Tag Archives: trauma

Body Awareness After Trauma

body awareness

Trauma in the Body

By: Angela Englander              January 17, 2016

Trauma has a number of effects on an individual’s life, it can cause flashbacks and nightmares, intense emotions such as fear and rage, feeling different than other people, and feeling separate from the rest of the world. One side effect that is not as commonly talked about however is the effect traumatic stress has within the body.

Body awareness and body dissociation can cause a number of symptoms including body pains, headaches, stomach aches, and numbness, problems with balance and coordination, and sensory integration difficulties. At times individuals may be considered clumsy and uncoordinated, at other times they may be seen as fussy and temperamental because of how particular they may be about their environment. Children who have been traumatized and especially susceptible to these body symptoms and may complain about the textures and consistency of their food, the feeling of their fabric on their skin, and noise in an environment. When the body is overwhelmed and on high alert chronically even these every day experiences can be perceived as intense and dangerous.

There are a number of strategies that have been studied and shown to be effective in decreasing the intensity of trauma symptoms. Some strategies are yoga, breathing exercises such as square breathing such as the one demonstrated in the square breathing video http://waystowellbeing.ca/video/, belly breathing, and body scans like the one described in this article http://waystowellbeing.ca/therapy-to-prevent-cancer/.

If you are finding that you have a lot of headaches, stomach aches, body pains and other physical trauma symptoms engaging in some of these body awareness exercises will likely help you release the tension and decrease the sadness and fear your body is holding onto. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail angela@waystowellbeing.ca and as always, good luck on your healing journey!

Reference: Langmuir, J. I., Kirsh, S. G., & Classen, C. C. (2012). A pilot study of body-oriented group psychotherapy: Adapting sensorimotor psychotherapy for the group treatment of trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(2), 214-220. doi:10.1037/a0025588

Newton, A. (2014). The body in relationship: The intersections of body-awareness, attachment, emotional regulation, and trauma

Price, C. J., & Thompson, E. A. (2007). Measuring dimensions of body connection: Body awareness and bodily dissociation. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 13(9), 945-953. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0537

Scaer, R. C. (2014). The body bears the burden: Trauma, dissociation, and disease (3rdition. ed.) Routledge.

Therapy to Prevent Cancer?

chapter-18-health-and-personality-10-638

Therapy to Prevent Cancer?

By: Angela Englander December 20, 2015

I’m sure you’ve heard that stress is hard on the body, maybe you have been told to treat yourself better or that self-care is important. Has anyone told you that certain personality traits and thought patterns could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer? This article explores the personality traits and choices that put some people at a much higher risk for developing cancer while other people do not have as high of a risk. Through exploring psychoneuroimmunology and epigenetics new insight into the disease process and healing from the inside out can be gained. After completing the short self-reporting questions, read through the suggestions below and remember to e-mail angela@waystowellbeing.ca if you have any questions!

Although people are in no way, shape, or form to blame for developing cancer or any other disease. There could be some ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer. I was very surprised to stumble upon so many seemingly positive and pro-social personality traits and choices that could put someone at a higher risk. To determine if your personality and choices could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I go out of my way to make other people happy?
  • Do I regularly put the needs of other people ahead of my own needs?
  • Do I push myself to achieve things even when I am exhausted?
  • Do I feel like relaxing and taking time to myself is a waste of valuable time?
  • I have a lot to worry about?
  • Am I keeping a secret that I would be ashamed if people found out about?
  • Did I experience being sexually or physically abused (especially before the age of 18)?
  • I have a deep hatred for myself?
  • I am unworthy of love?
  • I have a hard time to express my anger and hurt feelings?
  • I have a hard time asking people for a favour or saying no to a request?
  • I regularly volunteer and give to others?
  • I don’t know what I want or I don’t know my purpose?
  • I feel confused about who I am?
  • I put the needs of my friends, children, partner, and parents before my own needs?

The more questions you said yes to, the higher your potential risk for developing cancer at some point. I am not saying doing any of the above things is a bad thing, balance is the key factor here. The great news is that there are many ways to challenge and change choices and patterns of interactions that will decrease your stress and lower your risk for developing cancer. The following strategies may be key ingredients to your healthy and happy life:

Learning to let go

Letting go is a really hard thing to do. Setting ourselves free from the negative and critical things we have been told about ourselves. Learning to love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. There are a number of reasons we hold on to the past so tightly, sometimes it is the only connection we have to our parents, sometimes it helps us to understand who we are and define ourselves, other times it helps us to feel grounded in an otherwise chaotic world.

Take a deep breath, feel the warm air entering your body, filling your lungs and diaphragm with health and vitality. As you slowly breathe out picture yourself releasing the stress and tension from your system. As you take another deep breath in, visualize bringing vitality and positive energy into your system. Feel the positive energy going from your lung into your core. As you exhale realize you are taking a step towards the self-care and healing you deserve. Feel free to take a couple more deep and healing breaths, you deserve them.

Being Present in your Body

Being present in your body can be a very hard thing to do, this skill is especially hard for people that have experienced violations to their boundaries because indeed their body was not safe in those experiences. This is a healing day, you can be safe in your body now and learn how to be present and aware of your body, you can learn the skills you need to be safe now.

If you have not experienced violations, have successfully gained safety in therapy, or are feeling like you want to be present in your body and gain an awareness of your body’s needs. This exercise is called the body scan. This mindfulness based exercise works by building the brain maps for various areas of your body and helping bring a conscious awareness to the signals your body is sending you.

This exercise is suitable for people with all types of bodies and ability levels, if any body parts are experiencing pain, numbing, or no sensation at all simply close your eyes and visualize that part of your body healing. Begin by focusing on your toes, perhaps you can feel them on the ground, feel whether you are wearing socks or are barefoot. Visualize your feet as a healthy and vital part of your body system. Think of how feet impact your life. Next move up to your legs. If possible gently squeeze your shins or thighs with your hand. Can you feel the pressure or the warmth or coolness of your legs? Visualize the energy pathways in your legs, what colour are they? Slowly move your focus to your hips. As you move closer to your hips and core some people who have experienced sexual violation may feel themselves getting nervous, remind yourself that you are safe in this moment in time and continue. Feel your hips and bottom against the surface you are sitting on. Close your eyes and visualize your hips, do you see a colour or feel a particular temperature? Can you tense and release your muscles? Slowly move your attention to your abdomen. Is it quiet or do you hear a rumbling? Is there any tightness or tension in this part of your body? Put your hand on your abdomen and take a deep breath, can you feel your abdomen expanding as it fills with air? Realize the amazing capabilities your abdomen may have to help you absorb nutrients or expand to allow more air into your system. Move your attention up to your shoulders. Gently move your shoulders from side to side, do you feel any tension or tightness? Cross your arms across your chest and give yourself a hug. You have done well during this body scan exercise. If you would like you can take a minute to focus on your head and neck and face. Paying attention to various feature and organs you have and their purpose in your life.

Finding yourself

Lastly we will take a moment to focus on gaining identity and finding yourself. People who give too much and struggle to say no often also have a hard time describing themselves and understanding who they are. They may feel confused and unsure of who they are and what they really want. Feel free to grab a piece of paper and answer a couple simple questions to help you figure out who you are. At the top of the page write your name. Write out your favourite food, your favourite ice cream flavour, or the last thing you ate. Next write out your favourite show, movie, or the last thing you watched on a television. Have you read any good books or magazines recently? Write down something you learned or enjoyed or found amusing while you were reading. Although these may seem like simple things to write, they begin to draw your attention to facts about yourself which helps your brain to both accept yourself and conceptualize who you are and what you enjoy. Developing an identity and sense of self is much like building a muscle, it takes focus, perseverance, and consciously paying attention.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and are a step closer to healing and preventing cancer and other diseases. You deserve to be happy and healthy. If you feel like you need more support in changing patterns that are increasing your potential risk of cancer and other diseases please reach out to me, your doctor, your therapist, or other healing professionals in your community. Have a great day and as always, good luck on your healing journey.

References: Attitudes and Cancer. (2014). Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/attitudes-and-cancer

Bond, L. (2015). The Cancer Personality. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.laura-bond.com/2011/09/the-cancer-personality/

Mate, G. (2015). When the Body Says No – Dr. Gabor Maté. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://drgabormate.com/book/when-the-body-says-no/

Wellisch, D. & Yager, J. (2008). Is there a cancer-prone personality? Cancer Journal for Clinicians 33 (3) 145-153

 

Trauma Related Beliefs

Trauma Related Beliefs

Check the beliefs that apply to you and then write about a situation in which that belief was created. Try to be specific when describing the situation, are any of these situations trauma related?

_____ I believe I am a victim and that my troubles are someone else’s fault

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I can’t do things because I am physically or emotionally incapable of doing them. (“I can’t” generally means “I won’t or “I don’t want to”)

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that my actions don’t impact others. My actions don’t harm them or cause them emotional pain

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I am unwilling or unable to put myself in others’ place

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I am unwilling to do something that is disagreeable to me

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I have no money, time, etc., to spare when other people ask me to do things

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I develop aches and pains in order to avoid doing things that I don’t want to do

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I often don’t have enough energy to do things – particularly when I don’t want to do them

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I don’t have to live up to obligations – It’s ok to say “I forgot” or just ignore responsibilities

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I frequently expect others to do what I want them to do, even if they don’t understand my reasoning

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I am entitled to use others’ property as if it were my own, and to borrow things without permission

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that my “wants” are really my “rights”

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that others betray my trust regularly and therefore cannot be trusted at all

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that things will happen because I think they will

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I can make decisions without finding out the facts

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I am right and that my point of view is right, even when evidence says that it’s wrong.

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that even when I am proven wrong I must cling to my original position

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that thinking ahead and planning ahead are unnecessary or not useful

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I am always supposed to win and that failure is not an option

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that fear is a weakness, so I deny that I am afraid even when I am

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that expressions of anger, like direct threats, intimidation, sarcasm, or passive-aggressiveness, are good ways to get what I want from people

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that if something doesn’t turn out the way I expect it to I will be criticized and found to be a failure

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I will be let down by others

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I will win in any struggle because I have power

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that debating is enjoyable in and of itself

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Multi-Phase Safe Trauma Treatment

A Multi-Phase Safe Trauma Treatment    By: Angela Englander June 8, 2015

Phase one: Education about the therapeutic process

Discussing goals

Making a plan for treatment

The client and the therapist form a working partnership and start figuring out how to work together effectively

 

Phase two: Focusing on emotional competence

Emotional awareness

Learning about the importance of emotions

Learning what emotions feel like in the body

Learning what triggers emotions and how to regulate emotions

Learning your limits with emotional intensity

Developing effective emotion regulation skills

The emotional intensity rating scale

 

Phase three: Understanding dissociation

Managing stress effectively

Anchors, grounders, and transitional objects

Developing a feeling of safety

CBT and DBT skills building exercises are incorporated

Body awareness

 

Phase four: Working through the trauma at a safe pace

 

  • It is extremely important not to jump into talking about the trauma before the right skills are in place. If emotion regulation skills, a sense of safety, patient-therapist trust, and a comfortable pace are not in place this can be very painful and destructive for the client! Rushing in to talking about a traumatic situation will cause high levels of distress and pain for a client. If the client is not able to regulate that stress, they may re-experience the trauma in their mind which is re-traumatizing.

In The Face of Tragedy

In The Face of Tragedy

By: Angela Englander March 30, 2015

In our lives there are moments that change us forever, huge moments and small moments. Some of the events have very positive effects such as meeting someone you fall in love with or getting into college. Other events have a very negative influence over our lives such as break-ups, death of a loved one, or abuse. How we experience our tragedies and the supports that fall into place after (short term and long term) make all the difference.

A variety of short term feelings, thoughts, and experiences may happen following a tragedy including intense feelings of fear, anger, sadness, confusion, being disoriented, and feeling helpless. Many people also feel guilty or blame themselves, believing they could have stopped the tragedy from occurring or prevented the damage. What happens if you don’t get the support you need though and these feelings don’t go away?

For many people trauma becomes another aspect of their day to day experience, through flashbacks, nightmares, phobias, anxiety, panic attacks, and memories playing in their head. Unfortunately the more these thoughts and feelings are pushed away the stronger they get. Through working through and talking about the events and learning healthy coping mechanisms you can gain your life back. Healing does not erase the pain that was felt or bring back the loss but it gives validation to the experience. Healing allows us to accept the situation and forgive ourselves and be at peace. This internal peace is worth the temporary pain and suffering. You deserve to be happy and healthy and continue to live your life.

Every day we continue to heal and get stronger, we learn about ourselves and our journey in this life. Another way to heal is to focus your traumatic experiences into advocacy and making a difference. This change allows people to become more connected and make a huge difference in the lives of people who have experienced similar events. There are a variety of advocacy initiatives currently happening all over the world, if there isn’t one happening that helps you heal from your experience you can always create one. The power is in your hands!

As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions please feel free to e-mail angela@waystowellbeing.ca and I will get back to you. Today is a day of healing.