Healing Trauma Through the Body

Our physical, mental, and emotional health are so interconnected. Think about it—when we exercise, we tend to feel more alert and attentive throughout the day. When we are feeling sad, we might feel fatigued and unable to think about things clearly. Especially when we experience trauma, like a car accident, a sudden loss, or violence, our bodies shift into fight, flight, or freeze and our most primitive, instinctual responses take over.

In the midst of our body trying to protect us when we experience trauma, it is also impacted in ways that can be potentially damaging in the future. Oftentimes, the complex connection between our body, mind, and heart is severed, and we are left feeling scattered and broken. Our sense of self may be lost, our emotions are dysregulated, and our bodies are holding onto these painful experiences trying to keep us safe for any future threat. It may be helpful to rebuild this shattered connection starting with the body.

Conscious awareness of the body’s internal sensations is often overlooked or lost altogether by survivors of trauma. Noticing, acknowledging, and naming what is happening in the body, moment to moment, brings intentional awareness back and is a great place to start. Mindful exercise, such as yoga or tai chi, deep breathing, and meditation can be useful tools here as well.

Once attention is brought back, it may help to remember or create some positive, affirming, and empowering experiences with the body. Exercises such as drawing on joyful memories with beloved people and places can help the body go back to times it felt safe and secure. It may feel good to visualize yourself in those places, recall how you felt, and notice if those feelings come up in the present moment.

If you have been through something traumatic, it can be extremely helpful to work through these mindful exercises with the guidance of a licensed professional. If you are in the Chicago area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.

Written by Kathryn

2021 Graduate Intern

Resources: Grabbe, L., & Miller-Karas, E. (2018). The trauma resiliency model: a “bottom-up” intervention for trauma psychotherapy. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association24(1), 76-84.

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