'In short, trauma is about loss of connection - to ourselves, to our bodies, to others and to the world around us'. (Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, 1997).
Trauma comes in many different forms and affects human beings in a variety of different ways. Some of that depends on factors such as the life experience and coping strategies of the individual and also on factors related to environment. However, when faced with a traumatic situation, all human beings respond in a completely natural way. We respond by preparing as well as we can to face the situation with one sole purpose - to survive. The stress that we feel in this situation means that all of our focus is geared towards an inextricably linked psychological and physiological setting which is regularly described as fight, flight or freeze. By observing other animals in the natural world (something I have enjoyed doing recently on the BBC 'Dynasties' series https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06mvmmr ) we can see how effective this can be in terms of achieving the desired target.
When successful, this stress response not only keeps us alive in the moment but it can lead to us having a greater opportunity of surviving future trauma of a similar variety by leaving a psychological imprint. The experience is stored and echoes into the future so we are even better equipped to sense threat and danger and respond to it even more quickly and effectively. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective!), the variety of traumatic situations that we can face in life are more vast and complex compared to other animals and beyond the immediate situation, we have other goals as well as survival.
As well as the fact that all human beings share a physiological need for survival, we also strive to meet various psychological needs (how we do this depends on our perception), this plays out as a continuous battle and is the foundation of the struggle that we face when dealing with the impact of our stress response. When we are faced with a challenging situation in life, but one that is not a threat to our survival, we are capable of producing exactly the same stress response in both cases, and we often do.
Self Care Week 2018: What questions are you asking yourself?
Of all of life's priorities, self care is the easiest to address, right?
Don't worry, I imagine that the vast majority of people also answered the same way that you did!
One of the challenges that we all face is that it can be difficult to focus on self due to our innate need to connect with others and to help, nurture and care. And for many, there are other people that rely on us to do this, whether that be in a work, social or family environment. It can become the default position to put others first (more information and discussion on this is available in the psychology sessions in some of the NowCounselling courses).
Talk Tonight - mental health is a daily priority for all of us.
'As soon as you start to open up that's when you're on the way to feel better. Before that, you don't accept what you've got. You don't even know what it is. But as soon as you say 'I'm not well', that's when you say I'm ready to get help and that's when you get better'.
The above quote is from a recent article https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46003082 . As I said on twitter just after reading - 'a very courageous story which again shows how difficult it can be in society for a young male in this situation to make the crucial step of asking for help. It is everyone’s responsibility to make it easier for everyone to get the help that they need'.
Christian Nade, a professional footballer now in his mid thirties, was eventually able to access the support that he needed. But as the article shows, his story was very close to ending in tragedy, like it does for so many others, and in particular for men, moreover those at the younger end of the adult age range.
'Suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 and 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. It is also predominantly a male disorder. Of the 5,981 suicides in 2012, an astonishing 4,590 (76%) were men. And yet while Britain has high-profile campaigns on, say, testicular cancer or driving safely, the biggest killer of men under 50 is not getting the attention it deserves'.
A powerful movement is well under way in Scotland. Over the previous year, the Scottish Government have outlined plans to support the progression towards being the first ACE-Aware Nation. Crucially, the movement is gathering more and more momentum at a grassroots level. In September, at a seminal conference at the Glasgow SECC (aceawarescotland.com), Key Note Speaker Dr Nadine Burke Harris outlined the importance of this by declaring that every person has a role to play, regardless of job or role in society, skill, experience or qualifications, and that every person can start their journey to becoming aware of the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences now - from wherever you are.
One of the key components in the journey to becoming ACEs aware or trauma informed is workforce development. Whether you work in education or healthcare or sports or accounting or retail, learning how to improve your health and wellbeing by self care is not only important for your own mental and physical health but it can have a significant impact on how you relate to and understand others. And not only will your team be more compassionate, but the results will be obvious, whatever your goals are.
Building a trauma informed workforce:
A trauma informed workforce does not only apply to those working directly with clients, patients or pupils that have experienced trauma, it applies to every member of any team or organisation, irrespective of roles and it is not only about caring for those you meet and work with, but for your colleagues and for yourself. The first step to becoming trauma informed is to develop self awareness, knowledge and understanding and practical tools required to improve self care, which includes feeling confident, mentally and physically skilled and able to perform at work. Once you are able to manage your self care, you are then in a position to work more effectively with colleagues and to deliver a trauma informed service to clients, patients, pupils or customers - if indeed you have any.
The results will be clear and obvious. Relationships between staff will be even stronger, stress levels will be reduced, health and wellbeing will be improved and any service that you deliver will be improved.
At NowCounselling we are proud to launch our website which provides information about all of the training courses that we offer, plus details of how we can design something specifically for your needs, whether that be for your team, group or for you as an individual. You will also find information about counselling, coaching and mentoring services plus information about psychologically informed individual and group supervision if you work in the field of counselling or use counselling or coaching skills in your role.
We believe the relationships are the foundation of everything and we hope that this is the start of a very beneficial one for you with us.
News and updates will appear on this website regularly and there will be even more regular updates on twitter about what we are doing as well as useful comments, tips and tools about psychology, self care and health and wellbeing which will be relevant to your work and personal life, areas that we believe are inextricably linked.
We look forward to hearing from you.