What If The Trauma You Experienced Has Given You Some Amazing Strengths?

So many people who have experienced trauma in life live with the sense of terrible brokenness.

There is the sense that “I am defective”. And so much in your life has told you that.

There is a terrible sense of shame that these things have been done to you.

The Untrue Messages That Dominate Your Life

But those messages and the other negative ones you received are not true. They are the words of the people who traumatised you. If they were dysfunctional enough to traumatise you, then they were too dysfunctional to give you accurate information about yourself.

For many of you, you may be aware of this but are unable to turn off the negative messages in your head.

People Rise Above Childhood Trauma Better Than You Think

Over my life I have read and heard so many people’s stories. Many of them speak of surviving trauma to arrive at the point in their lives where they could share their story.

One thing that emerges from the story is the way they survived.

Some people are fully aware they have achieved a lot and want to share that heartening news.

Do You See Your Strengths Or Your Failings?

Other people are not aware. They may come into my room feeling such a failure, when they have achieved amazing things to just get to my door.

Maybe you are one of those people who sees only the negative and defective and can’t see the truth, that despite the horrible things that have happened to you in life, you are an amazing and unique individual.

Maybe you think that seems insincere. You don’t want to be told by me that you are amazing and unique.

Looking At Your Trauma From A Different Perspective

But what if, instead of seeing the awful things that have happened in your life you saw instead how they have contributed to you being an amazing unique individual.

What if you could see the way you have survived as being a triumph and instead of seeing the defective you see the triumphant you.

The Reality Of You, Here, Now

The reality is you are still here and you are living your life. You might not live it as well as you want to. You might not feel totally in control of your reactions. Those are things you can work on. But the fact that you are here and functioning is testimony to the way you had strengths and abilities that allowed you to function despite the things that have happened to you in the past. And just maybe those things that happened have given you strengths and abilities other people don’t have.

What Might Those Abilities Be?

There is the obvious one about your brain developing more in some areas that often means you are better at reading non-verbal communication than others and are better at spotting danger.

But there are other areas too.

Maybe you are more understanding of others.

Maybe you are more compassionate.

Maybe you have a drive to seek justice for others.

Maybe you believe in honouring your word so that you are reliable and admired for that.

Maybe you have tenacity in difficult situations that allows you to keep going when others give up.

Maybe You Need Help To Heal And See Your Strengths And Abilities

Maybe you can see these things but then that belief in yourself is blown away by all the negative messages in your head.

Sometimes you need assistance to heal. You need assistance to see the real you.

This is where a trauma qualified counsellor can assist you.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your healing and identification of your amazing strengths, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Taking The Leap Into A More Satisfying Life

Something you realise throughout life, often as you grow older, is that you are never “finished”. There will never be an end point to your growth and development. Right up to the moment of death you will continue to grow.

The fact of your unfinished state is often very obvious when you do something new. Then the gulf between your level of competence and the new thing you are doing is very obvious.

To Live Is To Grow

Life is about growth. It is about stepping out into the unknown. About stepping out into your level of incompetence and doing something new and different.

If you don’t grow, you stagnate. This concept is often discussed in regard to relationships. A relationship can never stay the same, it either grows or stagnates. In other words, it doesn’t grow. Stagnation precedes the death of the relationship.

It is the same with life. If you don’t progress in your life and grow you will stagnate. Stagnation is where many people find themselves. Maybe you are there right now. You feel stuck in the sameness of your life, you feel empty, depleted and maybe restless or hopeless.

The Importance of Restlessness

Restless is good. From restlessness comes the desire to change, to grow, to get out of the rut you find yourself in.

Restless allows courage to arise. Courage to make changes and start new beginnings.

Beginnings are full of possibilities and unknowns. They are uncertain and scary. And that is okay. Within you there is the ability to survive the unknown and find your way. There is the possibility to try something new, learn how to do it and survive the experience.

Change Happens On The Edge Of Uncertainty

Change only ever happens on the edge of uncertainty.

There has been much research into the importance of challenging yourself in order to change and move away from stagnation.

New relationships are scary, but you still work at them until they are less scary. And you keep working at them always. New things in life are like relationships. They are uncertain and scary but if you work at them they become less scary. They can even be exhilarating. You work at them until you reach the point of feeling less scared, maybe even comfortable.

Keep Going. Rest Yes, But Don’t Stop There

But don’t stop there. You can rest there for a while, but allow the restless within to lead you further forward. Remember. You never stay in the same place. You either grow and move forward and stop and stagnate..

Changes in life are scary, but you still make them – whether you want to our not – and you settle in to the changes. One day you find yourself comfortable with the changes that you formerly found terrifying.

Change Is Uncertain And That Is Okay

Change is uncertain. Uncertain is scary. For many people that level of uncertainty feels impossible to overcome. But it can be done.

Maybe you are dreaming of a new job, moving to a new area, a new career and the idea is overwhelming so you remain in the same place. You stay put and you are miserable but unable to see how to make the leap to a new change.

Sometimes Change Is Best Accomplished By Taking A Small Jump Instead Of A Massive Leap

Don’t make that leap, instead make a series of small adjustments.

Try doing one thing that breaks your usual routine. It may mean getting up earlier in the morning to have a walk on the beach. It may mean eating breakfast outside, instead of in the kitchen. It may mean catching the bus and train to work instead of driving.

These small breaks from your usual routine are something new. Just try doing something different. Even one different thing a week. If you eat the same menu night after night (because it is easier and you don’t have to think) switch around the meals so that you eat them on different nights. One night add a different meal.

These changes may seem insignificant. They may seem downright weird – especially the one about where you eat breakfast. But they change your routine. And changing your routine opens the way for bigger changes.

The First Step Is The Hardest In Every Journey Of Dreams

It is said that the first step is the hardest. This is from a quote by Moffat Machingura.

“The first step is the hardest in every journey of dreams. There is nothing else to fear unto whosoever has shown the tenacity to begin; because, once having started, the hardest part of the mission is the one lying behind.” ~ Moffat Machingura, Life Capsules

At The End of Your Life Your Greatest Regret Will Be The Risks You Didn’t Take.

Another wonderful quote that is worth noting is:

“Your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn’t chase. you will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path” ~ Mark Batterson.

Remember your greatest asset in change is courage.

You Grow Your Wings Once You Leap Off The Cliff Not Before

There is a beautiful quote by Ray Bradbury about jumping off the cliff and growing your wings on the way down. It is true. You don’t grow those wings until you need them. You don’t need them until you have launched yourself into uncertainty.

You can’t wait until everything is in place before you do something new. You will never be ready. That is why you should just start and allow the growth that will lead you to succeed.

I made the comment to someone recently about leaping off the cliff and finding my wings so that I could soar. They looked worried and asked me what about if my wings didn’t come. The answer? They will always come.

Life Is About Beginnings

You are part of a continuum of human life that has gone on for millennia. All life is about beginnings and within each life are countless beginnings.

Beginnings feel like lonely journeys into the unknown, the jump off the cliff without wings.

But the wings are always there. The outcome may not be what you imagined it would be, but there will be an outcome.

Let Go So That You Can Grow

It is only when you let go that growth can come. Your wings only arrive when you embrace uncertainty.

Maybe you will not find the outcome that you wanted. It may feel like failure. But it will be learning and from that place of learning you can move on into a new unknown. Each leap off the cliff into uncertainty strengthens and empowers you to grow.

Beginnings, those leaps off the cliff, are invitations to embrace the gifts and growth that wait once you soar with your new wings.

Endings Are Necessary For Beginnings To Happen

Sometimes you will spend time in preparation, not realising you are ending an old pattern of behaviour. You will prepare and leap off the cliff. Other times you will experience an ending and discover a beginning within it. That is your leap off the cliff.

Leaping off the cliff is not necessarily comfortable but it is most definitely survivable.

On the journey of your life you will experience many beginnings and endings. That is what life is about. You choose what you will begin and you choose what you will end. If you don’t choose, life will choose for you.

The Leap Into The Unknown Is Your Ally

As you leap off that cliff recognise that the leap into the unknown is your beloved ally. It is waiting to share with you the exhilaration and possibilities of the unknown.

Don’t get stuck. Be open and vulnerable. Don’t be afraid of the new and the different. Embravce the opportunities to grow.

Take a deep breath and launch yourself over that cliff. That is where life is.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you to leap off that cliff, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

3 Steps To Helping Your Child Understand And Process Grief

Grief is devastating for anyone.

As an adult, you have an advantage in grieving. That advantage is your brain development.

All things being equal, by the time your brain is fully developed (around age 25) you have learned how to process grief. If you haven’t encountered grief before, hopefully you have learned to seek help in processing your grief.

Children’s Brains Struggle To Process Grief

For a child, the lack of brain development means that processing grief is very difficult.

For an undeveloped brain, comprehending death and the existential issues around it, is extremely difficult. Adults struggle with this. So children will struggle even more without the tools yet to be developed to help them.

Grief In Children Resurfaces At Each Developmental Stage.

The younger the child, the more undeveloped will be their ability to process their grief. It is now known that grief in children will resurface at different stages in their childhood and even into adult life.

It is important to be aware of these difficulties and be ready to support your child.

The developing brain is learning. That is how the brain develops. But without support, the brain cannot learn. The brain needs to learn how to process Grief.

Attending To The Trauma Of Grief

Grief is a trauma. It is dysregulating. A child experiencing grief will be thrown into a major fight/flight/freeze stress response. They will also lose their connection to others and feel very isolated and alone.

Many people think they just have to sit their child down and talk to them and that will help. But a dysregulated brain can’t learn or reason so talking to a child in this situation will not work.

The 3 Steps

There are 3 steps to reaching your child and helping them to learn how to process their grief.

The steps are as follows:

Step 1. Regulate

The first thing you need to do with your child is help them regulate their fight/flight/freeze response and become calmer.

One of the best ways to do this is to be as calm as you can. Research has shown that children cope well with traumatic events when their parents remain relatively calm and can maintain as much as possible regular routines. The main thing is that your child feels safe. They need to feel that you can still protect them. In a world that has just fallen apart with the loss of someone important, knowing you are still there is vital.

Do the best you can

Obviously, if you are grieving as well, it is going to be hard to regulate yourself. You are likely to be crying and finding it hard to focus.

This is the pain of parenting. There are times when you have to put your own needs aside to attend to the needs of your children. It is natural for you to do that, and it may be necessary. But don’t put off attending to your own needs for long. It is okay to be crying when you seek to regulate your child.

After all, your child needs to see you grieving to learn it is okay to be sad and cry, but life still goes on.

One of the best ways to regulate is to hold your child. That helps them to feel safe and also gives you a sense of safety as well.

Step 2. Relate

Holding your child is part of the next step as well.

You help your child to regulate, to feel safer and still cared for.

Now you help them by establishing a connection. Holding your child will help them feel connected to you. This will mean they feel less isolated and alone.

Being Attuned To Your Child

Relating also involved being attuned to your child and their needs. It means you will stop and seek to understand what your child is thinking and feeling. Depending on their age, this may involve (when appropriate) making a general statement such as:

“It is really sad and frightening that x has died.”

This would work best for a young child who may still be learning to understand their emotions. Acknowledging what you sense they are experiencing helps them to feel understood.

For an older child you may ask them what they are feeling. Or you may wonder if they are feeling sad because you are.

It is important to not hide your feelings and allow your child to see you are sad too but that your sadness won’t stop you caring for them.

Be Attuned For A Long Time

Remember that I earlier mentioned that grief in children takes longer and is revisited at each developmental stage.

It is important to keep that in mind. Even after the initial period of adjustment to death your child will continue to grieve.

Always make sure you seek to understand your child. This maintains a connection between the two of you and is also comforting for your child. An attuned parent is one who provides safety and security. Something all children need, but grieving children need it more.

Step 3. Reason

Once your child is regulated and secure in their relationship with you, you can then reason with them.

You can support your child to express their feelings should they want to. You can support your child according to their developmental stage to reflect, learn, remember, articulate and learn how to live with their loss.

How Do I Support My Child To Learn?

There are many aids you can use to help you support your child through their grief. These aids will help them to learn healthy ways of processing grief. This will serve them well now and in later life with other losses.

There are many age-appropriate books you can read to your child. Your local library is a good source of these. If you send your child to a counsellor many will have these resources as well. I have a range of books I use with younger children.

For teenagers, who are already exploring the more existential issues of life as part of their teen development, a more existential approach that emphasises philosophical discussions mixed with some helpful facts about grief and its impacts is really helpful.

Can I Help?

Sometimes you and/or your child/ren will need help from a grief trained counsellor. It can be very helpful to learn what is normal in grieving both for yourself and your child. If you need help, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please
click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

I didn’t think I had an abusive childhood, but now I realise I did

Do you need other people to validate the things you do?

Do you need the approval of others?

Do you find it hard making decisions for yourself?

Do you find it hard feeling self-reliant?

Do you find it hard to regulate your emotions?

Are you really hard on yourself?

Do you feel you have little or no worth?

Do you do things to numb your emotional pain?

Are you frightened of rejection and abandonment?

Do you feel you are stuck in angry mode?

Do you find it hard to feel joy or peace?

Do you find it hard to get close to other people?

Do you feel lonely and seek out others to compensate for your loneliness?

Do you feel lost, misunderstood or that you don’t fit in and others are judging you for that?

Do you frequently feel anxious or depressed?

Are you frightened of social situations and fear being rejected.

Do you feel others judge you as not being good enough?

Do you feel empowered in your life?

How childhood experiences can impact you as an adult

Did you know that trauma in childhood has a significant impact on your self-worth?

If your sense of safety and belonging in childhood was damaged you are likely to have developed skills to keep you safe in that situation. As you grew up you may never have unlearned those skills, so they trap you in patterns that don’t serve you in adulthood.

Also, poor attachment between your parents and you puts you at risk of suffering from loneliness in adulthood.

Traumatic experiences in your childhood disrupt how you see your self as a person and affect your ability to regulate your emotions. All this impacts on the quality of the interpersonal relationships you have later in life.

My parents didn’t physically or sexually abuse me. I can’t have suffered trauma.

It can be hard to understand you have been traumatised in childhood. The usual picture of trauma is that of being hit or sexually abused. But trauma covers much more than just that. In fact, the worst traumas are emotional and psychological.

Neglect

Neglect is a trauma that is often overlooked. With neglect the child’s physical and emotional needs are frequently overlooked. It may involve not receiving regular meals, not having clean clothes to wear, not having your emotional needs for comfort and support met. A parent who rarely interacts or shows an interest in you is also neglectful.

Neglectful parents are also unlikely to be there to teach you skills of emotional regulation. They may not teach you how to wash yourself, how often to change your clothes.

It is unlikely a neglectful parent will see you and spend time connecting to you. This is known as attunement. A child who is not seen is a child who is not safe. Not being safe is extremely traumatic.

The clear message in this situation is that you have no worth or value. After all, you are not worth having any time or attention given to you.

Narcissistic Parent

Narcissistic parents are also very destructive of a child’s sense of self-worth.

Such a parent depends on the child to make them feel good. The child gets positive attention when they do things that serve the parent. The trouble is, there are no clear guidelines as to what the child needs to do to serve the parent. Consequently, the child lives life second guessing the parent in order to feel that the parent will care for them and they will be safe.

Narcissistic parents will also often shame their children in front of others. They will expect their child to meet their needs, to do things to make them proud. They will never teach their child any skills that will equip them for adulthood and self-reliance.

Narcissistic parents will often hold the child close to serve their needs. They want the child to stay dependent on them because the child is there to serve their needs and that is why they had them.

One classic example is of a woman who would take her child to school. The child would happily run into the classroom and greet her friends. The mother would call her back and make a fuss of her, stating it was okay for mummy to leave now and she would be okay. The child would go back to her friends and be happily talking with them. Again, the mother would call her back. This would continue until the child’s resolve was broken and she would wail and beg her mother not to leave her.

A narcissistic parent is one of the most destructive types of parent and sentence their children to mental poor health and a dependence on validation from others in adulthood.

Complex PTSD and Borderline personality disorder

These conditions develop because of chronic trauma experienced in childhood. The type of trauma most associated with these conditions is emotional abuse and invalidation. It can happen if you are neglected or have a narcissistic parent. It can also happen from other types of abuse and invalidation.

Sometimes parents are not aware that their behaviour towards their children is invalidating and can be surprised when their child develops this disorder in adulthood.

When a parent is emotionally abusive or invalidating during a child’s early years it impacts on the child’s sense of self and the child can struggle to have a strong sense of self.

You may develop self-defeating attitudes and beliefs around yourself and the trustworthiness of the world.

When raised in such an environment it is also difficult to learn to regulate your emotions. This is often due to your parents being unable to regulate their emotions. How can you teach another person how to regulate their emotions if you can’t do it yourself.

For this reason, I encourage people who had difficult childhoods to seek counselling from a trauma trained professional before having children. Many parents who were emotionally abused as children are determined their own children will never have to go through that. But sometimes things your children do can trigger reactions in you that you can’t control and don’t like doing. If you find raising your children triggers behaviours you struggle to control then seek counselling. Seeking help makes you a good parent.

Unstable and intense relationships

If you find that any type of relationship you have with others tends to be intense and over time unstable then you may be experiencing the impacts of chronic trauma in childhood. Sometimes these relationships happen because you are uncomfortable being alone and seek out anyone who looks willing to be in a relationship with you. This can result in you unconsciously choosing the wrong type of person to have a relationship with.

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you can sabotage it by clinging to the person and unwittingly pushing them away.

I think you are the best, I hate you patterns

Another impact of childhood trauma can be seen in meeting someone new and idealising them. This continues for some time then you start devaluing them and finding things wrong with them.

You are too hard on yourself

One of the saddest impacts of childhood trauma is the lack of self-worth and lack of self-compassion.

It is not surprising that children develop these beliefs. When a parent is abusive, or expects you to jump over hoops to gain their approval, the natural response is to believe this is because you are a bad person. If your parent constantly tells you that you are bad then this belief is reinforced.

The reality is that a child is just a child learning how to live life. There is no inherent badness in a child. Sadly a child doesn’t know that. Shame becomes a big part of the life of an abused child.

Ways to dull the pain

If you never learned how to regulate your emotions, and you believe you are a bad person, then you feel great pain that you don’t know how to soothe.

Many people turn to behaviours that numb the pain. These behaviours may be dangerous. A good example of this is children who steal cars then drive them dangerously at high speed. The risk and dangers inherent in this activity help to suppress their pain.

Other things people do include addictions such as substance abuse, smoking or vaping, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, exercise addiction and eating disorders.

I am lonely

If you don’t feel you are worth anything then you may not feel you are likeable. The result is that you may avoid getting close to others so that they can’t reject you.

Getting close to another person means exposing yourself to the rejection of your parents. If they rejected you, then other people will too.

When you do form relationships with others you may be frightened of expressing your needs or asking for help because your parents failed to meet those needs when you were a child. So you may feel even lonelier because you can’t turn to someone for help.

Many people who suffered trauma in childhood report feeling lonely.

Depression and Anxiety

It is very common for someone traumatised as a child to be anxious. Your childhood was an anxious time of never being sure when you would receive support, or whether you may be abused. Abusers are rarely predictable so hypervigilance was an essential part of childhood.

Hypervigilance leads to anxiety. There is the need to be constantly on your guard because you never know what is going to happen in the next minute. You never know when things will suddenly become dangerous and frightening.

When you grow up and things become safer the fear doesn’t go away because your brain has developed neural pathways that constantly scan for danger. This is why anxiety is a constant companion of the traumatised child.

Depression is another consequence of this type of childhood. Many people report feeling depressed from childhood. The sense of not being good enough, the lack of self-worth, being emotionally worn down with anxiety and fear, the rejection and abandonment of parents and the sense of never being safe all contribute to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless and lead into depression.

I constantly feel on edge

The environment of neglect and emotional abuse is a highly stressful environment. Children in this situation are being impacted regularly by the release of stress hormones in the body. This has an impact on the developing brain and will often result in an adult who is highly sensitive to stress hormones.

The result is that your brain is in a constant state of defending yourself. In other words the fight/flight/freeze response.

It is very difficult to cope with life if your brain is constantly seeing danger and you spend a lot of time with your brain taking over your life and deciding whether you are to fight, run away, or freeze.

When this defence mechanism takes over, your thinking brain switches off. You can’t control your reactions. Sadly, very few people understand this and you may find yourself judged when you get stuck in this defence response.

It is for this reason that it is important to seek counselling from a qualified trauma counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

I have been in a traumatic situation. Will I develop PTSD?

I see a lot of people who have been involved in traumatic situations. One of the biggest fears they express is that they will develop PTSD as a result of the trauma.

What does PTSD look like?

I am including this information to demonstrate how complex PTSD is. People are often afraid they have PTSD but are actually just experiencing a normal reaction to a really traumatic situation.

This information is not to be used to self diagnose. If you are concerned it is best to see a professional who is experienced with PTSD and can make a correct diagnosis.

Formal diagnosis of PTSD includes experiencing at least one of each category of the following symptoms for at least a month:

Re-experiencing the trauma – at least one of these:
• Flashbacks including reliving the event and experiencing physical symptoms of fear such as a rapid heart beat or sweating
• Recurring memories or dreams of the event
• Distressing thoughts about the event
• Experiencing a rapid heart beat, sweating or other physical symptom of stress

Avoiding reminders of the trauma – at least one of these:
• Avoiding places, events, objects or anything that reminds you of the trauma
• Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event.
• Changing routines to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma

Symptoms of arousal or reactivity that have arisen or worsened since the event– at least one of these:
• Easily startled
• Feeling tense or on guard
• Difficult concentrating
• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
• Feeling irritable, even having angry outbursts
• Engaging in risky, reckless or destructive behaviour

Thoughts and mood symptoms – at least one of these:
• Having trouble remembering parts or all of the trauma
• Experiencing negative thoughts about yourself or the world
• Feelings of blame directed at you or others that are exaggerated
• Experiencing negative emotions that persist. These include fear, anger, guilt or shame.
• Losing interest in enjoyable activities
• Feeling socially isolated
• Finding it hard to feel positive emotions such as happiness.

How likely is it that you will develop PTSD after a traumatic event?

More people recover from trauma than get PTSD.

Research has shown that previous trauma, especially in childhood, increases your likelihood of developing PTSD. But even that does not mean you will develop PTSD.

The Normal processing of trauma

Many people will report some memories of traumatic events for some time after the event, but these memories fade over time.

People can become stuck in the traumatic event. Triggers that throw them back into the event time and time again are distressing and interfere with healthy daily functioning. Others will avoid talking about the event and situations, people or places they associate with the event.

Trauma processing is similar to Grief processing

There is another life event that can have a similar effect. That is the death of a loved one. For some people the only way to cope with the grief is to avoid all reminders of the loved one.

Another thing that researchers have found is that the more you avoid memories and reminders of traumatic events, the more likely it is that you will develop PTSD. Just as the more you avoid memories and reminders of a loved one, the more likely it is that you will develop Complex Grief Disorder.

Avoiding these memories and reminders is usually due to the extreme discomfort of experiencing these memories and reminders. The emotions associated with them can be extremely difficult to experience.

The importance of processing trauma

When a traumatic event happens it is essential you emotionally process what happened. Much as with grief, it is considered the best way to process this is to titrate your emotional exposure to the event. You allow yourself time to think about it, then allow yourself time to think about other things.

Debriefing after a traumatic event is very important. 30 years ago it was considered essential for everyone to talk about what happened. People were forced to take part in debriefing when they weren’t ready to talk. This caused extreme distress for some people. Not everyone is ready to dive into processing something immediately after it has happened. They need more time to titrate the emotional exposure.

Debriefing today is more an opportunity to talk if you want to and access to trauma counsellors who can help you debrief.

Having your story witnessed and acknowledged

Sometimes after a trauma the focus may be on certain people who are considered to be “worse affected” than others. This may mean that you are not given the chance to tell your story and have the impact of the trauma on you acknowledged. In can be helpful to talk to a trauma counsellor to allow you to share your story and have that story acknowledged. This allows for a better resolution of the trauma.

Some people process things by talking and talking. Others process by reflecting. That is why the debriefing I do, and the format that is recommended, involves letting you talk if you want to or allowing you space if you don’t want to talk.

Sometimes you will need to talk to a counsellor to help with processing the trauma, especially if you are avoiding the emotions and memories due to the pain they cause. A trauma counsellor can help you learn how to cope with those overwhelming emotions and how to titrate your exposure to them.

Unhelpful coping behaviours

In trying to cope with trauma, some people may adopt behaviours that are extremely unhelpful and keep them trapped in the trauma. Substance abuse and increased alcohol consumption are the most common behaviours that I see. They may provide temporary respite from troubling thoughts and emotions, but they are dangerous in the long term and actually keep you trapped in that place of trauma.

When to seek help

Traumatic events take time to recover from. Most people will recover in time. Recovery will usually involve talking about what happened, reflecting on the incident, being willing to cry or experience other emotions.

If you feel that you are stuck in these memories and emotions and don’t seem to be getting better, then it is helpful to seek counselling.

To summarise:

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Previous trauma exposure, especially in childhood
• Getting hurt or seeing others hurt or killed
• Feeling helpless, horror or extreme fear
• Thinking you are going to die
• Having little or no social support after the event
• Being exposed to extra stress after the traumatic event such as pain and injury, loss of job or home, loss of a loved one.

Things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Seek support from friends, family, support groups. Accept offers to engage in critical incident debriefing, either when the counsellors are present or at some point in the next few days.
• Allowing yourself to be upset and impacted by the traumatic event
• Allow yourself to process what has happened and learn from it
• Seek counselling if you need support with the impacts of the event and processing the feelings around the event.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with processing your trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

7 Ways To Reduce Stress

When stress levels are high you can feel that things are out of control. You can feel overwhelmed with tasks and feel unable to cope with your massive To Do list.

Here are 7 “C” suggestions of things to do to feel better able to manage that stress.

1.Control

When you feel overwhelmed with things to do you don’t feel in control of your life. It feels more like life is controlling you and you are drowning in the busyness of it all. It is really important to find some space to think. So take time out. Even a few hours. Review everything you have on.

• Is there anything you can pass on to someone else to do?

• Is there anything non urgent you can move to another day/week/month?

• Which tasks need to be done so that your life can continue to function? (such as clean clothes, food, clean dishes, caring for children if you have any.)

• Which tasks are “like to do” rather than “need to do” tasks?

Question: what can you do to feel more in control of your life?

2.Competence

When you feel capable of completing the tasks you have to do, the tasks are easier to do. That doesn’t mean they won’t take time. You do need to be realistic about the amount of time a task will take and the amount of time you have available to complete your tasks.

Question: what skills do you need to learn or improve so that you can feel more competent?

3.Confidence

If you are confident that you can manage the unexpected obstacles to completing a task you are likely to feel less stress around attending to tasks. Fear of things going wrong and not knowing what to do is a major contributor to stress.

Question: how confident do you feel? Describe that level of confidence. What can you do to increase your confidence?

4.Connection

One of the best buffers against high stress levels are healthy relationships with other people. It is not so much about having great friends, but more about feeling you have a community around you that you belong to.

It is about having a network of people you can turn to for help when you need assistance, advice or other resources to complete your tasks.

Questions: Who are the people in your life you can go to for support or belonging? How might you make connections in the community? Do you have strong connection with family, friends, and your community?

5.Character

This may seem odd, but it is important the tasks you have to complete align with your values. Doing something you feel uncomfortable about is going to make you feel stressed and going to make the task a hard one to complete. That then leaves you with a To Do list with uncompleted tasks. That is a recipe for high stress.

Things to consider in this situation are:

• Who has assigned this task to you? Is it work related? Has a friend/family member asked you to do something? Is this something you feel you have to do because you don’t know of any other options?

• What is it about this task that you feel uncomfortable about?

• Which of your values does this task not align with?

• What other options are there for you to consider regarding this task?

• Do you have to do this task?

Questions: What are your values? What things you do make you feel uncomfortable? What is it about them that is uncomfortable?

6.Coping

There are myriad ways of coping. Some of those ways are helpful and some are unhelpful. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs to cope, but these are unhelpful because they never allow you to resolve the problem. It just becomes buried and that causes more problems. It is better to see a counsellor to learn coping techniques than resort to substances and behaviours that bury the problem. Some ways to cope are:

• Self care – take time out to do the things you love to do. Maybe you like a massage, or a visit to a float tank. Maybe you love seeing family or friends. Maybe you love walking in the bush or walking along the beach. Maybe movies are your self care.

• Relaxation – learn how to meditate. Guided meditations can be really great for that. Mindfulness is also a good meditation to do. Yoga or Qigong are also great for relaxation. Or you can find activities that are relaxing such as going to the beach, hugging a tree, a bush walk, jogging, walking, going to the gym and many more.

• Spending time on a relaxing hobby.

Questions: What do you usually do to cope when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Is it helpful or unhelpful? What is something more helpful you could try?

7.Contribution

This one refers to the contribution you make to the community in which you live. It is about volunteering to help others. It may involve dropping in to say hello to an elderly neighbour. It may involve volunteering at a Homeless Shelter. It may be as simple as giving a family member a lift somewhere.

Contributing is part of connection. When you contribute to your local community you feel more connected and invested in your local community. Research has also found that people who are willing to help others are more likely to reach out for help when they need it.

Part of Contribution is allowing others to contribute to the needs in your life.

Questions: What can you do to contribute to your community? What can others do to help you?

Putting the 7 “C’s” into practice

Here are some important things to consider when managing high stress levels:

• Have healthy boundaries. Learn to say “no”. Learn to be okay to ask for help, but also to not be involved in something you don’t want to do. Learn how to stop people encroaching on your boundaries. This is an aspect of control in your life and also coping.

• Accept who you are. You are like anyone else and that is wonderful. You are unique. There are things you are good at, and things you are not as good at. There are things you know how to do, and things you have yet to learn how to do. Know your limitations and accept them. Learn the things you need to learn and accept it will take time to be competent. Know also when it is time to stop because you have realised you will never be able to do something competently. This is an aspect of control, competence, confidence and character.

• Practice a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you get enough sleep. Eat a diet that is well balanced and low in junk and high sugar foods. Move and exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to go to the Gym. It may mean you take a walk on the beach, go dancing with friends or dancing in your own living room. This is an aspect of control and coping.

• Ensure your routine includes time to attend to essential tasks and allows time for play. This is a big part of self care. If you don’t spend time relaxing and recharging your batteries you will not be able to complete those essential tasks. This is an aspect of coping and control.

• Embrace mistakes and failures. They are a normal part of life. They are also opportunities to learn and grow. A popular learning theory holds that we learn about something then try to do it. After we have done it we evaluate its success. Do I need to do it differently? Is there more I need to know? Have I learned something from this attempt to show me how to do it again? After evaluating, you try again. This goes on until you are able to complete the task. According to this theory mistakes and failures are a vital part of learning. This is an aspect of competence and developing confidence.

• Be creative. Try different ways of doing things. You may find a better way of organising your life. The creative ways I have devised throughout my life mean I can achieve a lot more than I could in earlier years. There were many creative ideas and some of them worked really well and I still use them. I still apply creativity to completing tasks. This is an important aspect of control and competence.

• Recognise and manage those things in life that will bring up unhappy memories that upset you. There will always be things like that. Maybe recognising why you were upset about something is possible and will help you be alert for that again. Recognising where the upset comes from is a great aid to being able to learn strategies to manage it. You can also see a counsellor to learn strategies when you are unable to.

• Talk to someone you trust when you need help.

• Can’t find anyone to talk to or who is helpful? Talk to a counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning to reduce stress, set boundaries, accept yourself, feel more in control, competent, connected make connections, identify your values, learn method of coping, and develop the skills to identify ways to contribute in your community please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How Conversation and Journalling Prompts can improve your Communication, Creativity and Self-Awareness as well as Boosting your Mental Health and Well-Being

Soon I will be resuming my live talks in my Facebook Group Plentiful Life Exploration.

Last year I always used some cards I own during the live talks.

The cards are called Deep Speak (by St Luke’s Resources) and aim to respect the right to a voice of all people.

These cards are designed to encourage people to tell their stories, offer opinions and listen to others when they tell their stories.

They also help you to learn more about yourself. This makes them wonderful as journalling prompts and for self reflection.

Today I am going to write my blog with some prompts for you.

If you would like to share your answers you can do so on my page Plentiful Life Counselling, or join my group Plentiful Life Exploration and comment there.

QUESTION ONE

The first question is an opener – to get the conversation started.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I would love to know what your book was.

Mine was Anne of Green Gables. I loved the way this unwanted girl found someone who wanted her and set about learning to be herself and to be able to achieve what she wanted in life. So inspiring.

How about you?

QUESTION TWO

The next question is one about identity. That is such a difficult thing for many people. Here is a question to help you explore who you are.

Do you have a favourite family story?

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that my grandfather, as a young 19 year old, had to leave Scotland to find work. He was supposed to sail to Canada where his older brothers were waiting.
But my Grandfather hated the cold. He got to the port and there was a ship sailing to Australia there as well. So he bought his ticket to Australia and got on the boat. Wow! He really hated the cold.

I have always been in awe of his courage to sail to a country where he knew no one and there would be no one to support him. He made a life for himself and survived very well. Such a wonderful role model.

QUESTION THREE

The next question is about relationships.

Have you ever been let down by a friend?

That is a challenging one. It hurts to be let down by someone. Often when you share your story other people judge it as being unimportant. But of course it is.

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that I had planned to take a trip with a friend to a new place I had never been before. We were going to stay a few days. I researched what we could do and where we could stay. I was so excited. Then my friend told me she was going to this place with another friend. I was so upset and felt so rejected by this. I never said anything to her but I felt she must have decided she didn’t want to go with me. In reality I suspect she had forgotten we had made this plan. I sometimes think it would have been better if at the time I had said that I thought we were going to go together and that I was disappointed. Instead I distanced myself from her and our relationship was never as close again.

QUESTION FOUR

The next question is about values. Values are so important. They guide how you see the world and how you relate to others.

How rich do you want to be?

That is seemingly simple. But many people hold values around wealth and the type of people who hold it.

For me, I want to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. By comfortable I mean being able to pay my bills and have the odd treat. To not have to lie awake at night worrying about money.

QUESTION FIVE

The next question is about emotions. This is a lovely reflective question that allows you to explore who you are and how to regulate your feelings.

How do you control your anger?

I would love he hear how you do that.

Anger is so hard to control. I always try to remember to breathe deeply and slowly so that I can remain in control of my feelings. So often anger involves feeling in danger and needing to defend yourself. When that happens, the rational part of your brain is no longer accessible and it is impossible to control your feelings. Breathing deeply and slowly sends a message to the brain that you are safe. It allows you to be able to think about how you want to respond and allows you to choose a response that is helpful for you and others.

QUESTION SIX

The last question is about beliefs. This is another one that is important for you to understand about yourself and for others to learn about you.

Have you ever had something you’d call a spiritual experience?

I would love to hear from you.

Spiritual experiences cover a large range of things. They can include seeing a wonderful sunset and watching in awe at its beauty. They can include feeling the presence of a loved one who has died.

For me I have experienced both those things.

THE BENEFITS OF EXPLORING QUESTIONS LIKE THESE

Learning to explore and share your story, even if it is only with the pages of a journal, is an important way to learn more about you. It helps you to understand why you feel the way you do about things. It helps you to feel able to share stories of the sad things in life, of the traumatic events, of the hurtful things. It helps you to heal, either by yourself or by seeking support from a counsellor.

Learning more about yourself allows you to be more present to what your body is feelings. This allows you to better understand what you are feeling. This skill is important in living life successfully, being able to regulate your emotions and form relationships with other people that are mutually respectful.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

Sometimes things that happen in life can make it hard to understand what you are feeling. It can also be hard to feel safe with others and be able to set boundaries that allow you to have comfortable relationships with others.

Sometimes you need help to learn these things and to untangle the difficulties of the past. This is where a counsellor can help you.

CAN I HELP?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with being better able to understand what you are feeling and/or healing from your past hurts, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Embracing Discomfort Can Help You Grow

I am sure you have been in this type of situation. You are upset about something and talk to a friend about it. You are expecting them to listen and empathise with you. But they don’t. Listen. Or Empathise. They race to tell you about their day. Or they defend the person who has upset you. Or they make a joke about your pain. Or they change the subject.

In short, they shut you down. They remove your permission to be upset and be heard.

And maybe sometimes you do that too.

Why do they do that?

Why do you do that?

Discomfort.

WE HAVE MADE DISCOMFORT THE ENEMY

We live in a society, in a culture that is very left brained. In other words, very analytical, very logical, very shallow. Rarely are people allowed to explore the depths of who they are, why they do what they do, of the uncomfortable things that happen in life.

In our society discomfort is something to be feared. Something that we are not taught as children to manage. The only way we learn is to run away from discomfort and to shut other people down when they make us feel uncomfortable.

The result is you don’t feel comfortable feeling painful feelings and other people don’t feel comfortable hearing about them.

THE WAYS WE SHUT DOWN DISCOMFORT IN OURSELVES

Many people will rush to cover up uncomfortable feelings with addictive behaviours.

Alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription medications, gambling, buying things, eating, exercise, sex addiction, the list is endless.

Discomfort can be the person who feels awkward in social situations so drinks to suppress that discomfort.

It can be the person who smokes a cigarette to calm their feelings of overwhelm every time they have an argument with their partner.

It can be the person who struggles to cope with the end of a relationship and spends hundreds of dollars buying things they don’t need.

So there is a lot of discomfort in this world. Today I am talking about the discomfort that you feel uncomfortable with and leads you to shut yourself or others down when that discomfort is present.

DISCOMFORT IS YOUR ALLY

You may laugh at the idea that something that feels unpleasant can be an ally. But discomfort is. In order to grow and learn you have to be uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to do something you have never done before. It challenges your competence as you do something that you may not be good at. As you struggle to complete a new task. There is a risk of failure and that is uncomfortable.

It is uncomfortable to learn something you never knew before. It challenges the way you understand the world, the way you understand the things you have learned. Now there is new information that challenges what you understand, and you have to remember it and understand it.

If you can’t sit with discomfort you will never learn anything new.

If you can’t sit with discomfort you will never try anything new.

LEARNING TO BE OKAY WITH DISCOMFORT

How do you manage discomfort?

You learn to stand and take a deep breath when you feel uncomfortable.

You learn to not run away, or rush to numb the feeling with addictive behaviour. You learn to not rush to fight or flight.

You try an experiment. You take a deep breath and allow the discomfort to be there.

You examine that discomfort with curiosity. And you discover that it is okay, that you can handle this.

As you sit, keeping your thinking brain on line, you are able to come up with a plan to respond to the challenge that has brough the discomfort to you. You learn how to act.
You may not get it “right” first time, according to what you think you should do. But you will survive the discomfort. And in time you will learn that you can survive discomfort. And you will grow and learn. As you grow and learn you will come to welcome discomfort for the gifts of learning it brings.

CAN I HELP?

I have touched very lightly on discomfort. For many people discomfort is something they can learn to be okay with. But for others it is not that easy.

If you have had really difficult things happen in your past and you have not had the help you needed to process those things then discomfort can feel life threatening.

If you have been in that situation then seeing a counsellor who specialises in processing those past difficulties is helpful. You can make sense of what happened and understand it better. This can allow you to heal the pain of that event/s.

With the assistance of a counsellor, you can learn to sit with discomfort and allow yourself to be okay with the feelings. To know it is safe to feel discomfort.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning to be okay with discomfort, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Mindful Walking: A Powerful Practice for Reducing Stress and Promoting Mental Wellness

I live near the Coral Sea on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. When I long for the energising that walking on the beach brings I can hop in the car and in 15 minutes be walking along the beach. My favourite walk is to walk from one beach, around the rocky headland, and to the next beach. It is a walk that can only be done at low tide. It is also a walk over slippery rocks so walking without shoes is essential.

I start by walking along the beach, where the waves lap at my feet as if to kiss them and welcome me there. I then walk along the rocks, as close to the water as possible, walking in the zone between the high tide and low tide. In that space there are many slippery rocks. This is a perfect opportunity for mindfulness (and you might say falling flat if you are not walking carefully).

I walk bare footed, carrying my shoes. I walk gently, kissing the ground with reverence. That reverence allows me to take my time, to be slow and careful where I place my feet. I stop to place each foot carefully on the rocks, allowing my weight to shift slowly and firmly on to my foot. This grounds me on the earth and also allows my foot to grip the rock firmly and not slip. If I rush, then I slip. So it is important I take my time and place my feet carefully.

My entire focus is on placing my feet, observing what is around me, hearing and seeing the waves. This is wonderful mindful walking. If I don’t pay attention to where I am and how to place my feet, then I slip.

If you live near water, maybe you can try this. Take your time, don’t rush. The aim of the walk is to recharge your batteries. To release tension and stress, and to fill yourself with peace and calm. Doing this will help you to feel more in control of your emotions. It will fill you with peace and allow you to manage stressful situations better.

If you are nervous about going alone it is okay to bring a friend. But better to choose someone who will not talk. You need to do this quietly and with focus. Any conversation will distract you from the mindfulness required to do this walk. It is okay if you and your friend occasionally notice a wave, rock, small fish etc. and discuss it reverently. But don’t allow talk to distract you. This is why I prefer to go alone. I want to be with my thoughts and gain maximum benefit from this mindfulness practice.

You don’t have to walk for hours. Even grabbing 5 minutes to walk is helpful. Just make sure you pay attention to your surroundings, to the placement of your feet, to the sound of the water, what you can see in the water and rock pools and take your time. No rushing.

If you don’t live near the sea, maybe you live near a lake, river, creek or other body of water. It is possible to mindfully walk around these bodies of water as well. It will be different, but it can still be mindful.

If you don’t have access to water, you could try mindfully walking through a park, a woodland, a grassland. Anywhere that is nature is great for mindfulness.

Researchers have found that being in nature is very calming. Even photos of nature are more calming that photos of other things.

Even walking around your backyard, placing one foot carefully and mindfully down on the ground, then placing the next foot and so on. Can be a beneficial mindful experience.

Why not try it sometime. Regular mindfulness practice is really helpful for managing stress and, when practised regularly, can be used to manage stressful events as they are happening or directly after they have happened.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness or ways you can manage stressful situations better, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Interoception: Understanding the Importance and Benefits of Tuning Into Your Internal Sensations

Did you know:

• That research is showing that your internal body and internal organs send signals to your brain and play a major role in regulating your emotions?

• That your brain flicks in time with your heartbeat?

• That your emotions are impacted by neural activity that is impacted by your body organs?

• That memories are more likely to be remembered when you are in the body state you were in when the memory was first laid down?

• That interoception is important to keep you alive and allows you to feel pain and discomfort in your body.

• That people have different levels of interoception and trauma, either in childhood or adulthood, can reduce interoception.

WHAT LEVEL OF INTEROCEPTION DO YOU HAVE?

One test is to sit comfortably in a chair. Somewhere where you feel safe.
• Close your eyes.

• Place your attention in your heart.

• Can you feel it beating in your chest?

• If so, can you count your heart beats without having to find your pulse and count with your finger?

If you can feel your heart, then you have good interoception.

Interoception is not well known. Most of the emphasis in life is on what we think, not on what we feel in our bodies.

But interoception is a vital skill for your wellbeing.

Did you know that research has indicated that how well you can feel the signals from your body determines how well you regulate your emotions. If you can regulate your emotions well then you are less likely to experience anxiety and depression.

If you can read what your body is feeling, then you can be better able to protect yourself from mental health issues, regulate your emotions, and resolve conflicts.

WHAT IS INTEROCEPTION?

Interoception is the signals, expressed in sensations, that you receive from your body. This includes sensations sent from your internal organs such as your heart, lungs, bowel, bladder and so on.

These sensations are constantly being sent to our brains, where they are read by the brain. The brain makes the decision whether we need to be consciously aware of any of these sensations.

Have you ever heard someone say they felt something in their body wasn’t quite right then found out they had a medical issue with a particular body organ? This is an example of interoception where signals from an organ indicating a problem were sent to the brain and the brain sent messages to your conscious brain that there was something wrong.

When you feel something is wrong but can’t quite explain that feeling, this is interoception at work.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOTICING BODY SENSATIONS AND UNDERSTANDING THEM

Most people’s brains are able to feel what is in their bodies, but they may not know how to interpret what they are feeling. They may not understand the link between what their body is feeling and the event that led them to develop that reaction in their brain.

Some people are totally cut off from the understanding of those sensations and may not even be aware they are feeling anything in their body unless they are taught to pay attention to those sensations. This is seen often in people who are depressed. They cannot feel their bodies and they feel numb.

Similarly, people who have suffered trauma, especially childhood trauma, often have difficulty feeling body sensations.

POOR INTEROCEPTION CAN LEAD TO ANXIETY

Other people are aware of these sensations but cannot understand what they mean. These types of people are more likely to report feeling anxious. They need to learn to connect these sensations with their conscious brains.

People who report feeling numb and separate from their body have been found to have poor interoceptive awareness. They struggle to notice what they are feeling.

Autistic people often struggle with interoception because they often struggle with Alexithymia (see previous blog on this). This is why many autistic adults suffer from anxiety.

INTEROCEPTION AND YOUR SENSE OF SELF

Interoception is the foundation of your sense of self.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE INTEROCEPTION

Mindfulness is one approach that has been found to increase people’s ability to tune into their internal sensations.

Exercise has also been shown to help with interoception, especially certain exercises. For people with trauma histories, the feeling of the heart racing is threatening as it can trigger the fear of a trauma response. Exercising and getting used to the heart racing, and learning how to be comfortable with that can help with the feeling of threat. Exercise will also allow you to use mindfulness to allow you to learn to read the signals your exercising body is giving out.

Interestingly strength training has been shown to reduce anxiety. It is thought that training the muscles changes the signals the brain receives from the muscles as they become stronger and better able to deal with heavy use.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

It is helpful to seek professional help with difficulties with interoception. A trauma trained counsellor can help you resolve any underlying issues and learn how to feel safe in your body. Once you feel safein your body then you can learn interoception.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your interoception, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz