it’s not just stress
There’s no doubt that the events of the last six months have altered our way of life. As a society, we’ve experienced more than one major cultural shock to the system—not to mention shock to our own systems. But it’s more than the side effects of forced isolation, increased anxiety about going to the grocery store, and the ramifications of systemic racism (as if that weren’t enough). We’ve likely experienced trauma from any one of these worldwide epidemics, and still are.
The Difference Between Trauma and a Stressful Moment
We tend to think of trauma as a big word that encompasses experiences like abuse, rape, violence, war or suicide, but it can actually be anything that “overwhelms our ability to cope,” according to Marine Sélénée, a Family Constellations therapist.
Trauma is different from a stressful moment, which most of us experience regularly. A stressful moment will disrupt, but you’ll be able to process it and get back to yourself, says Georgina Marie Francesa Sacino, MS, a restorative healer and self-liberation guide.
That’s partly why trauma can be easy to overlook in ourselves. It can be anything you find harmful or deeply disturbing that produces an overwhelming amount of stress, says Tracy Barbour, a trauma recovery and embodiment doula. Trauma also “causes feelings of hopelessness, diminishes a person’s sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences.”
Trauma is anything that overwhelms our ability to cope.Marine Sélénée
How Trauma Shows Up in Our Lives
Sacino defines trauma as “any event which impacts the quality of someone’s life in an unwanted, intrusive and lingering way.” If you’ve suffered a traumatic event, you might:
- Be unable to get back to yourself.
- Have extreme stress—you can’t cope with it.
- Your physical body stays stuck somewhere, be it in pain or illness.
- Be unable to process all of it.
- Go into survival management.
Another factor to add to the equation is that traumatic events can be triggered by one overwhelming experience or ongoing or repetitive experiences (abuse, environmental or social traumas, homophobia, racism, war). Says Sélénée, “It’s anything that [you] were unable to process so it stayed ‘stuck’ in your body.”
Anxiety, insomnia, depression, anger, self-sabotage, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, addictions, violence, PTSD, numbness—all of these can come from trauma, says Sélénée. “It depends on which mechanism the person is going to ‘choose’ in order to survive.”
Once we’re able to process trauma, we can wake up to a different life.Tracy Barbour
3 Things You Can Do to Help Process Trauma Now
With the widespread cultural trauma that comes with a worldwide pandemic, job loss and threats to our health and safety, trauma treatment is something we could all use to “heal the connection between mind, body and soul,” says Sacino. We can approach it from a place of wholeness and abundance, she continues, not from a place of trying to “fix” anything.
Once we’re able to process trauma, it’s almost like we can wake up to a different life, says Barbour, one where we’re “free from toxic tethers.” Here’s how to start.
Acknowledge Your Trauma is Real
Acknowledgement comes first, says Barbour. “Acknowledge that your trauma is real. Stop blaming yourself. Don’t let others shame you. Ground yourself. Then seek out community and support.”
Sacino adds, “The best way to heal and process trauma is to prove to yourself that your body and mind never betrayed you. You are here. You are capable and you don’t have to be who you were before. You can be the you you are now, and that is enough. All we are doing is finding ways to build on that.”
Create Ritual For Yourself
“Whether it is tea drinking in the morning, or looking at the sky for three minutes every day, or moving intentionally for six minutes,” says Sacino, create a ritual for yourself. “The ONLY requirement for part of this ritual is asking yourself, What do I need today? Whether it is strength or courage or joy or whatever—find one thing you can do to give that to yourself.” Asking yourself this question every day allows you clarity of mind to figure out what the next step is, she says.
You don’t have to be who you were before. You can be the you you are now, and that is enough.Gina Sacino, MS
Transform the Trauma
“Trauma happens first and foremost in the body,” says Sélénée. “We can move through trauma and transform it.” How? “Go back to the present moment in your body. Engage with the environment. Help to soothe the trauma in the now and engage your capacity to (re)-connect.”
She continues, “Traumatized people must let go of all kinds of beliefs and preconceptions in order to complete the journey back to health. Remember, letting go never happens all at once. The key to transforming trauma is to move slowly in the direction of flexibility and spontaneity.”
As with any healing journey, trauma treatment isn’t a one-time event—and it requires lots of self-love and compassion. Says Sacino, “It’s focused on taking time, and rest and space, and not feeling guilty about it.”
For more support on your healing journey, connect with our trauma-informed healers for guidance on everything from anxiety and depression, family wounds, chronic illness and grief to BIPOC, Latinx, LGBTQIA+ and ancestral healing.