What is trauma?

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Trauma is far more common than we realise. Some people experience it in childhood and others develop it from an event, such as war or a life-altering accident. Trauma can also occur when people experience reoccurring stress inducing, life-threatening events.

This infographic by the National Council for Behavioural Healthcare explains some of the causes of trauma and its side effects. Sometimes our body notifies us of our trauma before our mind can, and we will find ourselves experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, constipation and rigid muscles long before we realise we have been traumatised.

Our mental health is also affected by trauma, as the body maintains a fight-or-flight response in order to survive long after the event is over. People experiencing it may show signs of depression, anxiety, sporadic rage, numbness, apathy and fear. In addition, it is common for people to have trouble sleeping, experience nightmares and to have flashbacks, where they believe they are back in the threatening circumstance.

Trauma can be scary because it consumes your whole life. Navigating it, let alone finding healing, can feel like an impossible task. But it’s not. There are ways to manage trauma, and through therapy and time, you will feel like yourself again.

Take a look at this infographic and see if you identify with any of the symptoms listed. By implementing habits like exercising, journaling or speaking to a trusted friend, you can begin to understand the trauma and shake its hold on your life.

Acknowledging that you may have been traumatised is the first step to healing. It is not a sign of weakness or inferiority—it shows that you are human, and your body does not know how to heal. We can help you take the next step towards healing. Contact Duncan on 0434 331 243, or BOOK ONLINE NOW to book in our online diary.

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Your 10 Tips For Good Mental Health

Hello. How are you today?

It is a familiar greeting that I hear almost every time I communicate with another person, be it friend or stranger. We use this greeting when we meet with friends, on the phone, at the supermarket, even on the doorstep when that ‘random' person comes knocking to sell you their product, I use it myself. It seems we need some standard form of introduction for further conversation or interaction.

My question is how often do you respond with the truth? For the majority of us, acknowledging that you are not okay is difficult to do, even when we have been offered the opportunity to do so! If you have been brave enough to tell that girl at the checkout about the migraine you can't get rid of and how exhausted you feel, that you can't stop crying and have even had thoughts of suicide…..well, you soon notice the glazed look on her face and the ‘have a nice day' as she moves on to the next person! Now, I am not saying that this is always the case, in fact as our communities become more aware of the prevalence of poor mental health, employers are making sure that their employees are trained to respond appropriately, however we have a long way to go and often it feels ‘safer' to respond with the standard form of etiquette of  ‘I'm fine, thankyou.'

Many of us go about our daily lives ‘pretending' you are okay. If you identify with that, I encourage you to seek out the help you need. As social beings, we all need the encouragement, reassurance and comfort of friends. This is one of the essentials for good mental health. If you do not have that support or you recognise that they do not have the expertise that you need to recover good mental health, I encourage you to seek out the appropriate health professional – talk to your doctor or a Professional Counsellor about what you are experiencing.

You can also take positive steps towards recovering good mental health by taking responsibility for your own self care. These 10 tips, sourced from http://sujenman.wordpress.com/tag/world-mental-health-day/ provide the essentials for self-care:

positive steps for good mental health

If you are not okay and need the support of a Counselling Professional  contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.

5 D’s to De-Stress

What_are_you_thinking__by_captivatedimagesMy least favourite time of the day is when I wake up in the morning. I always set my alarm the night before to ensure that I wake up with enough time to prepare for the day ahead. Inevitably, I convince my self that I can ‘crib' another half hour in bed before I finally crawl out and go to the kitchen. I make my breakfast (always tea and 2 pieces of toast), turn the morning news on T.V. and sit in my arm-chair to eat my breakfast and attend to my social media status updates. Next task is to shower and dress, feed the animals, make my lunch, hop in my car, go through a drive-through coffee for my daily take-away, park the car and walk a block to my office in the CBD.

This ‘typical morning in the life of Colleen Morris' is most often enacted automatically and unconsciously, just as your own typical morning is likely to be. Our brain is a highly efficient organ that is capable of  performing  many familiar tasks repeatedly without having to rely on a conscious reminder.  The brain then has the space to take in new information even as we are enacting familiar tasks, so that we can be focused and adaptive.

Recently, with the death of my father, I noticed that my usual normal routine was interrupted. Instead of moving through the motions of my routine quickly and efficiently, I went first to my arm-chair, switched on the T.V. and sat…not thinking anything, not doing anything, just sitting. With the stress that the experience of bereavement brings, my ‘poly-vagal nervous  system' was interrupted so that I was having a ‘freeze' response.  Neural pathways were triggered in my unconscious mind, giving expression to real thoughts and feelings that live in my body and brain that I  don't have words for. The freeze response is a reflexive, adaptive response to feelings of sadness and loss that served to put me into a dissociative state, raising my pain threshold.

Experiences of trauma and heightened stress events can literally ‘derail' your brain in such a way that it becomes stuck and unable to do the task of emotional regulation. When this happens, a person may find themselves reacting to environmental and relational stimuli, often unconsciously, with the same heightened response, that creates ongoing emotional distress.  A person will automatically look for a strategy that they believe, will calm them. Often the strategies that a person applies appear to work in the short-term but have long-term risks: alcohol and drugs, gambling, cutting and pornography are just a few of the ways a person tries to de-stress. These behaviours are also addictive and produce other negative impacts.

If you identify with this, here are 5 D's to De-stress:

1. Drink water.

This is the quickest way to calm down your poly-vagal nervous system  that has been activated by the trigger event.

2. Deep Breathing.

Deep breathing slows down your heart rate which will have a calming effect. If you associate your trauma with the mouth or you have asthma, try humming as an alternative.

3. Delay

Saying to yourself, “I am going to (addictive behaviour) in an hour” may delay long enough for your symptoms to settle, so that you do not need it.

4. Distract

Dancing to some happy music, jogging on the spot, ringing a friend, or cooking are all examples of the distract tactic.

5. Do something Different

Focusing on doing something different immediately turns your mind to focus on this new task or experience.

If you are experiencing trauma or heightened stress and would like further support you can contact Colleen on 0434337245 or go to her online diary at www.watersedgecounselling.com