Dear Better Together Family,
I know many of us, including children and youth, are frightened and shocked at the events from the Highland Park parade. This morning I spoke to a therapist with training in crisis response. She gave me some information and tools that I want to share with you all.
First of all, the stress hormones created by being in, witnessing, or hearing about a traumatic event stay in our bodies for up to three weeks. This is considered an acute trauma response. What is going on is that the central nervous system has turned on our fight/flight/freeze/faint response. The hormones send our blood to our limbs so we can run, fight, and/or get out of danger. That means that all the other systems (like digestion, relaxation, even logic) turn off.
Some of the immediate symptoms of acute trauma response are:
- constipation or diarrhea
- lack of appetite
- disturbed or too much sleep
- invasive thoughts (both spiraling during awake hours and as nightmares)
- increased startle reflex
- feeling floaty or disconnected (cotton brain)
- shallow breathing or even breath holding
These hormones also hijack our brains. Normally, memories are stored and processed in the left side of our brains (the thinking side) after feeling the emotions. But fear hormones trap the memories in the left (emotional, creative) side of our brains and keep them from moving to the more logical part of our brains.
80 percent of people will not develop PTSD because their bodies will process the trauma and move on. And there are several ways to help our brains and bodies process this trauma:
1: A way to counteract what our fear hormones have done is to reconnect the messy, creative side of our brains to our logical, memory side of our brains again.
One practical activity that does this is writing out our thoughts about the event IN CURSIVE from beginning to end. This should be done more than once. It will help the memories to end up in the correct side of the brain so we don’t feel the emotions every time we remember the event. Since children don’t learn to write cursive in school anymore, we can talk them through connecting all the letters. It doesn’t need to be legible. It is just a way to use both sides of the brain at once. For even younger children, drawing pictures (not of the trauma) while talking it out can work. But connective writing is the most effective.
2: Since trauma shuts down our senses, it is important to get them back online (like turning on a computer after it’s been asleep.) Crisis response therapists have an exercise they teach that does this.
Practice this exercise three times a day when NOT triggered (maybe right after meals.) It is like a fire drill. Schools have fire drills when there is no fire so the kids do not panic and know what to do if there is one. This exercise calms us down which can prevent panic. It is also training for what to do when we ARE triggered. So, it helps prevent and repair panic attacks.
If anyone starts to feel stressed, they can just pull out the card and talk themselves through the exercise without having to try to remember it.
Farmer's Market Prayer Wall
July 9, 2022