Thursday, November 19, 2015

Getting Out of Trauma Mind

Did you know that trauma and anxiety impact the body and mind in similar ways? Feeling helpless and overwhelmed shifts us into what I call the trauma mind, where we see red- or black-and-white. People and events are all good or all bad. We're stuck in the short-term with less than stellar impulse control. Our bodies are primed to fight, flight, or flee. Rest and relaxation are all but impossible.

With practice, we can notice when we're in trauma mind and shift out of it and back into our naturally more restful and restorative state, where we are better able to respond to whatever is going on without those stress hormones washing across the brain. But, how? We can't think our way out of trauma mind. We get out by actively coping- focusing hard on what's not wrong within and around us in the present moment.

Active coping looks different for each of us and can look like...
  • Self talk
  • Changing environments
  • Calling a friend
  • Deep breathing
  • Focusing on a grounding object
  • Moving your body
  • Medication
The key is to use whatever helps you get out of the inner distress of your head and into the safety of the present moment, where most likely your survival is not being threatened (as the mind would have you believe). You'll know it when you find it and it gets easier with time. A counselor, coach, or trusted ally can be a great resource when the going gets tough. Hang in there and have faith. You can get out of trauma mind.

Some clues that you're getting out of trauma mind and into wise mind instead...
  • Breathing slows and deepens
  • Stress related aches and pains lessen
  • You can think long-term, delaying instant gratification
  • You can see the shades of gray (versus only in black-and-white)
  • Self-acceptance comes easier
  • Acceptance of others for who they are
  • Less need to control, easier to let go
A key ingredient in this process of learning to get out of trauma mind is patience and compassion for yourself when you slip up- and you will! As you learn to respond kindly to yourself, the going gets  a lot easier and more do-able. It may feel like an up-hill battle at first and this is only natural. It's a whole new way of doing things for many people who have been living with chronic high stress.