Recently I had the privilege of working with a client who had a traumatic experience which lead to anxiety attacks, which were experienced every time that he faced some form of confrontation.
Trauma can often lead to panic/anxiety attacks because the brain goes into survival mode. Survival mode happens when we are faced with situations where we feel threatened and unable to cope. Our brain will send out hormones to our blood stream such as cortisol and adrenalin telling our bodies to prepare to either fight the threat, or to run from the threat(Flight), or to freeze and play dead. All these are our survival instincts, and depending on who we are, we will adopt one of these strategies to survive.
However, each time we encounter an event or feeling that then makes us feel threatened our brain will immediately relate to the traumatic experience and instruct our bodies to go into survival mode.
When we are in survival mode, our digestive system will shut down, hence why we often will feel sick. We may feel tingling in our fingers or hands, and feel shaky all over, our heart may beat faster and harder and our breathing becomes shallow. All this is preparation for our bodies to do what they must to survive as our blood is directed to the main muscles needed to either fight, to take flight or to freeze.
My client was having severe anxiety attacks and they were making him feel confused and out of control. Within 3 sessions my client had managed to turn his life around, by understanding and adopting the strategies provided to help him.
This was his feedback:
With my mental health I had a lot I had ignored for many years, and coming here to these sessions, solved so much for me within weeks. It has given me a much healthier mindset and outlook on myself, which I am very grateful for.
Recently I was working with a client who was suffering with anxiety in many aspects of her life. There was past life trauma which she had worked with, but was still impacting her.
Whilst we explored the clients life and started to unravel aspects to it, it became apparent that a lot of the anxiety surrounded old belief systems that the client had grown up with. some of her beliefs were outcomes of her past trauma and this impacted the way that she thought about life, and how she looked at problems.
Luckily we were able to work through some of these thought patterns and help the client to see things differently. Our work was completed and the client able to move forward, implementing new strategies and means to work through life challenges with a new perspective.
My client kindly forwarded a testimonial of our work together and has given me permission to share it with you:
“From our very first appt, Satya has challenged my thought processes and gave me strategies in order to try and change my way of thinking. By introducing those strategies, I have been able to recognise, reflect and implement change, which has led to my anxiety drastically dropping.
Satya goes at your own pace and is flexible in terms of when appts take place. Her calming manner helps you to relax which in turn helps you to open up your mind and allows her to recognise what work need to be done. Really enjoyed our sessions and the strategies and work she has done will help me get through if I was ever to be in that situation again. Thanks for your support.”
“And once the storm is over You won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, that the storm is over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm is all about.” taken from ‘Kafka on the Shore’, by Haruki Murakami
The strange times that we find ourselves in, during lockdown may feel like time has stood still, each day blending into the other and things beginning to feel stagnant and immobile. The virus may feel as though it has taken control of our lives and all things, we thought we had control over, away from us. This feeling of having no control of our circumstances can be terrifying and give rise to despair, anxiety, and panic.
In moments like this it is difficult to practice mindfulness and using breathing techniques. However, if we remember that we do have control over our minds and bodies, and practice some of that control, by focussing on our breathing we are already starting to tell our brains that we are going to be OK. The way to do this is easy.
The first step is to just concentrate on the breath as it comes into our bodies through our nostrils and leaves our bodies in the same way. The next step is to engage the left hemisphere of our brain by counting the breathes into our bodies from 1 to 7 and, then very gently counting the breathes out of our bodies up to 11. Just by doing this very simple technique can help us to begin to feel OK.
How does this work?
The technique of focussing on our breath initially is the distraction from the negative thinking. The use of numbers for counting enables the use of our left cognitive hemisphere of our brain. This allows us to think logically and put things into perspective. The two together help to anchor us back into the present moment. Once we are in the present moment it is important to keep things in perspective.
Any form of change can be difficult, the old pair of slippers are always difficult to throw out, but sometimes it is necessary, and we must accept that a new pair will have to be used. We have had to try and master change from the day we were born! Imagine how many adjustments to our lives we have had to make up to this point. So, change is not alien to us, but it is uncomfortable. Accepting that things are uncomfortable as we are learning new ways of being, can ease some of the anxiety. What ever we are experiencing at this moment does not mean that we have lost control of our lives, but that we are adapting to a new world, a new way of being and once we master it, things will seem better and manageable.
I came across the above poem and it resonated with me as I thought of the present circumstances, we are all facing. The poem for me is saying that with change we are becoming stronger, making us different to who we were yesterday. With this strength we are adapting to the different life changes we are having to continuously make each day. Change is happening all the time. We are becoming stronger all the time.
Understanding the trauma of Covid 19 on its victims
Covid 19 has presented many challenges to all of us. However, for some of us it has been a heart wrenching time when we have found that loved ones have fallen ill with this virus. The media coverage directs our first thoughts to the worst-case scenario, death, and not recovery. However, that is not the only possible outcome- not everyone dies, some people recover quite rapidly depending on their physical and emotional well-being. Many of you will understand the physical aspect of being able to recover from the virus but many will question the validity of the emotional impact or its importance.
From a personal perspective, the emotional impact is huge.
The discovery that a loved one having the virus is not only heart wrenching,
but it immediately leaves you overwhelmed with fear for losing them. The fear seems
to wash over you, zapping all of your energy, and if you are aware of your body
and how it reacts, you would notice that the fear penetrates every part of your
body from the pit of your gut to your limbs. The feeling of stress and anxiety
and hopelessness weighs heavy on your shoulders, immobilising you into
Once you recognise that you are immersed in this trauma
induced inactivity that you have a decision to make: one of staying in the trauma
state and doing nothing or getting up and doing something useful. Perhaps of contacting
the loved one, perhaps arranging to help with shopping, or having a friendly
chat, giving encouragement, and laughter. For those of you who believe in the
greater power offering prayers.
What just happened here?
Put simply I found myself in apposition where I was
presented with such a terrifying experience, which activated that age-old
survival instinct of flight, fight, or freeze that we are all prone to. I
wondered if I felt such acute fear hearing about their situation, what might it
be like for them as the victim of the virus? What must they have felt when they
I can only imagine that it must have been similar. They
would feel the impact of fear and anxiety and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.
Perhaps they would wonder at their life and all the things that they wished to
do and the people that they wished to see and speak to. Maybe there are things
they feel need to be ‘said’. A wonder if they can make it through. The fear
immobilising them too.
Interestingly I was recently listening to Dr Bruce Lipton who
reminded me of my training days and the impact of the survival response on our
bodies. I thought Dr Lipton’s explanation more scientifically helpful.
When we receive shocking news, our brain sends out a signal
to the rest of our body telling it we are in danger. Generally, the brain
perceives stress, worry, anxiety and trauma all as dangerous and signals our body
to shut down all unnecessary actions in order to conserve energy to face this
danger (the shocking news). So, the heart starts pumping blood away from our
skin and digestive organs into our muscles because our survival response will
be either to run from the danger(flight), challenge the danger (fight), or to
play dead (freeze).
The flight fight freeze reaction is designed for action and
survival. For someone suffering from the virus this initial response has limited
the ability of the immune system to fight the virus and stop it spreading. In the
longer term it could be counterproductive and inhibits their recovery, simply
because the immune system is jeopardised as the brain is sending all the body’s
resources to the muscles. So, the immune system being already stretched is
further strained and struggling to fight the virus. I guess when things settle
down a little, then the body would begin to respond with supporting the immune system.
But somewhere emotionally some of the victims of the virus are compromised and
may suffer trauma in terms of panic attacks or flash back. As for those of us who
simply hear of the loved one contracting the virus, we also suffer trauma, and while
activity and realistic perspectives can help mute the response, it may well be
that the effects will continue long after the virus has disappeared, haunting us
all in some way.
It is both the initial shock and the longer-term emotional outcomes
in response to trauma and fear that can leave us suffering and in distress. Fortunately,
there are many ways of helping people recover from trauma. Using counselling approaches
such as mindfulness, CBT, Dr David Moss’s rewind technique and even the rewind
techniques adopted by Fusion and Human Givens too. EFT often can help certain
people. It is really about the right technique for each individual client. For
me, like many others, it is about recognising what is happening in our body, managing
our response to it, that can help. It is about standing back a little and
becoming aware that some of the fears surrounding the virus are unfounded and
that sometimes common sense needs to prevail. For many us, it is important to
remember that COVID19 poses no danger, and like the flu virus we can recover
quite rapidly from it. This recognition and acceptance can help keep us calm
when and if we are ever faced with the virus.
Recently I had a client who had lost her father 4 years ago. She had not really grieved for her father as she wanted to be the strong one for her mother and sister, only to find that she was becoming increasing angry and anxious that she was worried she couldn’t cope anymore. Within 6 sessions of therapy my client was able to move forward in her life, finally accepting her fathers death and overcoming her anxiety attacks. She shared a poem that she had written about her father below and sent me a testimonial of our work together.
The remnants of a Trinny accent that lingered in your voice Vanilla Ice cream was always your favourite food of choice The silly songs you sang to cheer me up when I was blue How you exploded with earth-shaking sneezes each time you had the flu
Trying to keep up with you in the supermarket as you raced off with each long leg Your noisy, animated conversations while on the phone to Greg Every Sabbath morning listening to you singing falsetto in the shower How you loved to talk all things maths for hour upon hour
You had a special type of humour that only dads can seem to master Telling jokes that used to send yourself into peals of laughter The undisputed best scrambled egg maker in the nation Your potato salad and macaroni cheese were my culinary inspiration
A Gadget Man way before Stephen Fry – techno problems you never had Without you Brother Gibbs would not have learned to use his infamous I-pad A mathematical genius- the best I know by far Even though I could done without the maths quizzes in the car
Through the successes and the failures you were always by my side. You videotaped my graduation with such happiness and pride, You were my own personal tutor who never failed to help me through And each future milestone I hope to conquer I’ll do in memory of you.
Each and every moment I will treasure with all my heart As life has been so very cruel to tear us far apart When I feel your loss I can’t help but shed a tear As it hurts to lose someone you love who was once so near
But I have a blessed hope and I today I testify, That soon you will awaken as Christ Jesus bursts through the sky. You’re the first face I will look for as I cross that glassy sea And we can spend always together with Him for all eternity
So this tribute is not to say goodbye but to say I’ll see you soon Although to lose you so early was inopportune Knowing we’ll meet again makes my heart so glad To others you were Neil… but to me you were simply… Dad.
“Before I had counselling sessions with Satya, I had been struggling for over four years. 3 family members had passed away, including my father, and I was finding it difficult to cope with my grief and increasing levels of anxiety.
Satya was so helpful from the very started. Recognising my urgency for support, she booked me in for an appointment the day after I first called.
Before working with Satya I contacted other bereavement services – but they felt impersonal. However, my sessions with Satya were different. She listened and remembered, which made me feel like my grief was acknowledged and that I was recognised as an individual.
I especially loved the way that Satya incorporated my faith into my sessions (as it is a really important part of my life). This again helped to make the sessions feel more personal.
The help and support I received from Satya has been invaluable. The coping mechanisms and techniques she shared have helped me in all aspects of my life and have significantly reduced my anxiety.
Thanks Satya! “
Illustration by http://cargocollective.com/tonyparkash
The world has become crazy about mental health. In fact since the Royals raised awareness of mental health issues last year, it is quite the buzz word on everyone’s lips.
So what does mental health mean to many of us?
For my part I believe for many of us it is the impact of our emotional well being on our mind and our physical health, because some of our emotional needs are not being met. (Human Givens)
You may ask what these needs are and how they could affect us? Well unmet emotional needs can cause a whole conundrum of problems within us making us feel as though we can’t cope leading us to feel anxious and stressed making us physically exhausted, irritable and angry. We may be bullied which leads us to have low self esteem and lack confidence. Loss whether it is a broken relationship or death can leave people devastated with pain, fear and a host of insecurities shackling them down in that dark place. Confusions and having no direction in life can bring about its own problems too, raising feelings of inadequacy, demotivating us. Many of these problems can make us become isolated and depressed and change itself can become scary and difficult to deal with causing resistance, upset and the list goes on and on…..
Counselling and coaching fused together can help people to work through their problems helping them to move forward with reachable personalised goals and targets.