Body

Do you want to know how the body responds to combat trauma?

The body responds to all trauma by enhancing attention: by narrowing focus to assess the situation, using the fight/flight mechanism in the brain to respond to and store the event for future use in potentially threatening situations. It is a normal response to an abnormal event. Also, normally, the traumatic event that is stored in the mind is reviewed and released over time. 

Do you want a description of what happens to the body during and after trauma?

The body survival mechanisms are activated with the onset of trauma. After safety/survival is accomplished then the subconscious mind decides what to keep or release of the process. If trauma events continue and accumulate, there is a deepening  or overtraining of safety/survival mechanisms. Sometimes, there are hormones like adrenaline that are released as a protection mechanism in anticipation of new trauma. Hormones help us run faster and fight harder by increasing heart rate and blood pressure so the body delivers more oxygen and blood sugar to power important muscles. Blood is diverted away from the skin reducing blood loss in case of injury. These hormones focus our attention on the threat to the exclusion of everything else, and improve our ability to survive life-threatening events.

Unfortunately, this mobilization of the body for survival also has negative consequences. For example, the intensity of our focus on survival interferes with our ability to make fine judgments based on drawing information from many sources. After sustained trauma, the body continues to produce stress hormones, even when they are not needed, in reaction to stimuli that resemble, even slightly, the original trauma. These reactions are sometimes called triggered responses to trauma. For more information on the stress response, please visit:    http://www.mindtools.com/stress/UnderstandStress/StressMechanisms.html

Do you want to know about healing physical wounds?

The DOD and VA Hospitals provide an effective, high level of physical wound healing from the battlefield to the home environment.

Continued healing occurs with the body/mind connection In healing, repetitive use of positive visualization allows access to the mind-body connection. This lets the mind and body work together to foster the healing process of the body on a physical level. What is the mind-body connection and how does it work? When we have an emotion it generates a feeling that turns into a physical sensation.

For example: You are watching an adventure movie, you feel excited and your heart will race. In this case you were getting a active suggestion through your sensory perception (sight and sound), that produced an emotion of anticipation which turned into the physical sensation of a racing heart. Visualization uses positive images to produce positive emotions that manifest into positive physical sensations in the body. You may watch a touching scene between family members and feel an emotion of love and experience warmth in your chest.

Many treatment research studies have found that some people heal without actually using the substance/process being researched. This healing effect is labeled the Placebo Effect. The mind believes healing is possible and enables the body to respond. Or said in another way: if the mind sets an intention (goal) based on the belief it is possible, the body will respond. So, healing is activated by an internal personal goal that sets up the physical conditions and substances (such as antibodies or new skin or bone) to make it happen. Also, just as in basic training, the continual application of muscle/nerve movements will increase progress. Physical healing is also aided by physical therapy.

An organization that has provided support to wounded veterans is
 www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Do you want to know about physical therapy?  Occupational therapy?.

Both physical and occupational therapies work with neuromuscular and musculoskeletal issues after illness, injury or surgery as well as with wellness, fitness, and adapted exercise and sports.  Physical therapy more normally works with large movements like rolling, transferring in and out of bed/chairs, walking and pain issues.  Occupational therapy treats more fine movements like in the hand, psychiatric/emotional issues, and activities of daily living.  Both can work with general strengthening and endurance-building and adaptive sports and exercise.

Do you want to know about a wellness/fitness program?

Remember the exercises from basic training? See if you can revisit them in your daily life. Adjust any that you are not physically capable of doing at this time. See your doctor for advice before starting a routine, of course. 

We recommend that you add to that a yoga/stretching routine. Yoga is a 5000 year old science of movement and breathing exercises which stimulate glands and energy circuits in the body as well as stretches and strengthens muscles and ligaments. There are many miraculous stories of persons recovering function from gradually more challenging yoga routines. Most large communities now have many yoga classes with vastly different styles and levels of difficulty. Shop around; ask questions before you start a class to find out if the class will fit your level of capacity. Many DVDs can be found online of yoga routines if you wish to do them at home. The advantage of a class is you can receive feedback about the correct and most healthy way to do the poses.

Pilates (pronounced Pee-lo'-tees) is another popular set of exercises focusing on strengthening what is called “the core,” the stomach/abdomen area.  Again, many    books and DVDs are available online of Pilates routines.

Eating a balanced diet high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals is also helpful in recovering the energy to move. And it goes without saying that the less overweight you are, the easier it will be to recover a full range of movement with least stress on joints.

Creating a diet and exercise plan not only aids in recovering the health of the body but of the mind and attitude also.  Many websites offer these plans.  www.healthcentral.com/diet-exercise  is one.  Amazon.com has many books and DVDs with suggested plans.  Dr. Andrew Weil’s website www.drweil.com gives helpful information about health and nutrition.

Do you want to know about self care in dealing with physical triggers after combat trauma?

Some combat veterans find that maintaining the accessibility of a weapon provides relief of the fear reaction. Some find checking the perimeter of their environment provides a sense of safety within home or work. Some find that choosing a place near an exit in a crowd provides a sense of control. These actions may provide a sense of safety but may also interfere with appropriate integration into the community, the family and social life.

There are many exercises available to release the tension and stress of anticipating danger. One exercise that can be used anytime/anywhere is relaxation breathing.

Relaxation Breathing
When noticing stress or tension, begin breathing deeply and slowly . . . from the abdomen . . . pushing the stomach out as the air enters.  Release the air from the back of the throat (like sighing). To help slow the breath, breathe in to a count of three, hold the breath for a count of three, then release the breath to a count of three, then hold the breath out for a count of three. Continue the process by allowing your attention to move to the area in the body that feels the tension while holding the breath and then imagine the tension leaving the body, melting out with the release of the breath.
 
Other ways to release emotional stress and physical tension include pressure point holding and tapping certain points on the body.  For more information on these simple yet powerful self-help procedures go to RELEASE EXERCISES.

Do you want to know how to develop healthy coping skills to deal with recovering from traumatic events?

Explore creative interests:

  • Some who enjoy dancing find music and movement releases stress.
  • Some who enjoy making things find creating a new room with personally-made items satisfying.
  • Some who enjoy painting find painting rooms/fences, etc. renews not only the space painted but also renews their spirits.
  • Some draw or paint, whether it be traumatic images or peaceful images; whatever lowers the tension level.
  • Some choose to write in a journal about their experiences to release them from their minds, and some write poems, possibly to share the feelings with others.

Ask for support when needed:  (Notice we keep repeating this advice!)

  • If you want to isolate, call a friend instead.
  • If you have recurring unsettling thoughts find a support group.
  • If you have issues with your family find a family support group.
  • If you are having thoughts about harming yourself or others call for help NOW:  Hotline: 800-273-8255

Learn to set boundaries:

  • Definition: Boundaries are those limits we set up to limit our enmeshment in other peoples lives, decisions, concerns and actions. Your friends and family need their boundaries, too.
  • To limit your desire to control those around you, ask: Whose life is it, anyway?
  • Create options without making decisions for others by asking them: What else can you do to handle this? Who else can you ask for help with this issue? What happens if you do this? Or do that?
  • Recognize that you have the right to say NO. Notice that when you respect this right and are firmly polite, people will feel it and will be more likely to quit nagging you.
  • Learn polite ways to say NO: No, I'm sorry but I can't. No, I don't think that will work for me. No, that doesn't work for me right now—but you can check with me again later. No, I am not the best person to help you with that; why don't you ask _______?

Communicate, communicate, communicate:

  • Learn to express yourself with honesty and objectivity.
  • Learn to say: This is how I feel right now. This is what I want right now, or need right now. This is what I think or believe about that. Always use the magic “I” to start your self-expression, never “you.” No one wants to feel accused, attacked, or spoken down to.
  • Remember to watch your tone of voice. Stay soft and gentle but firm and clear as much as possible, even if you feel angry.

Memorize and use over and over and over a favorite saying or a process to calm yourself down. The more you practice, the more you will train your body and your mind to relax. Tension was a habit; now make relaxation your new habit:

  • Say over and over: I'm OK. I'm safe. I'm home. (Any statements that remind you to be here and now, not back there and then.)
  • Let go and let God. (Use your religious and spiritual beliefs and prayers for support.)
  • Breathe deeply, tense all your muscles to a count of five, then exhale and let go. Repeat with concentration on all your muscles.
  • Count to ten with each breath in, and to ten as you exhale. (It's difficult to focus on traumatic memories while carefully counting.)
  • Develop an imaginary (maybe based on a real place) Safe Place or Place of Peace. Walk there in your mind along a peaceful path. Does it have a gurgling stream, or a still pool, or ocean waves, or a meadow with flowers, or trees, or a mountain peak? Make it however you want. If you can paint or draw, make a picture of it. Find music to play that goes with your Place. If you want an angel or spiritual guide to visit you there, send out an invitation and be open to whomever shows up as long as they feel safe for you.

Finally, work on having a positive, forward-looking attitude, letting go of the past. That might sound impossible, but take it a minute-hour-day at a time.
Attitudes are mental/emotional habit patterns,
so can be conditioned just like physical fitness skills.

  • Learn to focus on where you want to be. When you are faced with a choice, ask how will this help me to: Be? Do? Have? Learn?
  • Make a Life Plan based on life goals that arise from dreams of what you can be, doing what you love, supporting those you care about.
  • Honor yourself and thank yourself when you do something you love that moves you along your dream path.
  • Understand that mistakes are only one way we learn and are only an exploration of a path that won’t take us where we want to go. Be gentle with yourself. Punishment never creates happiness.
  • Take responsibility for both mistakes and successes along your path. Realize you are responsible for your life and well-being.
  • Be sure to laugh at yourself; it allows life to be fun.
  • FIND FUNNY THINGS TO LAUGH AT EVERY DAY—MOVIES, JOKES, WHATEVER. LAUGHING SOOTHES AND HEALS THE NERVOUS SYSTEM WAY BETTER THAN DRUGS.
  • The little kid who lives inside of you can provide a joyful perspective to things we tend to take too seriously. Go look for your inner child, the part of you that is innocent and wants to play.
  • Follow the kid’s lead and find your unique playpen.
  • Change your attitude and everything shifts.
  • NEVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF. YOU ARE A VALUABLE AND LOVED PART OF CREATION. 

Releasing Exercises

BREATHING RELEASE:

Find a comfortable position, sitting or lying down.  Take a deep breath.  Hold the breath. Exhale from the back of the throat with the mouth open and sigh.  Do this several times.

Then breathe in to a count of three, hold the breathe to a count of three, exhale to a count of three, hold the breath out for a count of three.  Repeat three times.
It there is a tension in your body.  Place you hand on the spot and apply pressure each time you breathe in and release pressure as you exhale.

EVENT RELEASE:

Review the event and then release the symbol or letter as you have decided.
Then take a few moments to breathe in a sense of peace and open yourself to fill the place in you that has held this event with a sense of love and acceptance of yourself.

To release events in your life:

Create a symbol of the event.  Write a letter about the event.
Take the symbol or letter to a spot that is meaningful to you: a wooded area, by a stream, a quiet space in your special private place.  Decide how you want to release the event: bury in the ground, hang on a tree, release in a stream or burn in a safe place.

EMOTIONAL RELEASES:

To learn more about emotions please see the emotions page.

Pressure Point Release:

Holding two points near the wrist will help calm the heightened trigger response. One point is two and one-half finger widths from the base of the palm in between the two tendons. The other point is at the wrist at the base of the palm below the pinky finger. Holding these points with gentle pressure while breathing slowly will reduce the sense of panic.  A healing system called Acupressure has many useful pressure points to accomplish numerous goals in terms of pain relief, better functioning of organs, and release of tension.

To learn more about pressure points see the book: Acupressure’s Potent Points by Michael Reed Gach, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1990. Many other books about acupressure also are available through vendors like amazon.com. Or specific acupressure information  on the web at  acupressure.com

Tapping: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

A method of releasing the underlying tendency to be triggered was developed by Gary Craig. This method starts with tapping at the inside end of the eyebrows, then by the outside of the eyes, then the cheeks, under the nose, the chin, the collar bone, under each arm, the side of the fingers, and a few other points. To further understand the specifics of this method please visit his website:  www.emofree.com. You can find books on EFT on amazon.com and possibly in your local public library; it has been around for years and has been used to treat many physical and psychological issues. EFT can be used as a self-help process for anger, depression, jealousy, overwhelm—anything.

Lindsay Kenny (www.lifecoachingwithlindsay.com), who is a certified EFT practitioner, teaches that using an affirmation such as, “Even though I feel panic right now, I love and accept myself,” while tapping makes the process more powerful.
  
Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE):
           
Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) is an exercise process created by Dr. David Berceli and demonstrated in his book, Trauma Releasing Exercises, published by Trauma Releasing Exercises, LLC. Basically, it's a set of exercises that fatigues the psoas muscle.  According to Dr. Berceli, on page 5-6 of his book.  “The psoas muscles are a particular set of muscles considered the fight/flight muscles of the human species.  These primitive muscles stand guard like sentinels, protecting the center of gravity of the human body located just in front of the spine. 

During any traumatic experience, the psoas muscles contract to protect the underbelly of the human animal.  These muscles, that connect the back of the pelvis and the legs, remain contracted until the danger is over.  To heal from trauma contractions, these deep set of muscles must shake out their protective tension to relax.  When the shaking response of the psoas muscles is evoked at this powerful center of the body, it reverberates throughout the entire body looking for deep chronic tension in its path and naturally dissolving it.”  For more information please visit: http://traumaprevention.com or contact Dr. Berceli at traumareleaseprocess@gmail.com. DVDs of the exercises can be purchased from Dr. Berceli's website.

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