7 Ways to Manage Chronic Stress When Trauma is Present

How to pull yourself up when feeling down.

My friend scooped me up in her sporty Infinity, excited to see me and ready to have a fun weekend.

I wanted to feel better, and hoped her presence would save me from the gloom of anxiety.

As we sat in traffic I noticed my shallow breath and said, “I can’t stop shaking. Like the vibration from the deep bass of blasting speakers, my insides trembled.

It was hard to find the words to describe my feelings. In turn, I shared a story.

I was about 9 years old. On this day, she was different. Something inside was broken. I could see her shame as I could see her helplessness and hopelessness through her tears as she winced in pain.

Stevie Wonder played in the background. As if the record were scratched, it’s etched in my mind. One song. It played repeatedly. Or maybe I sang it repeatedly to ground myself. … “Lately”.

I see him, I see them, I see the stand off. Knowing exactly what was going to happen. I watched, blow by blow, the beating she endured that left her limp, and momentarily lifeless.

It happened so fast, I don’t remember calling the police. Panicked, shaking uncontrollably, I wiped away my tears, counted to three, found my courage and ran to her.

I wondered if she were dead this time. I shook her. Relieved and burst into tears when she responded.

Her crutch as I led her limp body to the bathroom. She sobbed, sobbed deeply and uncontrollably as she splashed cold water over her face.

This time was different.

As I helped her wipe away the blood, and soothe her bruises, she only sobbed. Her gaze was empty, her spirit was broken. Eyes swollen shut, bruised cheeks, fat lips, she said, “I can’t do this anymore”.

I remember this deep sinking feeling in my belly that made me feel so desperate, sad and afraid.

I knew exactly what she meant. In the meantime, I could hear the police sirens. They were coming in hot. Ready to protect and serve. And yet, the damage was already done.

Business as usual. I was interviewed. My words were soft, labored by involuntary tears, I told them exactly what I witnessed.

Again, we were transported to a Shelter for battered women and children.

This stay was long. She was different. Something inside was broken.

She would sit outside, dazed, watching the speeding cars racing over the freeway for hours. And one day as me and my sisters played, I noticed her tears.

I sat beside her and she said it.

“I don’t want to live Tresey and I want to walk onto the freeway”.

Today I can still hear my 9 year voice, “mommy, we need you here.”

She only nodded. And I sat beside her-terrified.

Her weakened body, in a random lucid moment, we locked eyes and I could see her longing for my forgiveness and I could feel her love.

Vulnerable, helpless and so weak in her hospital bed, I am taken right back.

Right back to the one day that represented all of them. The day she could no longer pretend and say everything was fine.

You see, chronic stress triggered this old trauma — trauma I thought was healed. What I experienced in the present was the residual trauma locked in my body.

My mothers critical medical condition was a trigger for me. The immense stress coupled with the visualization of her sick body brought back feelings of fear, extreme anxiety, anger and hopelessness.

Honestly, I surprised myself. I searched for the answer because my response to the stress-my mothers medical emergency, was disproportionate to the problem. This is how I knew it was trauma.

My logical mind knew that she was getting the best treatment possible. My emotional mind was extremely anxious, frustrated, fearful, and controlling.

I noticed how old behaviors began to creep in. I was speaking to people aggressively, eating lots of sugar, avoiding important conversations or responsibilities, not sleeping, numbing out on Netflix and drinking too much, and isolating- not talking.

Chronic stress is prolonged exposure to a stressor without getting any relief. Your mind and your body is running in overdrive as your heart rate, breathe rate, blood pressure and muscle tension increases. Your mind becomes busy and overtaken by negativity.

I am an EMDR consultant so I know how to treat myself through I movements and tapping. And in addition to this, I take long walks and take short get way trips. For example, I gave myself permission to step away and go fishing on Saturday and drove to the beach on Sunday. And was sure to ease back into my routine on Monday.

Chronic stress requires radical action.

  1. We have to first acknowledge there is a major stressor affecting our lives.
  2. Take the necessary time to evaluate your situation objectively. Objectively means to take a critical look at your situation without the emotional baggage and negative chatter about the situation or yourself. This must be a judgement-free zone for this to work. Just look at the problem for what it is.
  3. Take a few steps back and create some distance from the problem. It’s human nature to lean in, go harder and give more of the energy you do not have to give. The distance will help you gain objectivity.
  4. Stop being a control freak and leave your ego at the door. Ask for help or find ways to delegate. There are always solutions. And many times the answers are available when we release our grip and let go of the things that are outside of our control.
  5. Find the things that work for you and commit. We are unique and like different things. Take sometime to explore what you need and incorporate only what strikes joy in your life.
  6. Always remember, less is more. Maybe, it’s time to figure out how to stop grinding and take more of a chill approach to life.
  7. And lastly, affirm the hell out of yourself. We have to remind ourselves who the hell we are and what it is we can do at all times!

Sign up for my free video training called Just Breathe. I show you simple breathing techniques that can help relieve stress and tension in 5 Minutes or Less. 

Desi Wenzel is a Self Care Consultant and Mindset Coach helping overwhelmed, overworked superwomen find their joy, peace of mind, and passion for life and business through Digital Courses, Coaching and Retreats.

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