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What “Self-Care” Needs to Be in Today’s World

“Perhaps the reason you don’t know it’s trauma is because it has felt normal for so long”

Mental health has been a big topic of conversation lately, especially after the stressful, traumatic, and emotional past few years that many have had.

I’ve had a history with a lot of anxiety. Panic attacks, full-body blushing, and a massive amount of nerves, overthinking, and over-planning…even for little things like driving to a place I’d never been, or sharing a “fun fact” as an ice-breaker.

I’d been told for along time, by many sources, that there was nothing to worry about. That I was over-reacting. That, ultimately, I’d be stronger by finding a way to do it anyway.

Some of that was okay advice, and some was very harmful. And, ultimately, all essentially dismissed how I was feeling.

I’ve seen this from a lot of people with anxiety. In one way or another, everyone seems taught to “figure it out” alone, and not burden others.

So, you march on, usually not telling anyone else what you’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

And, it becomes your “normal”.

Normal to replay moments in your head and beat yourself up about not being perfect.

Normal to plan for scenario A-Z that could, maybe, possibly happen, and you might need to be prepared.

Normal to basically NEED success so you can feel “on top of it” and good enough to function.

“Normal” to feel tension in your body, tightness in your jaw, have digestion issues, skin issues, hormone fluctuations…

And then, normal to have the crashes of exhaustion. When things don’t go according to plan or meet your own high expectations. Feeling your body start to go a bit numb, as it feels overwhelmed and a bit helpless.

Yet, ALL of this can happen in a week where everyone else thinks you’re fine.

I never resonated with the word trauma, but I related with all of this. Then, as I learned about the nervous system, I realized that some things I thought were “not that bad”, or thought I’d worked through, my body had actually stored as trauma, and it was keeping me on edge.

My subconscious had been slowly focusing on control, and how I could control my environment to feel at least a little bit safe. To feel at least a little bit like things were under control, and going to be okay.

Research has shown that anything from life-threatening incidents, to chronic stress, can trigger active survival responses of fight, flight, or freeze. If your body can’t complete these cycles (for example, if the stress remains for a long period of time, or your body wants to walk away from an emotionally distressing situation but you’re forced to endure it) the incomplete cycle can cause sensations to become trapped in your nervous system.

Our brain might know the situation has changed and it’s safe, but the body can easily revert to the state of being that kept it going. This could be hyper-alert, anxious, and on edge, or depressed, down, hopeless, and protecting itself from feeling the lack of control. For me, it was eye-opening to see how often that was happening.

This meant moving past the mind, which knew things were okay now or kept hearing that it’s “over-reacting”, and listening to the body first. Instead of talking about it and looking for a complete memory, an explanation, or a justification, understanding that traumatic experiences could be stored as body sensations. I didn’t need to know “why’ or “how”, just needed to listen and work with these sensations so they could be set free.

Working with the nervous system helped me realize how much I’d been holding. Where my body was scared. Where I was creating my own stress.

Then, starting to feel safe enough, in my nervous system, to be truly present. No longer would days feel like a blur, hard to remember. Actually feeling emotions like fun, joy, and awe for longer than a brief moment. Actually feeling strong enough to take risks, versus needing certainty or the full map right in front of me. Having the courage to use my voice and to try new things, without feeling like I was on a roller coaster of trusting and then freaking out.

Too many people are building a life, a business, a decision on a foundation that isn’t rooted. On a nervous system that is trying to keep them protected, even though the threat it’s scared about has likely long passed.

You can function this way, but there’s such freedom in knowing how to create the feeling of safety, for yourself. In knowing how to nourish your nervous system so you feel more balanced, confident, and like your true self.

Accessing motivation that comes from inspiration, versus anxiety and fear of what could happen.

Taking action based on your gut instinct and your own guidance, versus fear and over-planning around what could come.

Feeling proud from deep within yourself, versus because others said your work, choice, or words were great.

It all starts with the nervous system.

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