Posts Categorized: Help for Trauma

A Radio Interview with Kate Daniels

Recovery, healing and relationships. I had the privilege of speaking with Kate Daniels of Hubbard Radio on her show dedicated to Recovery. If you download it, you can treat it like a podcast and listen while you’re on the go.

Exploitive and destructive relationships take a toll on their victims, and we discuss here how to recover and rebuild self esteem. Enjoy!

A Strategy for Surviving Emotional Pain

Have you ever felt so shocked, that time stood still? Maybe the phone call was bad news, or the thing you wanted most became impossible, or the rejection you felt was crushing . The emotional pain you feel is overwhelming, and you know you need a strategy to move forward.

You know you have to respond to your situation, but maybe you are unsure of what to do next.

written on it

written on it

Psychologists have found that trouble, trauma and tragedies are not actually the problem. The problem is how we respond to them. We know that trouble, trauma and tragedy cannot always be avoided, and that bad things happen to good people. However, researchers report that those people who can respond to the trouble in healthy ways will be resilient, have shorter recovery times and suffer fewer negative effects.

What to do When You don’t Know what to Do

light unto my path

Some people respond to challenges with emotionally destructive means like blame shifting, addictions, and isolation. It’s tempting to respond to pain by numbing, drinking, self-medicating, inappropriate relationships, or over-shopping. Others respond by taking responsibility, problem solving, and reaching out for support. Those who take the harder, braver path choose to respond to pain by staying alert, present, creative, information seeking, engaged and positive.

How we respond to our troubling event means everything. During seasons of loss and pain, it is important to do two things well:

Do what you can,

Leave the rest.

Do What you Can. Doing what you can does not mean doing everything, or doing what other people should be doing but aren’t. When bad things happen, some may be tempted to “over do it” or “over function” or “take over” but this is not always the best thing to do. Doing what you can means being clear about your role and responsibility and doing that thing the best you can. Don’t do other people’s things, just do your thing. You don’t have to have all the right answers or a plan etched in stone. You only need to exert your power, influence and choice in a way that is beneficial. It is important to decipher what you can control, and what you cannot.

amy's coffee

Doing any helpful thing in the midst of trouble is not only good for you and for other people, it is good for your resiliency too. Trauma research shows that people who find something useful to do during a troubling event, fair better with fewer trauma symptoms. Whether it be encouraging, attending, guarding, problem solving, helping, protecting or directing, exerting some personal power in big or small ways is helpful.

Leave the Rest. Leaving the Rest is an acknowledgement that not everything can be done quickly or by you. Releasing yourself from taking care of others’ responsibilities is brave and necessary. Leaving the rest means engaging in a waiting period with hope. You know how dog trainers will say, “Leave it! Leeeeave it,” to their dogs when tempted or distracted? We may be tempted to argue, convince, lecture, shut down, or bargain our way out of the pain or guilt. But these are not helpful options for the long run. We must let go of the things we can’t control, and do something about the things we can control.

“Leaving the Rest” actually takes more energy than “Doing what you can.” Resisting the temptation to over-function or to be a control freak takes a lot of self-control. When you are actively taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to tell yourself things like, “Don’t take the bate,” and “This ain’t your circus, these ain’t your monkeys,” and “Don’t buy a ticket for that crazy train,” and “You can let it go.”

 

Waiting can cause a powerless feeling, but waiting with purpose, hope and a plan is very different. “Leaving the Rest” does not mean “Wait and see what happens,” as much as it means, “Wait for the right time to move forward.” For the waiting period to be manageable and positive, there are Waiting Exercises that I will cover in my next blog.

If you are in the middle of a dark season, take the small steps to Do What You Can, and the faith steps to Leave the Rest. Every small step in the right direction counts.

Why Do I Feel this Way? Addressing Anxiety Part II

Heart thumping, cold sweat, shallow breathing and mind racing. These are the signs of the fight or flight mechanism at its peak. When the brain’s hippo campus recognizes a stimulus as threatening, it sends messages to the body that prepare it to fight, to take flight, or to freeze.
But what if that stimulus produces a low grade of fight, flight, or freeze nearly all the time? What if the brain gets dysregulated and sends signals to the brain to react even when the stimulus is not dangerous?

You end up feeling terrible all of the time.

Anxiety occurs in people for a variety or reasons, including past or present traumatic events, genetic predisposition, or a life of chronic stress. Whatever the cause, the symptoms can be bothersome at best, and debilitating at worst.

An estimated 19% of Americans suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year. That’s almost 1 in 5 people. Whether you have suffered with anxiety in the past, are being treated for it now, or love someone debilitated by it, chances are you have been affected by the far-reaching tentacles of anxiety.
Last week, we talked about the symptoms and signs of anxiety. Check it out if you missed it by clicking HERE.

Why do I feel this way?

Finding the WHY is not absolutely necessary to solve the problem of anxiety, but it does help quite a bit. It is accepted by psychologcial professionals that anxiety can be caused by a combination of different factors like genetics, faulty cognitions, chemical imbalance, environment factors, and life events. Wanna dig in a little more? Here are some common factors that contribute to the anxiety you may be feeling.

  • Past little t traumas. I refer to Little t traumas as those less-than-nurturing things that happened consistently over time. Like the constant criticism of a parent, frequent family moves, or trying hard but being benched each year on the soccer team. These are relatively small traumas to the psyche but when occurring with consistency and frequency, can make for an anxious life.
  • Past Big T Traumas- Big T traumas are events most people would consider tragic, de-stabilizing and distressing. Big T traumas are  These are things like car wrecks, dangerous predicaments, violent acts, witnessing traumatic events,
  • Toxic Relationships– When living or working in a toxic, dysfunctional, or demanding relationship or environment, anxiety can start to take hold. The feeling of being trapped in a dysfunctional relationship can make a person feel inadequate, overly responsible, hyper vigilant, and worried about rejection. Often people will feel powerless to change their relationship situation because they fear the cost would be too great (stress to the kids, financial stress, feelings of failure,) Many people will stay in toxic environments and relationships hoping it will get better, however, their emotional and physical health suffers.
  • Feelings of Extreme Powerlessness- Anxiety is always rooted in a sense of helplessness. It’s as if our unconscious believes that we truly have no power, that we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Trapped. Bound. Gagged. We believe things like, “I can’t do anything about it,” “I have no choice,” and “It’s useless.” Our prefrontal cortex, responsible for logic and reasoning, knows this powerless thinking is not completely accurate, but the hippocampus is so busy over-reacting, it overrides logic and stays in a fight/flight spin. The times we feel most powerless, are the times we feel most anxious.
  • Chronic Unresolved Stress- relationships, environments, and stressful situations have a “piling on” affect that over time, drain your resources, energy and motivation. The Hope-Disappointment cycle bankrupts what little resources you have left. Adrenal fatigue, PTSD, depression, weight gain, loss of motivation are all signs of working/living/dealing with chronic stress. Demanding work environments, infertility, toxic relationships, living with someone with untreated mental illness, dealing with chronically angry people, unemployment, poverty, bullying are all examples of environments that cause chronic stress.
  • Survival Fatigue- Since the Hippocampus is getting all sorts of danger signals… ALL THE TIME… even when there’s no danger, you start to feel like a victim in perpetual survival mode. You say things to yourself like, “Just get through it,” and “just keep going.” Fight/Flight/Freeze is a great mechanism to save your life, but not so good for long periods of time. During survival mode, you may go through phases of hyperarousal and numbness, back to hyperarousal again. Maintaining survival mode can cause anxiety over time.

Depressed yet? DON’T BE! Anxiety is a very treatable condition, and with the right attitude and the right help, you can start gaining control over your anxiety symptoms.

I don’t want to leave you hanging, really I don’t, but I’ve got to break this blog into three parts, so I can do things like eat a real meal, go to bed before midnight, and you know, have a life and stuff. Anxiety is a huge topic with a myriad of treatment techniques, so I will give you the best ones next week. In the mean time, check out these links – this one on communication and this one on healing from a toxic relationship .

Are you Dealing with Anxiety?

Heart racing, shortness of breath, lying awake at night worrying? Most people can identify with having anxiety and its symptoms at different points in their lives. In fact, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18% of us in the United States age 18 and older every year.


Source: National Institute of Mental Health

How Does Anxiety Feel and  How do you know When it’s Time to Get Help?

Anxiety comes in lots of different forms like PTSD, Panic, Social Phobia, OCD and extreme and frequent worry. It affects all people differently dependent on genetics, biochemistry, age, stage and life events.

Can you Relate?

People with anxiety

  • Find it difficult to control worry
  • Feel restless, keyed up and on edge
  • Become easily irritated and angry
  • Have difficulty concentrating or staying focused on important things
  • Have difficulty falling or staying asleep

People with anxiety may also experience intense panic with increased heart rate, shallow breathing, feeling out of control, and unable to calm down. With all this adrenaline pumping, people with anxiety can experience an intense let down affect resulting in exhaustion and depression. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, let me be the first to empathize and say, “Friend, that sucks.” Because it really does. Since anxiety is largely invisible, it’s hard for others to understand just what is going on inside you. Even though anxiety doesn’t show up on ultra sounds and Xrays, it is real, and it is painful. And you’re not crazy.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Get Help?

Did you know that anxiety is highly treatable? Yes! That’s the good news. The bad news is that only 37% of those suffering from anxiety disorders actually receive treatment. What a bummer!

Though I had been seeing a counselor since my graduate school days, I didn’t start addressing my anxiety symptoms head on until my mid thirties. (yes, I look like I am barely out of college, haha, but no.) It was then that I saw my worries, restlessness, irritability, going from 0-60 in a red not second, and panic in uncomfortable situations as problematic. The people around me were being affected, and that was enough for me to say, “Stop! In the Name of Love!” So I addressed it calling it the name it was- anxiety.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think that your anxiety might becoming a problem.

  • Are you tired of worrying about what other people are thinking, about things that never actually happen, or about regrets from the past?
  • Are your feelings keeping you back from moving forward (taking on a new role, public speaking, networking or socializing, getting involved in the world)?
  • Do your anxious feelings make you avoid things that other people do without worry?
  • Do you break down into a puddle more than you’d like to admit?
  • Are your anxious feelings becoming debilitating, or restricting you from normal functioning?
  • Are the people around you tip toeing on eggshells trying not to upset you?
  • Has this been going on for a long time and you’re sorta sick of it?

Well, that’s the down and dirty anxiety checklist. As you’ve guessed, there is a lot more that can be discussed when it comes to anxiety- chronic stress (cool!), triggers, (woo hoo!), panic attacks (yikes!) and my personal favorite, obsessive negative thoughts (love this one! Gimme some more!)
Next week, we will unravel some of the WHYs of anxiety (stressful relationships anyone? terrible boss perhaps? what about how stinkin’ expensive everything is, yeah, that’ll send ya over the edge!) and what to do if it’s happening to you.

Need Help Now? You can check out my books God Unwrapped and Losers, Users and Abusers HERE.

How to Recover Your Self Esteem After a Toxic Relationship

Improving the way you think about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you is a key element in growth, healing and influence. As you feel better about yourself, you will attract healthy people and positive outcomes. Your perspective will change, as well as your self-respect.

When people come out of a dysfunctional or destructive relationship, they often scrape what’s left of their self-esteem up from off the floor. It has been questioned, put down and even attacked. If this describes you, you may have even lost trust in yourself. Maybe you lived through crazy making, brain washing, and psychological manipulation. Or maybe you were the “last to know” about your partners’ affairs and you feel like the fool.
No matter what, finding yourself in a dysfunctional or destructive relationship causes a major hit to the self-esteem. If you are recovering from a bad relationship, you will need time to heal. Your self esteem requires some care and attention in order for that healing to happen.

What is a healthy self-esteem, and how do you know when you’ve got one?

I really like a quote I read by President Truman defining humility, “Humility is an accurate assessment of yourself.” This means that you are not blind to your faults, but you are not consumed by them either. A healthy ego is able to sustain some course corrections, some negative feedback and some insults without falling apart. A healthy ego is not self obsessed, or aggrandizing, but is able to practice self-respect, self- confidence, and positive view of self. Having a happy sense of self means that you know how to hold on to yourself through the good and the bad, and you count yourself as equal to others.

Recovering your healthy sense of self after a toxic relationship, requires intentional effort and consistency. You can do it! Here’s how.

Limit Exposure to Toxic People: exposure to toxic people can vary in severity, duration and frequency. If you have brief encounters with a jerk, your self esteem could pretty much stay in tact. However, if you feel powerless to affect change in a jerk’s toxicity toward you, and your exposure to said jerk was enduring, severe and frequent, your self-esteem injury could be deep, infected and scarring.
Enduring toxicity may include psychological game-playing, slander, bullying, abusive control, punishing silence, personal attacks, pathological lying, and intermittent love/abuse cycles. These toxic patterns keeps their victims always guessing, uncertain, and helpless feeling. This relationship poison causes the victim to stop trusting themselves.  Even people who start out confident and self-assured, can sustain a self esteem injury when exposed to persistent, deliberate psychological abuse.

It’s important to get free from the toxic environment/relationship as soon as you can. Your sense of self can not fully heal if you stay in the toxic relationship hoping it will get better.

How to Heal the Wounded Self:
It is hard to know where to start after leaving. If you have children from the relationship, a lot of time will probably be spent making sure they are safe and cared for. But it is important to think how you will keep yourself safe and cared for as well. Here are some steps to recover your lost sense of self.

  • Find what you like to do and do it
  • Decorate your new space
  • Exercise to make your body feel alive, energetic and strong
  • Create by planting, crafting, sketching, cooking, or writing
  • Let Nature Nurture by spending time outdoors or with animals
  • Let Music be a powerful source for reflection, encouragement and outlet
  • Surround yourself with positive, caring people
  • Nurture yourself with things like a bath, candles, massage, long walks, cups of tea
  • Adopt a SELF CARE plan that includes all of these things and a schedule of how and when to do them.

It’s not just WHAT you do to recover your sense of self, it is HOW you do it. People who are able to accomplish these self-care tasks in a spirit of love and gratitude will make them that much more effective.  Since you are in the process of recovering who you were, who you are and who you will be, you will need to do any of these activities with great love and care. Say to yourself, “I love the water feels on my body,” or “I will receive this beautiful music as if it were written just for me,” or “my heart is really pumping and alive today, “ or “I’m grateful for the way my dog shows me attention,” or “the sun is shining through the trees so beautifully right now. I’m glad I am here to experience it.” Receiving these small gifts to our self esteem make them stick.

Once leaving a toxic environment or relationship, you may be tempted to isolate yourself. Instead, make small consistent steps toward openness, acceptance, connection and strength. With slow, consistent self-care exercises, you will recover your sense of self and you will reinvent for your future.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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