Covid, lockdown and trauma

In my practice I work a lot with trauma, PTSD & Complex PTSD and it is something that I am passionate about learning from. Traditionally we might think of trauma as being something linked to events such as war, assault or car accidents.  The truth, though, is that trauma is a part of the human condition and it affects the way many of us feel and act.  I will post another blog about the way that trauma shapes the actions of the mind and body but for now I want to share my thoughts on how our current situation with regards the current pandemic could be triggering unrecognised trauma responses.

Trauma is the body’s fear-response being triggered when we are somehow reminded of a previously difficult situation; it is ultimately about feeling unsafe or afraid.  Examples of this trauma could be a one-off event such as an assault, or an ongoing trauma such as a difficult childhood or abusive relationship. 

Our triggers are not always easy to spot.  Sometimes even a familiar feeling or situation can set off our fear response system and we begin acting or thinking in a way that is reminiscent of the past.  This is your brain’s way of trying to protect you but it can, in fact, leave you feeling distressed, anxious, depressed, angry or hopeless.  

The pandemic has not only created situations which can be triggering, but also situations where these trauma responses may go unnoticed. For example: 

  • Being made to stay at home and isolating may trigger those who have previously been cut off from other people in abusive or controlling relationships
  • Feelings of financial insecurity may act as a trigger for those who have suffered neglect or poverty
  • Living with anxieties may bring up feelings of fear from a painful childhood.  

Trauma becomes so ingrained in us because it often comes from a painful or scary experience that we feel we could not get out of or had no control over. I think that this is something that we can all recognise happening in our current situation;  Separation from family, restrictions on socialising, a concern of running out of food and job insecurity can all be triggers, along with feelings of uncertainty, fear about the future, loss and helplessness.  

If you ARE feeling distressed or struggling then it may be useful to think about how your past could be affecting your present; could your current life be similar to a previously difficult situation? If you feel that there is a trauma response then a good psychotherapist can help but you can also reconnect with your body and sense of self through yoga, stretching, martial arts, mindful breathing and meditation.  Many of these things can be learned through free videos on youtube or on apps, plus they can be good for general wellbeing too.  

When we see how the past is affecting the present then we can truly provide ourselves with what we need. 

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