What is Stress and Trauma?
When we experience stress the body responds with specific physiological changes to meet the challenges of life. Healthy stress (eustress) is usually short-term and is motivating and energizing. The body is able to recover and return to a calm and relaxed state soon after the stressor. Unhealthy or chronic stress (distress) is draining and demotivating and occurs when the body can no longer cope with the demands placed on it.
The physiological changes of the stress response stay activated and the body is not able to calm down and recover resulting in:
- Compromised health (back ache, headaches, anxiety, digestive problems, fatigue, weight gain/loss, pain, inflammation, increase in infections, high blood pressure, diabetes)
- Relationships problems (irritability, disconnection, intimacy issues, sexual difficulties)
- Work or studies (poor concentration, focus and memory, absenteeism)
Trauma is described as the experience of being overwhelmed and helpless when we sense that our survival is under threat. The stress response is activated to a much larger degree. As with other mammals, once we sense that the danger is over our bodies will instinctively begin to tremor and shake to discharge the excess energy. This tremor mechanism enables the body to return once again to a calm and relaxed state. Even though this is part of our body’s natural self-healing capacity and is available to everyone, many people due to social pressure have been conditioned to suppress this response. We don’t want others to perceive us as weak and not coping so we block this mechanism.
When the body is unable to complete the natural response to trauma for whatever reason, the charge remains in the body causing a range of symptoms which may include:
- Severe emotional instability (panic attacks, depression, rage)
- Mental problems (dissociation, mental disorders)
- Self-harming behaviors (substance abuse, addictions, disordered eating, self mutilation, suicide)
- Compromised health (sleep disorders, chronic illnesses, disability, pain, auto-immune syndromes, fibromyalgia)
- Violence (rage, aggression, abuse)
- Work related issues (financial, increased absenteeism, poor performance)
- Relationship problems (intimacy problems, divorce, isolation, inability to connect)