A traumatic event is anything that causes or threatens harm to us or our loved ones in which we are powerless to change the circumstances. In many instances, trauma happens on an individual level where one person or a small group is affected. In cases of natural disaster, whole populations can be exposed to trauma. Enter Hurricane Harvey. Houston has experienced a major trauma in the form of flooding and its resultant destruction. We, as a population, will spend the next days, weeks, and probably months recovering not only physically and financially, but also psychologically and emotionally from this experience.
Trauma does a number on our nervous systems. Because we feel threatened (or that someone we love is threatened), our sympathetic nervous systems are activated. Now this is not a strange thing. Our sympathetic nervous systems play a valuable role in escaping danger. This is the biological system that tells the body to release adrenalin and cortisol, increase heart rate, breathing rate, and perspiration, send blood away from the brain into the arms and legs, and generally prepare us to escape from the threat. You may have heard this described as the “fight or flight” response. That’s helpful stuff. But problems arise when this reaction continues for a long period of time.
In cases of trauma, when we can’t escape from the danger, our sympathetic nervous system just keeps doing it’s thing. The result? We eventually find ourselves exhausted, depleted, possibly struggling to sleep and eat, possibly developing physical ailments like stomach aches or headaches. And here’s the rub – these symptoms can affect those that were impacted directly by the flooding as well as those who stayed dry but heard from friends, family, or simply watched the news. We have ALL been affected. And that means that we all need to take care of ourselves.
Please take a look at these self-care suggestions and put some of these into practice to begin calming down your sympathetic nervous system. If you need additional help in this process, we at Anthology are ready to support you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance!