Psychological trauma is an emotional response to a negative experience. Traumas can be in the form of phobias (intense fear of something specific such as spiders, heights, or closed spaces) or post traumatic stress (pervasive and persistent distress following a negative experience). No matter the intensity, duration and frequency of trauma responses they all cause very unpleasant and recurring thoughts and feelings. This in turn reinforces the trauma response which leaves a person feeling scared, overwhelmed, threatened and sometimes paralyzed over and over again.
In order to break the cycle of a trauma response here are a few techniques to get you started on your journey towards healing.
Diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness. These exercises help you better acknowledge and regulate your emotions both negative and positive. Here is a simple form of diaphragmatic or deep breathing: start by exhaling deeply, then slowly inhaling for a count of 4 pushing your belly out, then gently holding your breath for 4 seconds and then exhaling slowly for a count of 5. Do this exercise five minutes a day. You can find other examples on our website www.wellnessinmind.ca under the Mindfulness exercises tab.
Self-Empowerment and knowing that you can change your thoughts. When a person first starts to talk about their trauma experience they often feel powerless and helpless alongside a range of other negative emotions. Gradually, when a person identifies and repeats more positive and balanced thoughts this can make them feel better and in turn enables them to behave differently and take action when necessary.
Forms of self-defence and/or martial arts. These activities can help people learn to safely and physically defend themselves and feel power in their body. This helps to generate a sense of safety and self-confidence.
Psychotherapy. Being able to address your trauma in a safe place is sometimes necessary. This helps a person communicate, understand and normalize their inner experience which in turn will help to gradually restore peace and healing in the mind and the body.
Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing or EMDR is an effective and breakthrough form of therapy for overcoming trauma. It enables a person to develop healthier core beliefs about oneself, others or a situation. This in turn relieves the distress and negative emotions associated with the negative experience or trauma. EMDR aims at reprocessing memory associations in the brain therefore creating more positive emotional responses and healing the trauma.
If you need help overcoming trauma and want to learn about other techniques, give us a call. We also have trained EMDR clinicians who would be glad to help you.
Written by: Rita Odabachian, MA., MEd., OPQ.