Like most people, I have experienced trauma in my life and it makes itself known at times unbeknownst to me. There have been days where due to my trauma, I have been out of commission and haven't really done anything productive in the day. It takes hold and I feel paralyzed by it, but fortunately, I have learned to work through it. It is not easy but it can be done and it beats the alternative of just sitting around waiting for the effects of trauma to go away on their own.
What is trauma?
According to Missouri's early care & education connections, trauma is an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that can have lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, and emotional well-being.
Considering this definition, if we are looking to work towards any fitness, nutrition, or lifestyle goals, we need to treat trauma as it will have lasting impacts on our deep health. According to Precision Nutrition, the components that make up our deep health are our physical, mental, emotional, existential, environmental, and relational health. In addressing each one of these and working towards improving each one, we will become a well rounded, healthy individual.
The three main types of trauma that people can experience are acute, chronic or complex. According to Missouri's early care & education connections, acute trauma results from a single incident. Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence or abuse. Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.
I will share briefly some of the trauma I have been through in my own life. I have lost both of my sisters. My older sister was 40 years old when she passed away suddenly in 2019. She left behind her son, my nephew, who I have been blessed to adopt. My younger sister was 28 years old when she passed away suddenly. Her birthday just recently passed and everything that I experienced that day came back in an instant. It was a rough day all around and I was consumed by the emotions and memories from the day of her death. By mid day, this trauma began to manifest itself physically as my head started pounding. The one thing that helped was I had coaching calls with 3 of my clients. In getting on calls with them, for the duration of the call, I was able to separate myself from my own pain, and focus on them. I was considering cancelling the calls as I was really upset but pushed myself to get on the calls anyway. I knew sitting in self and allowing my emotional pain to consume me wasn't going to serve my clients or myself.
The practice of speaking with other people instead of isolating is healthy and will benefit most people when they are experiencing trauma. When speaking to a trained professional however, this is considered "talk therapy" and with the different types of treatment used today to treat trauma, this is an effective method. I will write about some of the benefits below!
First, there is the experience of being heard, otherwise known as "attunement". It's much easier to speak when we have the full attention of the person we are speaking to which can be a healing experience as some people have never truly been listened to. When we experience trauma, we are essentially re-experiencing the emotions and stress responses (fight or flight) we experienced when the trauma initially happened. Talking about the trauma will help with calming the stress response as verbal communication is directly connected to our physical experience. Not to mention, being vulnerable with another person leads them to be vulnerable with us. So in choosing to share what is going on in our life with other people, we can start to build stronger personal relationships. This would help us to improve our relational health on the spectrum of deep health! If we choose not to speak about trauma, it can touch about every aspect of our deep health in a negative way. Our mental and emotional health will be impacted which will effect how we show up in all of our personal relationships. Sometimes we think when we are struggling, we are the only one suffering but those closest to us who love and care about us will also be impacted.
As mentioned above, when we have a traumatic response, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in (fight or flight) and when this happens, our para-sympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) is inhibited. In experiencing trauma, this will negatively impact our ability to metabolize and digest food, absorbing nutrients our body needs. Experiencing chronic trauma or prolonged periods in this fight or flight can lead to negative physical health responses. As you can see, if trauma is not addressed, it can prevent us from progressing with our fitness, nutrition, or lifestyle goals. Since it is directly connected to our mental and emotional health which places it on the deep health spectrum, treating our trauma is part of a well rounded, holistic health plan.
As simple as it may be, talking to other people about what we are experiencing is a great way to move forward and away from the trauma of our past. Talk therapy can have far-reaching beneficial effects on our emotional experience, brain chemistry, and overall life story. I would love to hear about any of your experiences with talk therapy whether it was with a therapist or friends and family!