I can almost taste the concrete in my mouth. That split second of going over my bike handle bars has stayed with me much longer than the seconds it took to fall. I am lucky that I didn't have any lasting physical injuries, but the mental affects have lasted much longer than the fading scars from road rash.
In that moment, my body and brain were in a fight or flight response. It responded the way it should have. Now, when I see my bike in the garage or when I am back on my bike, my brain and body automatically go back to that place of fear and it takes over. It's active work for me to calm that part of my brain. I remind myself that I am not in danger and tell my brain that my tense muscles and tight grip are not necessary. I work to calm my brain and reduce the tension in my body.
This is an example of the way our bodies and brain react to trauma. In serious traumas, such as being the victim of a traumatic event, or long term traumas, such as witnessing domestic violence as a child, can bring on long-term responses that can sometimes take years to overcome.
As our world faces a pandemic, there is a collective trauma, and the effects will last long after the immediate responses have resolved. We have a new way of working, shopping, schooling, socializing, and parenting. We have new concerns and new normals all of which can be triggering for you and your children. We need to look at the ways that our brain and body are responding to the changes. This information will inform us about some of the ways we might be responding as a way to survive. We can learn how to calm our nervous system so that we can function better.
Learning more about the way you have responded to traumatic events can inform you of how you will respond in the future. Is it working?
You might be getting triggered by things that are reminding you of a past trauma. Or, you might feel the collective trauma that we are all experiencing. Whether it is illness of a loved one, COVID or otherwise, or images of violence and racism, or the recent election and uncertainty in our world.
"A lot of us are feeling scared and helpless. And there’s good reason to believe we might look back on the election as a traumatic event," Jill Suttie and Jeremy Adam Smith, mindful.org (2020).
All of these changes in our environment can create feelings of helplessness. PTSD and trauma responses can be treated with talk therapy and EMDR. Secondary trauma can also be present if you are an essential worker and helping others with their trauma. It it is helpful to understand the mind and body connection when faced with fear and trauma. If you are ready to look at the ways that trauma has impacted your life or you are currently experiencing something traumatic, therapy is a really good place to start.