As a therapist who specializes in trauma, I want to take this opportunity to write about how our current situation, with COVID-19, may affect us as a (potential) collective trauma and/or individual trauma, and how you can decrease your chances of having traumatic symptoms as a result of these difficult times.

Generally speaking, we have learned that there are preconditions for trauma.

These preconditions include:

1. Lack of predictability
2. Immobility
3. Loss of connection
4. Numbing out and Spacing out
5. Loss of a sense of time and sequences
6. Loss of safety

Currently, we are in a collective situation that allows for most of these conditions to be met.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to alter these conditions.  Not only will the following suggestions decrease the likelihood of traumatic symptoms in your life but will also, likely, increase the quality of your life while in quarantine.

Regarding lack of predictability, the good news is you can create our own predictability.  Most basically, you can create a schedule that works for you.

Some examples of things on your schedule may be: a wake-up time, a morning exercise practice, work, a lunch time, a 3:00pm call with family member, etc. What are some things you like to look forward to?  Consider making a visual calendar and writing in times for calls, live music streams, exercise, meditation, etc.)Making Schedules for Anxiety Bree Emery Fort Collins Colorado

Ok, some folks may be feeling pretty immobile with a quarantine lifestyle.  With immobility, there is nothing you can do to change the current situation.  To remedy this, we need to take ACTION.  Our natural response to danger is fight or flight, but that is currently limited.  Thus, we need to find ways to take autonomous actions in our daily lives to regulate the stress hormones that come along with our feeling in danger.  We can cook, shovel snow, do house projects, make babies, and take care of family members.  These are all examples of actions we can take to remind ourselves (and our bodies) that they are still mobilized.

Additionally, we need to find ways to self-regulate so that the stress hormones released in our brains and bodies do not lead us to destructive actions.  (We are already seeing significantly increased rates of domestic violence in China, Japan and France over the last several weeks. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline via text or call at 1-800-799-7233.)

Our culture tends to self-regulate with drugs and alcohol.  I would not suggest increasing your intake of drugs and alcohol at this time but, instead, finding an adaptive way to regulate your nervous system such as yoga, meditation or mindful breathing.  There are free online resources for yoga classes, meditation and mindful breathing exercises.
Here are some that I suggest:
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw2oBIrQGLo)
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEfs5TJZ6Nk)

Now, let’s move on to connection.

Unless we have preexisting issues that cause us to avoid contact with other people, we are collective creatures.  Thus, it is our normalway to engage with other people.  Interacting with others isimportant for our wellbeing. Isolation does not breed connection, but we can do something about this!  Not only is it important for us to feel in synch with others, it is important for us to see others’ faces to feel attuned to them.  In past pandemics, people did not have technology to help with connecting to each other.  Today, not only do we have telephones, we have FaceTime, Zoom and other options to connect with each other and see each other’s faces!  If you are quarantined with your family, this is a great time to prioritize family meals and family games!  Story telling and music making are additional ways to connect with the people around you.Are you tired? How to feel more alive

And now we are on to numbing out.  TV, drugs and alcohol may be the most common ways people use to “numb out.”  (If you have prior trauma, you may find yourself in a dissociative state more often.)  Good news! Mindfulness is a great medicine for numbing.  In practicing mindfulness, we connect to ourselves and to our bodies.  Additionally, when we are practicing mindfulness, we are more likely to make conscious choices versus reacting in fear, anger andviolence.  To help feel connected to your experience, you may also want to share what you are experiencing with another person (another connection!). Consider sharing your current experience with a family member, a friend or your therapist.

Timelessness is the next condition on which I would like to touch.  When traumatized, time stops, and we feel like the situation with last forever.  Thus, it is important for us to connect to a sense of time (or sequencing) to prevent this from happening.  Again, a schedule can help here.  Additionally, tracking your progress on a goal can not only helps with this, but provide sadditional rewards for your mood (like we get with a sense of accomplishment). If you are working on a project, jot down the progress you make each day.  If you cleaned your room, take the time to notice how the situation changed from the beginning of your task to the end of the task.  In this, we see that things do change as time goes on.

Finally, we get to safety.

There are a number of things that may make you feel unsafe at this time (reading the news, seeing citizens in masks).  Thus, it is important to engage in activities that make you feel calm.  If you are with safe family members, touch is a great way to feel safe and calm right now.  Safe touch and cuddling can do wonders for your nervous system.  Additionally, consider finding a place in your home where you are allowed to withdraw. You can talk with your family members, or roommates, and let them know that, when you are in your room, in this chair, etc, you need to be left alone so you can have time for privacy and self-regulation. (You can self-regulate by listening to music, stretching, meditating, etc.)

If you are a previously traumatized person, you may feel unsafe in your body often.  You may be bombarded with visceral warnings, and you may fluctuate between panic and attempts at distraction and/or numbing.

Please know, there is help for you.  Please feel free to contact our office if you would like additional help with strategies to manage these difficult times. Our office number is (970) 490-1309, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule an appointment you can visit our website at www.emerycounseling.com

Bree Emery Individual Teen Therapy Body Image Eating Disorder

Bree N. Emery

MSW, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)

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