Well, thank you, and I'm going to be doing two things at once, so I'm going to be doing the slides and talking, so forgive me if things start kind of going awry. But I want to say thank you so much for Dana and Amanda for inviting me into this webinar. This is a time, isn't it? And I just want to pause right now, because we've done a lot of information sharing, and I just want everyone to take the opportunity to just check in with themselves. Take a deep breath, if that feels right.
Notice how some of the information that Amanda just shared with us, how that landed, if it felt familiar to you, if it felt challenging. All of this is amazing information, not just for you, but also for how you're starting to get to know how you can cope with these really challenging times.
And it's not just Covid, it's everything on top of Covid, you know, and we didn't want to list all that, so I'm not going to go ahead and do that as far as like a trigger warning on that, but I just want to validate that we're living in very complex times. It's not just one thing that's challenging. So please know that we see you in that.
So, as Amanda and Dana mentioned, I'm a Trauma-Informed Somatic Counselor. What that means is that the type of therapy I do, the type of training I do starts with the body. It doesn't mean that we ignore anything else, but we really include the body in the process, and especially when we're in times of stress and trauma, the body is our first responder to that stress and trauma.
And I just want to say that again, our body is our is the first responder to that stress and trauma. And before even some of the behaviors in the emotion show up, which was so brilliantly laid out by Amanda, and I really want to make sure that you all know, this is a complementary piece, it's not and or, or all of these things happened together.
Before emotions and behavior shows up, we feel it in our bodies. And that's what I'm going to talk about today.
Again, that word normalizing. And when I say normalizing in terms of a therapeutic context, it's really meant to give ourselves the space for self-awareness and self-compassion. We don't need to understand and control everything and even though we want to, but a lot of times we are part of a beautifully organic system within our bodies that is meant to take care of us in times like these.
And that's what I mean by normalizing, that some of these responses happen for a reason. And there they are to be expected.
So, the first thing that happens when we're in a state of high stress or trauma - and by the way, trauma is either an event that is highly distressing that can be a one-time event or over time. We're experiencing all of those.
So, the first things our bodies will do, and I'm sure you all have been hearing these terms is fight, flight or freeze. That's the first space we go.
You may feel in your body. Some of these some of these symptoms, some I don't even like to say symptoms because it's not an illness. But some of these indicators, somatic indicators, tension in your muscles, nausea, dry mouth, upset stomach or digestion, quicker breathing, more shallow breathing, racing thoughts, hypervigilance, which means you're scanning your environment all the time.
Tunnel vision, which seems like its opposite, but it's not quite, it's another coping mechanism that the body does when it's perceiving a threat or danger in its environment. Lightheaded or dizzy? All of these are indicators that your body may be going into fight or flight.
And I'd like you all to just take a moment and think about, you know, oh, I wonder if more often these days I'm feeling one or more of these things than my body. And it may not be all the time, but it may be something.
And you're like, why is my mouth always dry? Why can't I catch my breath? You know, I don't understand why I'm constantly like trying to see what's going on, but I'm not actually noticing what's going on or I feel like I can't concentrate.
That's a lot of one of the indicators that happens in fight, flight or freeze.
Sometimes movement happens with this, too, like, you know, shaking a little bit. Or if you feel like you're in freeze, you just feel like you're stuck, can't move.
All of these are the ways the body actually gets you into a state of readiness to respond to a threat. These are all preparations for moving. And I just went a little bit too far into the other one, but just hang with me for a second.
Fight, flight or freeze is meant to get you away from the threat or from the threat to like, not pay attention to you with freeze.
If that doesn't work, the body will go into another state. And that is, of course, Collapse or shut down?
Feeling out of your body, the breathing actually gets slower, your muscles may lose tension, they go limp, spacing out (Netflix anyone?) Emotions may seem flat. It's like, why can't I seem to care about the same things I used to?
These two areas, if you can see anxiety and depression, can live in each of these spaces. That may be indicators of how you're feeling and which one of those spaces.
Again, these are what our bodies responses are to this high stress and trauma. And if you think about this over a prolonged period of time, you might be able to see where things like anxiety, depression, other coping mechanisms start to get developed.
So now we get to go to the second slide. So, one of the tools that I use in the trauma work that I do is called the window of tolerance, not my creation. Very happy to know that Dr. Dan Siegel has done this work. If you like, you can go on YouTube and you can see all kinds of fabulous ways that he talks about the window of tolerance.
What's important that I want to share today is that the window of tolerance is where I think Amanda was talking about in normative times where you manage your life in a certain way, that's predictable to you.
I love how this graphic talks about it. This is where things just feel right, where you're best able to cope with the punch’s life throws at you, your calm, but not tired, your alert, but not anxious.
This is also the place I like to say, where you can think and feel at the same time. And I mean, both emotions, your body, your thoughts, all of those kind-of inform each other. You're not getting hijacked by one or the other.
If you're in a state of trauma, this window of tolerance shrinks, which means that what used to not bother you before can totally bother you.
And what I mean by that is like the driving situation or let's say that you missed the bus to go somewhere.
In times or the window of tolerance is wide enough you're like, oh, I missed the bus. I'll catch the next one. If it's shrunk because of repeated challenges to your system, that same action, missing the bus could push you into hyperarousal, fight or flight or back down into hypo arousal.
So same event, different reactions because of the stress that's on you through the surrounding trauma that's being dealt with.
So, repeat and ongoing trauma shrinks this window. Goes from here to here. But the window that was not fixed, it can expand. This is not forever. And you're not relegated to living in this very narrow window.
And again, all the responses are normal come from the body's primary mandate to survive. And I want to say trauma may be inherited and experienced, and this comes from my work about intergenerational trauma, but resilience can be learned and passed forward to interrupt the trauma response over time.
This webinar today, I'm going to do in this next slide, some offerings of how we can interrupt the trauma response. We may not get rid of it completely - this is where we start learning maybe through other support that you have, through therapists or family members on how is my body built to respond to trauma? That's information to gather as well.
I might be the kind of person that hangs out in fight or flight for a second and then just dips into dysregulation and zooms out.
I might only stay in hyper arousal and maybe never go down until hypo arousal. Just understanding what you do, how your body reacts is important.
One of the things or some of the things we can do today is talk about where you can find what we call resources. This is how you fill your tank back up so that the trauma can be faced, can be dealt with, can be understood from a place of capacity of energy. But also, think of it as basically your body is like a car. You need gas.
And the word self-care can feel very hard for some folks because it feels like another to do list. For me, I want to reframe it saying caring for yourself.
These are some of the areas that I would offer. Your body noticing, even just noticing, like, oh, OK, I can't breathe. Noticing, can I bring a little bit more breath in this moment? And if not, that's OK. Just noticing it and just being with is so important with what your body's going through.
Your mind, your mind can be (it's a double-edged sword), those thoughts can take you into a spiral. But at the same time, you can also use your mind to choose a different route. It's like, oh, OK, I'm going to do the spinning, but I'm going to give myself five minutes to do the spinning, and then I'm going to go read this book or read this inspirational thing or actually turn off the news on my computer and go do something else. Employ the decision making the frontal lobe of your mind, and it will help you get out of fight or flight.
One of the fantastic techniques I like to use is if you are in fight or flight, using your brain to help you count through sensations will actually bring you back into your body. Notice five things that you see for things that you hear, three things that you sense, you know, on and on like that, and it will help get you back into that window of tolerance. It's a good trick.
Relationships, and this is where I hear that challenge the most is isolation. We're going to see a quote from Amanda in a little bit that totally inspired me, and I'm going to have her speak to that a little bit more.
Relationships are what we humans need. How we have them, the ways that we determine what intimacy are, what connections are, those are all culturally based. But we need them. So when you find yourself being isolated, reaching out may feel like the hardest thing, but even if it's someone that you haven't seen for a while, or if it's an organization or if it's even just standing in the middle of a crowded space with socially distancing, I understand. But getting out and seeing other humans helps bring the trauma response back into regulation.
Being with other people - and this is something I can speak to. Obviously, we've all gone through quarantine. I live in Colorado and was very fortunate to be near trails, and that actually saved my life. I never knew any of the people I passed on the trails, but I saw them and seeing other people out living their lives, all of us having the same experience, even though I didn't know them, comforted me.
I also created, actually, I was I was tapped into this beautiful online global family and was able to work internationally through Zoom. And that saved me as well. And I had family as well. But it's not just in person, but online and through communities that you find that will help as well.
And this goes to community, however you define that.
I also want to watch the time and have this open for questions to - higher purpose. However, you define that, something has to be meaningful to you. Find that. Listen to that inner voice follow the dream that you always wanted.
Hold that is the nugget in your hand that will also help.
And the time outs, what I mean by that is sometimes things get to be too much. You're allowed a time out from that. You can step back and say, this is too much for me, I need something familiar, and if that familiar is, you know, watching a show that you've watched five million times before and it makes you laugh - do that. If you're abroad and you want to have something that feels like home - do that.
Allow yourself that you don't have to power through. You don't have to power through.