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Trauma: Where is it stored and how to get rid of it?

Trauma is a very common experience that can have a profound impact on the mind and body. Bessel van der Kolk, who has studied trauma for over 50 years, emphasizes the importance of understanding the effects of trauma and the path to healing. We wanted to know what it did to your body, and how can you get rid of it.

In this blog, we explore three critical aspects related to trauma: “The body keeps the score,” “The nature of trauma,” and “The big challenge.” The discussion is peppered with interesting biological facts along the way.

The Body Keeps Its Core

At a cellular level, the human body is capable of retaining memories. The hippocampus and amygdala are two regions within the brain that play a crucial role in the processing of memories. The hippocampus is responsible for the formation of explicit memories, whereas the amygdala processes emotions, including the emotional components of memories.

When a traumatic event occurs, it can cause alterations in the functioning of these areas, leading to a heightened state of arousal and vivid recall of distressing experiences.

Trauma can result from a single overwhelming event or a prolonged series of distressing circumstances. The body’s response to it involves a cascade of physiological reactions, with the release of stress hormones taking center stage. When faced with a traumatic situation, the body activates the “fight-or-flight” response, which is a primal survival mechanism.

The sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body to confront or evade the perceived threat. While this response is crucial for immediate survival, chronic exposure to stress hormones can have long-lasting effects on the body. These effects may include changes in brain structure and function, as well as alterations in immune system function, sleep patterns, and overall physical health.

It is important to recognize the nature of trauma and its effects on the body to provide appropriate care and support for those who have experienced it.

The Big Challenge

Over time, unresolved trauma can create a lasting imprint on the body, leading to a range of physical and mental health challenges. The stress response triggered by it can compromise the immune system, leading to inflammation and contributing to various health issues, including cardiovascular problems, digestive disorders, and autoimmune conditions.

The connection between pain and physical health underscores the need for holistic approaches to healing that address both the mind and body.

The Impact Of Trauma 

The stress response triggered by trauma can compromise the immune system. Chronic stress may lead to inflammation, contributing to various health issues, including cardiovascular problems, digestive disorders, and autoimmune conditions. The connection between trauma and physical health underscores the need for holistic approaches to healing that address both the mind and body.

The impact of trauma reaches far beyond the initial experience. The body preserves the core of these distressing memories, shaping our responses and influencing our well-being. Recognizing the biological underpinnings of trauma allows for a more comprehensive approach to healing, one that acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind and body.

As we navigate the body, it becomes evident that the impact reaches far beyond the initial experience. The body, in its wisdom, preserves the core of these distressing memories, shaping our responses and influencing our well-being. Recognizing the biological underpinnings of trauma allows for a more comprehensive approach to healing, one that acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind and body.

Also, read about how to heal your trauma and keep your overall health in check here.

Exercises to Release Trauma

  1. Mindful Breathing Techniques: Incorporating mindful breathing techniques into your daily routine can help calm the nervous system and release stored tension. Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, focusing on the rise and fall of your abdomen with each inhale and exhale. Set aside a few minutes each day for mindful breathing exercises, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable.
  2. Yoga and Stretching: Engaging in yoga and stretching routines can help release physical tension while promoting relaxation and mindfulness. Poses such as Child’s Pose, Forward Fold, and Cat-Cow Stretch target areas of the body commonly affected by trauma-induced tension, such as the back, shoulders, and hips. Aim to incorporate a yoga or stretching session into your daily schedule, allowing yourself to fully surrender to each pose and release pent-up energy.
  3. Cardiovascular Exercise: Engaging in cardiovascular exercise, such as running, swimming, or cycling, can facilitate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. These endorphins not only elevate mood but also serve as natural stress relievers, helping to alleviate symptoms of trauma-related anxiety and depression. Find an activity that you enjoy and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
  4. Body Scan Meditation: Body scan meditation involves systematically bringing awareness to different areas of the body, noticing any sensations or tension present without judgment. This practice can help you develop a deeper understanding of how trauma manifests in your body and cultivate a sense of compassion towards yourself. Dedicate time each day to practice body scan meditation, starting from the top of your head and gradually moving down to your toes.
  5. Expressive Movement: Engaging in expressive movement practices, such as dance or martial arts, allows for the release of pent-up emotions and physical tension. Dance therapy, in particular, provides a creative outlet for processing trauma while fostering self-expression and empowerment. Set aside time each week to engage in expressive movement, allowing yourself to move freely and without inhibition.
  6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups, promoting physical relaxation and stress relief. Begin by tensing each muscle group for a few seconds before releasing and allowing the tension to melt away. Practice progressive muscle relaxation before bed or during moments of heightened stress to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Trauma has a profound impact on both the mind and body, often leading to chronic tension and discomfort if left unresolved. By incorporating exercises that target both physical and emotional well-being into your daily routine, you can effectively release stored it from your body and reclaim a sense of balance and vitality.

Remember to approach these exercises with patience and compassion, allowing yourself the time and space needed for healing and growth. With consistent practice, you can embark on a journey towards greater health, productivity, and overall well-being.

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