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How Trauma and Anxiety Affect Your Nervous System

Updated: Jan 25

Exploring the relationship between trauma, anxiety, and your nervous system reveals how these factors impact your mental and overall well-being. We'll delve into how experiences of trauma shape your nervous system, potentially leading to anxiety. This blog aims to dissect the details, helping you understand how trauma and anxiety affect both your mental state and the equilibrium of your body.


What You Experience


Always on Alert:  

Fight-or-Flight Mode: Trauma and anxiety can put your body in a constant "fight-or-flight" mode, like an alarm that doesn't turn off. This can make you feel on edge and stressed all the time.


Stress Hormones at High Levels:  

Too Much Cortisol: Trauma and anxiety can make your body produce too much cortisol (a stress hormone). High levels of cortisol can mess with your sleep, weaken your immune system, and make your emotions feel more intense.


Always Looking Out for Danger:  

Hypervigilance: It's as if your body is constantly on the lookout for threats. This can tire you out, make you feel irritable, and make it hard to relax.


Feeling Things Extra Strong:  

Overactive Emotions: Trauma can make the emotional part of your brain (the amygdala) work too hard. This can make your emotions feel really strong and hard to control.


Trouble Remembering Things:  

Memory Mix-up: Trauma can mess with your memory, making it hard to remember things clearly. It's like your memory gets a bit fuzzy.


Body Feeling Out of Whack:  

Nervous System Confusion: Trauma can mess up the balance in your body between staying alert and chilling out. This can affect how you feel emotionally and physically.


Brain Chemicals Getting Mixed Up:  

Messing with Feel-Good Chemicals: Trauma and anxiety can disrupt the balance of chemicals in your brain that contribute to positive feelings.This can affect your mood and make it hard to enjoy things.


Brain's Control Center Off Balance:  

Trouble Making Decisions: Trauma can mess with the part of your brain that helps you make decisions and control impulses. This might make it harder to manage your emotions and behaviors.


Practical Ways to Calm Your Nervous System


Deep Breathing:  

Example: Inhale deeply for a count of four, hold your breath for four counts, exhale slowly for four counts. Repeat several times. Deep breathing activates the calming part of your nervous system.


Grounding Techniques:  

Example: Use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This helps bring your focus back to the present.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation:  

Example: Tense and then slowly release different muscle groups, starting from your toes up to your head. This helps release physical tension and signals your body to relax.


Mindful Awareness:  

Example: Practice a body scan meditation. Close your eyes and pay attention to each part of your body, noticing any tension. Breathe into those areas, letting them relax. This promotes a connection between your mind and body.


Guided Imagery:  

Example: Visualize a safe and peaceful place in your mind. Imagine all the details—the sights, sounds, and sensations. This can create a mental refuge you can return to when needed.


Self-Compassion Practices:  

Example: Try a loving-kindness meditation. Repeat phrases like "May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be at ease" to cultivate self-compassion and soothe your nervous system.


Aromatherapy:  

Example: Inhale the scent of lavender essential oil. Lavender is known for its calming properties and can be used in a diffuser or applied to a fabric for a soothing aroma. Feel free to alternate lavender for any scents that you find calming.


Create a Safe Space:  

Example: Designate a physical or mental space that feels safe and comforting. When you're feeling overwhelmed, retreat to this space to regain a sense of security.


Mindful Movement:  

Example: Engage in gentle yoga or stretching exercises. The combination of movement and mindfulness can help release tension and promote relaxation.


Limit Stimulants:  

Example: Reduce caffeine intake, especially in the evening. Stimulants can increase arousal, making it harder for your nervous system to calm down.


Remember, finding what works for you might take some experimentation. It's about discovering what activities and techniques resonate with you personally. Consistent practice of calming strategies can contribute to a more regulated and peaceful nervous system over time.


If you are grappling with anxiety or trauma, reaching out for therapy can be a valuable step towards healing and regaining control over your well-being. You deserve the support to navigate through these challenges, and a therapist can provide the guidance and tools necessary for your journey to a healthier and more resilient self. Call 575-556-4580 or go to https://www.solrecoverylc.org/book-online to book an appointment with Sol Recovery.

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