Collective trauma is prevalent today. Many of us across America spent months home recently under a quarantine to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 .We spent months not being able to freely socialize with our friends and our family, for fear of putting their lives, or our own lives at risk. We have lived with our college age children again, spent more time than ever with our younger distance learners and children who traditionally attend daycares. Our household dynamics have changed dramatically for many people.
Changes and stressors due to COVID-19 have included:
Encouragement by local and state officials to stay at home as much as possible
Ordering many of our groceries and household supplies online
We’ve been told by employers to work at home indefinitely
Loss of income
We have felt confined, lost, burdened, fearful, uncertain, and even on the flip side maybe some have felt relief or joy. We have experienced a cornucopia of emotions in the past few months.
We have also bore witness to the events across the United States that have opened more people's eyes to the reality of the systemic racial disparities and inequities that are present in our country, and our own communities. We are living in a time that will forever be etched in our memories. It will be written down for the history books, movies, documentaries, journals, and news articles for years to come. 2020 makes no sense to us. 2020 has been a year of excruciating pain and collective trauma.
Trauma not only impacts us as individuals, but also as a community. It’s nearly impossible for one individual to hold tight to their trauma and not let it directly, or indirectly, affect others as they walk down the path of life.
Trauma lives in the body. Our body holds on tight to it. Even when we feel like it’s not a part of us, it is. Until we move it out. We need to move it out so we are able to walk forward in life, living a life of compassion, joy, and love. Living a life that we design. But, how do we move that trauma?
We begin with one breath, and then another, and then another. Breathing deep down into the belly. When we practice breathing deep our body responds and the vagus nerve is activated. This is important because the vagus nerve is what draws our bodies out of fight or flight mode and brings us back to a state where we can manage our stressors more effectively.
Fight or flight mode is activated by the amygdala, It is an almond shaped structure within the brain. A cluster of neurons. It helps us discern whether something is safe or not. Sometimes though, it activates too often and causes issues for our bodies. When we go into fight or flight mode it releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which help our bodies “fend off” the perceived, or real, threat. This is very helpful for sure. But, if we stay in this state for too long it may cause long-term stressful issues for our bodies, like increased inflammation, which has been known to cause mental health concerns, chronic disease, heart disease, and more. These issues can be difficult to manage so it’s important that we find modalities that support our overall health and well being.
This brings us back to the breath. Something as simple as practicing breathing techniques each day can help our bodies function more efficiently. We invite you to watch the breathing exercise video by Sarah Dutton and practice along. Notice how you feel.
It’s important to understand that our bodies are ridiculously intelligent and they know how to take care of us, if we let them. One breath at a time.
Written by: Sarah Dutton