Bessel van der Kolk, MD bestselling author of the Body Keeps The Score is a scientific researcher with a long history of measuring the effects of trauma on brain function, memory, and treatment outcomes, and an active therapist who keeps learning from his patients what benefits them most.
In his webcast, Dr. van der Kolk presents the conditions of trauma and describes how we are in a pre-traumatic state where life has become unpredictable and our sense of safety and control feel threatened. Drawing from his experience on working with people who have suffered from trauma- he outlines behaviours that we can do right now in order to protect ourselves from lasting traumatic effects.
Trauma lacks predictability: Therefore it is important to create a sense of predictability in our day to day lives by creating structure and planning for experiences to look forward to- i.e. cooking and exercising at predictable times, planning to connect with friends online, etc.
Trauma creates a sense of immobility: As humans we have a need to be mobile. Ensure that you are getting enough exercise, create a routine, try activities that involve mind-body connection such as yoga or thai chi.
When people experience trauma they lose connection: Make sure you are staying connected with people. Have family dinners, or connect with friends and family online. When out, smile and say hello to strangers as we are all going through this together. You are not alone.
Extreme trauma creates a numbing effect or dissociation: Be mindful of the present. Do not numb out the experience through overuse of alcohol or drugs. Go through your day with intention- i.e. plan to cook a new recipe or learn something new.
During traumatic experiences we lose our sense of time and sequence: Increase your self awareness by noticing the small changes within yourself and your environment. Notice the present- how you are breathing, how your body feels. Looking outward may feed a sense of hopelessness as the situation is not changing fast enough, but when we look inwards we become aware of ourselves and realize that we are living organisms that are constantly changing.
Trauma makes us feel unsafe: Create a sense of safety in your environment by listening to music, eating healthy food, engaging in activities you enjoy, connecting with loved ones if you are sharing your environment with them. Tell yourself that you are safe and that this will pass.
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Dr. Brendan Byrne