Life Skills and Trauma Stressors

by Catherine DeAngelis

Health professionals may be baffled when survivors of trauma come to them after recovery, on reassessment, find out symptoms have recurred.

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Trauma is a serious assault on a human’s life functioning.

What happens to get in the way of a regular day-to-day activity like paying the bills or problem-solving to suddenly make it all seem like a monumental feat?

Could it be a day or two before, or after a holiday gathering that negative emotions or physical symptoms got triggered, and a survivor remembers a traumatic moment that surfaces without a warning?

Trauma happens to people who experienced a psychologically distressing and life-risking event.  A person having survived an accident, injuries, illness, physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse, or other crime; a person who is a war veteran, army officer, or settlement refugee who comes from war-torn or a violent country;  it can happen to a search and rescue worker; natural disaster survivor, or a bystander of a traumatic episode.

A survivor can relive moments of terror, feelings of culpability, remorse, rage, or disillusionment about life.

Reliving a traumatic event can arouse emotions that cause fatigue, low energy, weepiness or lack of concentration or impatience with others.  Outbursts of anger happen for no reason.  The memory of trauma comes by flashbacks and nightmares, and it can become so severe it’s difficult to lead a normal life.

Unbeknownst to a survivor of trauma, belief that healing has taken place and recovery is over and done with plays havoc on the mind. Thoughts, feelings and emotions are stirred-up. Without warning, symptoms return to cause grief. The ability to manage simple home or work tasks becomes daunting.

Joint pain or inability to sleep throughout the night can occur during a traumatic flashback. Agitation and self-inquiry like “who am I” and “will I ever feel normal? Or “am I going crazy?”

Disharmony grows in relationships and clouds of doom become a veil over the survivor.

The Canadian Mental Health Association reports this kind of impact can develop into acute anxiety or more commonly “post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

PTSD is one of several conditions known as an anxiety disorder. It affects about 1 in 10 people, characterized by reliving a psychologically traumatic situation, long after any physical danger involved has passed.

Taking care to know and understand disruptive emotions that could arise after flashbacks are vital life skills tools.

Self-awareness and self-care is arsenal for a trauma-episodic memory.

Life can suddenly become crushing because an onset of images, conversations, smells, or sounds, serve to remind something happening now related to a traumatic event back then.

Psychology Today reports PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults. It is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, gambling, eating and anxiety disorders.

When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.

Mayo Clinic oncologist Edward T. Cregan M.D. explains coping with traumatic stress is an ongoing process. He explains we’ll be of more help to our loved one (to ourselves) if we learn about the effects of trauma.

Life skills can help people draw from a broad range of problem-solving behaviours to meet the challenges at work, home or socially.   The extent to which an individual with trauma integrates survival behaviours in their lives after their trauma is in itself a measure of success and deserves much support.

In trauma recovery people learn during their healing it is important to accept feelings of denial, to keep active, seek support, face reality of the triggers, and to ground themselves after a flashback.

Trauma survivors need to take time to process feelings associated with the experience and know how to find quiet time to be alone or find someone in the family or among friends to share the experience. They need to know sharing the experience is accepted without judgment.

The key is to recognize trauma might surface at different times of the year.

Dr. Cregan describes the best way to approach trauma is by finding some ways of normalising it – thinking about not being overwhelmed or frightened by symptoms and difficulties (as opposed to catastophising thoughts like, ‘It’s happening again, I am back to square one’ and emphasising coping strategies like staying active, taking care of yourself, seeking social support).

Family members and friends care deeply, yet hold beliefs healing should be done with quickly. This can hinder a trauma survivor’s healing.  Advocating “life is too short” and “stop focusing on the past – get over it” prolongs the curing period.

healingHealing takes time and it is different for everyone.

Family physicians notably agree it is part of essential life skills for a survivor to understand and express feelings, deal with anger associated with trauma, and safeguard thought processes so as not to undermine the ability to cope day-to-day.

Awareness is essential.

Emotional wounds take time to heal, or some cases may never heal.

Emotions from a traumatic event can take years to show up and when they do, it’s a rude awakening. A realization surfaces to reexamine the memory and the pain associated with it. What can happen is a recall of more memory, adding to the original trauma. Once this happens, it deserves the processing time for the survivor to work through it, and get ready to come out at the other end stronger for it.

Trauma can cause ongoing problems with self-esteem. It affects management of simple life skills.  Overcoming trauma is easier for some than others. Some go on to inspire others who is just entering the dark stage of a life-changing journey.

The impact of trauma on the entire person and the range of therapeutic issues are what need to be addressed. Recovery happens when the person is ready to move past the pain of it.

Symptoms come back in bits and pieces, like a flashback in a movie trailer – it can subside.

Dr. Creagan believes we can help a loved one with post-traumatic stress by being willing to listen, but don’t push. Choose a time when you’re both ready to talk.

During the process of recovery from trauma, it can take months, years, even decades.  For some, PTSD never leaves.

Trauma assaults a person’s ability to manage simple life skills. Generally this is needed to help understand the world around or know the tools to allow a fulfilling life. Daily tasks, going to school or work, building relationships, or one’s personal feelings of belongingness or connectedness become visibly exhausting.

Trauma symptoms get in the way of meeting ambitions to live to one’s full potential.

Many treatments are available for PTSD to meet the unique needs of the survivor.

Everyone is different, so a treatment by someone experienced with PTSD may work for one person and may not work for another.

Life coaching is available to give supportive listening — without attempts to repair but help resolve some of the strong feelings such as shame, anger, or guilt.  A life coach can offer strategies to help map out a plan to get beyond PTSD and work at meeting life goals based on a new method of human functioning.

A life skills approach to trauma is about finding a new personal life balance. Breaking through another wall of understanding and self discovery during recovery of trauma, is about learning to live with a new agenda of coping skills. Taking time to find what works best during healing from the effects of trauma is worthy of investment.

Giving up is not an option,  but seeking self-love and understanding, or getting the help needed all bring added successes to an especially brave life of a survivor living with the stresses of a past trauma.

~ All rights reserved ~

 

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Mindful and Meditative Prayer

by Catherine DeAngelis

“The best prayer is to rest in the goodness of God, knowing that goodness can reach right down to our lowest depths of need.”

-Julian of Norwich, 14th-century mystic

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Throughout time people around the world have turned to silence and meditative prayer for peace. It is natural during periods  of unrest to pray or meditate to find strength and courage to get away from the upheaval – a pause from the thinking about  it too much.

Emotional pain is gripping. Especially if a loved  one succumbs to fatal effects caused by cancer, AIDS,  and any kind of trauma, mental illness,  grief and loss or financial crisis.

A  Time article by Leon Jaroff, Investigating the Power of Prayer explains how an American doctor, Elizabeth Targ, was awarded substantial grants of $611,516 for one study, $823,346 for another to look at the therapeutic effects of prayer on AIDS and cancer patients.

Jaroff reports that Targ took to examining  “distance healing.” This is where someone offers  prayer, but is not present and it is recited for the patient from afar.  Targ identified  “the prayed-for patients had fewer and less severe new illnesses, fewer doctor visits, fewer hospitalizations and were generally in better moods than those in the control group. The technique, she believes, can even work on nonhuman species.”

Prayer can be a set of affirmations that guide one’s thinking to a positive place.   It can be walking  across a bridge imagining the space beneath it which meets the river  below flowing with the rapids as nature inspiring hope and renewal.

IMG207Many people from diverse ethnic or religious backgrounds, whether e.g. Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Indian shamans  take time to practice quiet prayer or meditation, more commonly the practice of mindfulness is becoming more and more part of the 21st century among western cultures.

Something as simple as Mindfulness Keeps You Emotionally Fit

Psychology today, as well as ancient Hindu and Buddhist doctrines contend that, rather than mastering our emotions, could we learn to live in equilibrium with them, and use the energy that they give us and mindfully work to free ourselves from the layers of unspent emotional energy that cloud our relationships, both with ourselves and with others.

The property of  mindfulness or prayer belongs to no particular religion or group of people and neither does the practice of daily praying or meditating belong  to only Buddhists. Anyone can sit mindfully under a tree, or kneel on a bench to find a moment to pray for e.g. empathy of others or compassion for ourselves.

More and more scientists are discovering,  there are benefits in the practice of contemplative prayer, silence, or use of mindfulness to create a  state of being and not doing to help manage stress and combat minor to severe illnesses.  Practice is open to all  faiths. It is astounding the rewards people report how prayer and meditation bring balance to  mental health and well-being.

For resilience, recite a prayer, chant a veda or a mantra,  say a blessing, and accompany it by  lighting a candle or some incense,  hold prayer beads to set in motion a formal or informal setting toward a  quiet time for contemplation and thoughtful prayer, or walk a path and be guided by the simple wonders of  our world and the grandness of its intelligent design.

Open yourself up to intuition, to the natural release of energy – both positive and negative – and to self-awareness.

mountain_pose1PRACTICE DAILY

  1. Check in mindfully each day, the moment your feet hit the floor next to your bed – it is as vital as the air you breathe.
  2. Simply take a few seconds by taking yourself to a calming yet brisk awareness of the ‘here and now.’
  3. Begin this mindful check in, by feeling into the body and mind, simply allowing waves of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations to just be.
  4. Breathe, Inhale, Exhale — No need to judge.
  5. Just let it be.
  6. Breathe, Inhale, Exhale.
  7. Breathe!
  8. Formal breathing practice can be done anywhere anytime.
  9. Listen to all that is around you!

Enjoy one of the traditional core practices of Mindfulness meditation and be thankful to yourself for having taken the time to participate in your health and well-being.

Peace

from: Atharva Veda XIX. 9. 1 & 9:2
(Veda is Sanskrit for knowledge)

May the earth be free from disturbance,
May the vast atmosphere be calm,
May the flowing waters be soothing,
And all the plants and herbs  prove beneficial to us.
May all the foretelling signs of coming events  be free from turmoil and
May all that has been done and that which has not been done prove the source of happiness to all.
May our past and future be peaceful and may all be gracious unto us.
May the atmosphere be peaceful,
May the medicinal herbs be peaceful,
May all my shining objects be peaceful for me,
May all enlightened persons be peaceful for me,
May all the peaceful actions be peaceful by me.
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