by Nicole Cain
When people hear the word trauma, most think of post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD; but PTSD is not the only type of trauma out there.
Trauma is defined as anything that exceeds a person’s ability to cope. It can occur in those of all ages and stages of life, from a military veteran who was in active combat to a teenager involved in a car accident to a child witnessing parents going through a divorce. It can even result from watching horrific situations on television.
There are two main types of traumas: Big “T” traumas and Little “t” traumas. We typically associate Big “T” traumas with major incidents such as war, death and tragedy. Little “t” traumas are often smaller but can be thought of as chronic-traumatic stressors or can derive from repeated events, such as growing up in a household where one parent suffered from volatile anger.
According to an Adverse Childhood Events Study (ACE study) conducted at Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Preventive Medicine, these repetitive traumas demand a completely different approach.
Little “t” traumas were associated with the following long-term findings: severe and persistent emotional problems, health risk behaviors, serious social problems, adult disease and disability, high health and mental health costs and poor life expectancy.
Confronting your trauma may sound like a scary and daunting process, but there are tools that can help you take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally as you heal. Here are four effective strategies to help you get through the healing process.
“We can always begin again.” — Sharon Salzberg
Be intentional about scheduling activities that feel soothing and nurturing. Whether that be massage, taking a pottery class, volunteering at an animal shelter or eating a chocolate ice cream cone, be sure to schedule time for activities that fill you up and bring you joy.
The Box Technique
Sometimes it is easy to focus in on the trauma and the event(s) that lead to your symptoms, and this can make you feel like your brain is stuck in a record groove. It’s important to allow our bodies and minds space to rest. Even while at rest, the mind and body will heal itself. The Box Technique is where we envision a protective box, and in this box, we intentionally place our thoughts and worries. We can come back to revisit this box at any time we desire, but this box is an intentional way to create space and allow us time to rest. A trained Eye Movement Desensitisation Processing (EMDR) clinician can help walk you through this process and even create a recording customized for your needs.
Sometimes working through trauma can lead to our bodies experiencing signs of stress, such as heart palpitations, anxiety or even sleeping difficulties. There are many safe, powerful and effective naturopathic solutions to help your body to heal and relax, even while going through the trauma work. Talk to your board-certified, medically-licensed Naturopathic Doctor about options that might be best for you.
The Big Picture
Our culture is very focused on avoiding discomfort, therefore treatments often focus on silencing our symptoms. But remembering that your symptoms are invitations to deeper healing can be an empowering experience. Every step you take as you work through the root cause of your symptoms brings you closer to the life you desire. As you work through the process of recovery, allow yourself to step back and remember that you can truly heal from this, the pain will not last forever and you will feel like yourself again.
Dr. Cain is a Naturopathic Doctor with an expertise in alternative treatments for bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. She runs Health For Life Grand Rapids, a group of counselors and doctors who utilize a holistic approach to healing.