signs of trauma in yourself and others Trauma can present itself in many different forms, and for many of us, it can be difficult to recognize the signs of trauma in ourselves and in others. While every individual has a unique journey when it comes to recognizing any trauma they have experienced, having an understanding of the common signs can help us start to see our own experiences more clearly. It’s also important to remember that speaking with a therapist about trauma could bring powerful insight into further on exploring these experiences. As we learn to recognize the signs of trauma in ourselves or someone else close to us, we can take that first step towards gaining perspective and engaging in self-care processes. How to process traumatic events in a healthy way Processing traumatic events can be incredibly difficult, but it is also important for being able to move forward in a healthy way. Therapy tools like shadow journalling, meditation, and grounding techniques can be powerful aids for better understanding your reactions in light of a traumatic experience. For example, using shadow journalling—a form of reflective writing—it’s possible to gain insight into why certain aspects of a traumatic event have been more emotionally impactful than others. Grounding techniques can help to minimize the emotional distress caused by memories associated with the trauma while meditation helps to explore and make sense of these memories in healthful ways. Everyone experiences trauma differently, so it is important to find which approach works best for you as an individual. It has been shown that engaging with these restorative practices can often lead to greater emotional balance and overall mental well-being. How to deal with traumatic flashbacks Traumatic flashbacks are an isolated and terrifying experience, but it is important to remember that you are not helpless in the face of them. Focus on your breathing; this can be a calming reminder that, even if the flashback feels extremely real, it is actually a mental construct, not reality. Carrying a personal object from the present that brings you comfort – such as a photo or charm – could be a useful reminder that the flashback isn’t actually happening and you’re ok. Most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself and practice compassion towards yourself during these difficult times – with expert help and support, you can come through them stronger than ever before. Supporting yourself through difficult times Coping with difficult times can be a challenging process, and it is important to remember that you are not alone. Having a strong support system of friends, family, or even online communities can be incredibly beneficial when navigating through tough emotional and psychological experiences. Therapy and medication can also play an invaluable role in getting through these hard times, alongside self-care activities such as reflecting on your mental health journey and developing coping skills that help you manage challenging thoughts or feelings. It is okay to ask for help from professionals or on virtual platforms when needed – no one needs to manage this alone! Trauma is a difficult experience to handle but there are many things we can do to help ourselves process difficult memories and find support in dark times. By understanding the underlying physical and psychological impacts of trauma, working through flashbacks, and reminding ourselves that it's okay to take time for self-care - we can start to heal. The power of trauma recovery lies in our own hands - by being kind to ourselves and honoring our feelings, we can create a space of safety and begin the journey of healing. If you or a loved one is facing trauma, please don't hesitate to reach out for help. It might not be easy at first but there are professionals as well as communities on the internet that can help you find your way forward. Are you or a loved one struggling with trauma? You are not alone - remember that you are strong enough to get through this, no matter how hard it may seem.
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