Due to all the things going on in the world (i.e. all the trauma, natural disasters, poverty, relationship issues, violence, etc.), I would like to take a moment to address post-traumatic stress from a holistic perspective.
I am not just referring to or addressing clinically diagnosed PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), but rather the deep and serious stress that occurs from any traumatic event as your brain/body perceives it. This can be an event you’d typically think of as traumatic such as an explosion, war, car accident, death, witnessing of a crime, etc. But it can also be something that may not appear as trauma yet, depending on how it’s perceived, is very traumatic, such as being yelled at, having a tooth pulled, a child spending their first night away from parents, etc.
Here is what I mean… your body was created to withstand daily stress. It is even pretty good at handling intense stress but only for a SHORT period of time. You may have heard the term “running from lions” in reference to how the body physically ramps up when it perceives danger. This response is natural, trouble-free and necessary if there truly is a danger. However, here are just a few things that can occur in the body when a perceived traumatic event takes place…
What happens upon trauma?
First, there is a trauma (as the person perceives it). Then, the person effected goes into “fight-or-flight” or “running from lions” mode. The brain tells the body that there is danger and, therefore, the following commonly occurs:
- Increased heart rate (so you can run to safety)
- Increased blood flow to muscles (so you can run/get away or fight)
- Digestion, elimination and the reproductive system temporarily shut down (your incredible body knows that you can’t take time for these things while you are in harms way.)
- Blood pressure increases
- Senses are peaked (especially the eyes— dilate so you can see clear and wide, etc.)
- The mind is sharp but only as it pertains to getting to safety (you aren’t worried or thinking about mundane tasks)
- The mind/body continues to be on high alert (waiting and ready for the next trauma to occur)
- Adrenaline is released
- Strength is increased (so you can fight if you need to)
…and many more issues depending on the person and the situation
Again, if you are truly in danger, this is exactly how you want your body to respond. It could save your life or the life of others. (This is how we hear of small women lifting up cars to save a trapped loved one.) This physiological effect should normally last about 10-15 minutes past the danger point; meaning, once you recognize that you are out of harms way, it should only take about 15 minutes for you to calm down and for the body to “reset” and return to homeostasis.
The challenge occurs when you physically make it to safety but, because your brain/mind is still “not sure,” your body continues in this “fight-or-flight” mode as you live on pins and needles waiting for the next trauma. This can mean that days, weeks or even months later you are still unable to sleep, focus on daily tasks, or your blood pressure is high and you have an overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety. If this goes on for long, it can result in a very serious crash!
Yet there is hope! It can change! Here are some tips to speed this process along.
The goals in this case must be to:
- Turn off the body’s “running from lions” mode
- Ensure the brain that you are safe
- NOURISH your body with the extra nutrition that is depleted during times of high stress
If you are dealing with such a trauma in your own life, please consider the following:
- Stress of ANY kind burns up minerals. More stress equals the need for more minerals! I recommend using LOTS of organic dark leafy greens and/or a high quality green powder such as Greens Mix or Vitamineral Green. If you would normally need a serving per day, you may need 3-6 servings for a while until your body is recovering.
- B vitamins are especially depleted during stress and trauma. I would recommend supplementing with a high quality B complex such as Max B as well as B12. Additional B vitamins you could use are Phyto Methylate, B5 or Complete B.
- Trauma does major harm to the adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are very sensitive… they sit just above the kidneys. Adrenaline is one hormone that is released by these glands during high stress. Adrenals need minerals, water and good salt to replenish. I would recommend Greens Mix in green smoothies (lots more than usual), a bit of Pink Salt, extra rest and more minerals!
- The nervous system is “fried.” Just like a cord to an electronic device with exposed wires, the nerves are very sensitive. I would recommended adding lots of extra healthy plant-based fats (NOT fish-based) such as hemp, chia, flax, avocado and walnuts. It may be helpful to supplement with large doses of DHA (DHA caps, DHA+D or DHA+E) (non-vegan sources EPA/DHA Marine Liquid and EPA/DHA Marine Softgels) for a time.
- The body is already inflamed and therefore it is best to avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, meat, dairy, wheat, oil and processed foods. Add more fresh whole foods to the diet. Green juice or green smoothies would be an ideal way to decrease inflammation, add minerals and nourish the body in an easy-to-digest way.
- Digestion is shut down so eating easily digestible foods, avoiding difficult-to-digest foods, and supplementing with some digestive support can be really helpful. I recommend a plant-based enzyme called Digest with each meal as well as HCL after meals with plenty of water.
- Elimination is hindered which can really halt healing. You should ideally be having 2 comfortable bowel movements each day. If you don’t have proper elimination, you can be constantly re-intoxicated by the waste that is trapped in the body. To get things moving again, be sure that you are drinking plenty of pure water and getting lots of fiber. If you still aren’t going, there are several supplements that can be helpful depending on your specific situation. Enemas can also be helpful here (2 quarts warm pure water with 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice). An organic, whole leaf aloe (Aloe Pro) can also be helpful.
- Sleep is interrupted which also hinders healing. Everything resets, repairs and re-builds at night when you sleep. If you don’t sleep, you can’t repair. Start with the basics: don’t eat late at night, take a warm bath before bed, make sure your room is comfortable, drink chamomile tea and avoid stimulating/scary/violent TV, movies, or stressful conversations and working, etc., before bed. You may temporarily need support with supplements. I like to start with a couple of drops of a pure source Melatonin or a product called Tranquinol.
- The neurotransmitters in the brain can be thrown out of balance after trauma. Nourish the brain with healthy fats and plenty of water as well as adequate rest.
- Grounding… If possible, spend a few minutes every day with your bare feet on the ground. The earth puts out negative ions that are healing and anti-inflammatory to the body.
- Muscles can stay in a tense/locked position causing pain or tension anywhere in the body. Large doses of a high quality Magnesium (Magnesium powder, Physica Magnesium Buffered, Calcium Magnesium Plus caps and Calcium Magnesium powder) can help a great deal.
- Deep breathing calms the nerves, oxygenates the body and just feels good. However, the most significant reason for deep breathing in this case is to help rid the body of excess adrenaline. Try to remember 4-4-4 (breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts). Do at least 4-5 breaths at least 3 times per day, or as often as you think of it and feel you need it.
- When you are ready, get help! This could be formally by seeking the help of a counselor or it could be less formal by just talking to a trusted and wise friend who can listen and help point you in the right direction.
- Avoid watching, reading and listening to things that remind you of the trauma (movies, news, social media and maybe even email in some cases, etc.)
- Give yourself permission to talk about it if and when you feel it will be helpful. But in the mean time, it is OKAY to NOT talk about it. Have a statement ready for those well-meaning loved ones who ask, perhaps something like, “I really appreciate your concern but its just not helpful for me to talk about it at this time. I hope you understand.” Most people will gladly do what they can to support you.
- Serving others is great medicine. Help someone in some small way. This could be a relative, friend, neighbor, etc.
- Prayer and meditation are healing to the mind, body and soul. Even a few minutes can be helpful.
- Mantras can help you stay focused when your mind starts spinning out of control. For this case, one of my personal favorites is a Proverb. (Proverbs 18:10, ” The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”)
- Do something that you LOVE to do. Whatever you like to do to have fun and help you relax, make time for it!!! This could be taking a walk with a loved one, cooking, shopping, playing cards, getting dressed up, gardening or anything else you love (as long as it’s not strenuous). DO NOT underestimate this one. This is possibly the MOST effective step in TURNING OFF THE FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT mode that your body is in!!! Make time for this every day if possible!
- Give yourself time to adjust. There may be a little confusion for a time. Don’t worry about things that aren’t done as quickly as usual (things like laundry, etc.) and ask for help if you start to feel more undone with time instead of better over time.
- Keep a journal. Write down things that you are grateful for, things that you are learning, things you want to work on in light of what you are learning, victories you’re experiencing (this can be as simple as being able to sleep through the night), people that you want to reach out to or help, etc. If you feel it’s helpful, you can journal on the event itself as long as you don’t continue to rehearse it in a way that is counter-productive.
- Speak TRUTH to yourself and take your thoughts captive. When you find yourself dwelling on harmful thoughts, stay STOP and replace them with that which is true! If you can’t, get help!
If you have a loved one who is struggling, please consider the following:
- Be patient with them. Let them talk about the trauma if they want to but don’t constantly ask them about it. Keep in mind the purpose of this is to help their body get back to a regular way of functioning.
- Generally, help them carry out the things listed above. The foods, supplements and other tasks are CRITICAL to their healing but can be overwhelming for them to organize it all.
- Hug them! Seriously, it really helps to turn of the fight-or-flight mode. The brain knows that hugs/loving touch and “running from lions” don’t go together.
- Affirm them! Remind them that they are safe and loved and have no need to fear.
- Be observant and helpful! With all that they are dealing with from the trauma itself, plus jumping back into daily life, just step in and help where you can. We ALL need each other at different times in our life!
- Take care of YOURSELF! When someone you love experiences trauma, it can be traumatic for you as well. Take good care of yourself. You can’t help them if you are depleted yourself.
One final thing to keep in mind: Unfortunately, many of us live in this state even though we haven’t undergone a real, specific trauma. Remember that trauma is “as the mind/brain perceives” it. So constant stress and worry can result in the same issues. Most people could really benefit from these tips.
There is SO much more that I could say about this… Please share this link and spread the word, especially at this time so we can help LOTS of people who are hurting deeply.
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.