Why Grief and Trauma May Be the Hidden Enemy Behind Chronic Stress

Grief, Abuse and Trauma

The most severe forms of trauma occur when we are children. As a result of physical, emotional or spiritual abuse during our early years, we may develop some unhealthy ways of reacting to stress as adults.

This, and other forms of grief, trauma and abuse can have lasting effects on our ability to manage the stressful situations that others seem to find manageable. 

It isn’t our fault that we became wired to protect ourselves; especially if this occurred when we were children! 

This kind of history can follow us through life and create an impressive sequence of roadblocks to joyful living.

My experience with extreme grief as well as childhood abuse and trauma left me with severe and debilitating anxiety. 
My acquired tendency is to over-react to any kind of stress, even the so-called ‘good kind’. 
It seems I have a panic button that lives behind every negative situation I encounter! 
Like me, you may have had trauma after trauma pile up on top of you. 
It can cause hyper-vigilance where we are constantly on the lookout for disaster. 
It may cause you to find yourself examining words, expressions and body language with a magnifying glass; calculating and projecting the 'outcome' in microseconds; while preparing for potential damage control like a general in a war zone!

Here are Some Of The Potential Lingering Side Effects of Abuse, Grief and Trauma:
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Using food for comfort
  • Misplaced guilt
  • Codependent relationships
  • Victim mentality
  • Self sabotage...
This list can go on and on, it is almost endless.

Then there are the physical symptoms that can occur, such as:
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Digestive issues
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog…..
Another outcome may be to become stress reactive rather than stress responsive.
Being stress reactive is a form of self defense; unfortunately, it can be misinterpreted by our loved ones. 
It can also lead to some very bad decisions.

Being stress responsive is a much healthier way to manage stress!

There is good stress and bad stress.
The trick is to identify and separate them.
This is where we find out if we are ‘responding’ or ‘reacting’ to stress.
We need the benefits of ‘good stress’ to protect us from danger.
It is built in and without it we could not have survived as a species, nor could many of us have survived our childhood!

Since history began, we have been faced with the challenge of survival.
While it may not be the danger it once was, we still need our ‘fight or flight’ instinct.
The hormones released during an emergency improve our reaction time and create laser focus on the situation. It is essential for us to respond in ways that preserve life!
Another benefit of ‘good stress’ is that it gives us the motivation to complete our goals. 
Once we set a completion date or time, it is stress that powers our energy resources to actually get it done.

Here are Some Great Tools I Use To Save Me From Myself:

1- The first thing is ALWAYS to bring focus to your breath.
Breathing is our most basic and primary instinct.
The simple act of thinking about your diaphragm will capture your mind’s attention quickly.
Even during a stress response, your mind knows breathing is essential. It will want to know why you are placing your attention there!
Learn this simple breathing routine and use it in emergencies:
THE 4 -7 -8 FORMULA.

First, inhale deeply and then exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of four.
Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Exhale completely to a count of eight.
Repeat as necessary until you can feel your blood pressure lowering and your body relaxing. 


When we use the 4-7-8 formula, this is what happens:
  • Our muscles soften; tension starts to melt away
  • Oxygen delivery improves
  • Blood pressure lowers
  • Endorphins are released
2- Meditating is also a Very Effective way to prepare our mind to create a response, rather then a reaction to stress.

First, give yourself permission to see the awful outcome you are so afraid of.
Than, allow yourself to imagine an alternative; a good outcome.
Tell yourself this is a challenge, not a threat!
Be open to recognizing any benefits that can be gained.
What happens when we meditate?
  • We begin to change our perspective.
  • Events that used to cause panic become manageable.
  • We learn to clearly see what we are afraid of and how we might create an alternative to that outcome. 
Practicing gratitude as a way to reduce the effects of trauma is not something we need to know about; it is something we actually need to practice

Begin using this 5-minute gratitude practice each day, or as often as you can:
Take a deep, cleansing breath and anchor yourself in the present moment.
Picture something that you’re grateful for or blessed with.
Is it a person, a color, a movement, a pet, a place; or even the memory of something?
Visualize whatever comes to mind. 
Shift your senses and imagine the smell, taste or touch of it.
Let yourself enjoy the sensation.
What do you hear? 
What can you feel?
Is the sun on your face, the cool grass beneath your feet, the gentle breeze lifting your hair?
Gratitude has a powerful effect on our mood and our attitude. 
Remember that FEELING grateful is not mandatory!
We may know there are things to be grateful for in our lives, but that doesn't mean we automatically FEEL grateful!
Simply acknowledging that you have something to be grateful for and visualizing it can be enough to produce a valuable shift in perspective.
We may find ourselves drawn to comfort food or alcohol or drugs during stressful times.
This may give us some instant gratification, but will result in even more stress; especially if we overdo it and end up with a dependency!

Try this instead:
Keep a supply of herbal relaxation tea handy.
The act of preparing and anticipating the effects of chamomile, lemon balm or passion flower tea can be soothing in itself. 
By creating a small ritual of heating the water, smelling the tea as it steeps and enjoying the flavor is a bonus that you will come to appreciate! 
Even knowing that you will be doing this can be nearly as effective as the actual experience!

Eat nutritious food. 
This does not mean restricting yourself or counting calories.
It means you should make a shopping list and include a variety of healthy choices. 
The idea is to make it easy to choose quality meals and snacks.
Nothing scientific here; we are all pretty much aware of what we should be eating, am I right?
This is not a directive to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night!
I get so tired of hearing about how lack of sleep is harming me.
What we do need is the opportunity and environment to get enough rest!
If you find yourself counting sheep then you know how impossible it is to command yourself to sleep.

Instead, try this:
  • Go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Spend a few minutes reliving the best things that happened during the day.
  • Savor the memory.
  • Anticipate that tomorrow will bring equally or even more pleasant experiences.
  • Sip on some sleepy tea before retiring. 
    Sleep itself is important, but nobody can sleep peacefully when they are reliving every terrible thought, word, deed or action from the day!
7- And finally, we have EXERCISE
Get outside for at least 30 minutes a day.
Go for a walk, enjoy the scenery and visit for a few minutes with people you know.
This doesn’t have to be a fitness routine that is difficult or structured.
Just get outside and enjoy a walk!

We can reduce the impact of our conditioned reactions to abuse, stress and grief by practicing these easy methods.
Over time, we begin to do them automatically.
The important thing is that we practice them until they become second nature!
Start by learning breathing exercises. 
Add one new thing every day, or every week.
You will be amazed at how much easier it becomes to manage stress!

I would love to hear your best tips for managing stress, or how these tips have helped you.
Drop them in the comments!