How to Reset Your Nervous System After Trauma

By

Lilyan

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Published on

January 16, 2024

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Updated on

May 20, 2024

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Ari Magill

Nervous System Regulation

Everyone responds differently to highly stressful events. Some of these stressful and traumatic events include accidents, loss of loved ones, domestic violence, sexual assault, natural disasters, and even wars.

However, there’s a lot of variability in how people respond to trauma, as well as their process of healing from trauma.1 Trauma may cause short-term effects that can last for a few days or weeks or long-term effects on someone's well-being that might take even years to resolve. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the types and signs of trauma, how it affects the nervous system, and how you can restore balance.

re-origin offers a brain retraining program that helps you learn to regulate your own nervous system and resolve emotional dysregulation. To take the first step in recovery from your trauma, book a free info call today.

What is Trauma?

The American Psychology Association (APA) defines trauma as an emotional response to stressful events like terrible accidents, rape, domestic violence, natural disaster, loss of a loved one, or war.2

Types of Trauma

There are different types of trauma;3 however, this article highlights the following types of trauma:

  • Acute trauma: Trauma that results from a single stressful occurrence or traumatic event. 
  • Chronic trauma: Trauma resulting from prolonged traumatic events like child abuse, domestic violence, bullying, or sexual assault. It is also known as repetitive trauma.  
  • Complex trauma: Trauma that results from exposure to various traumatic events like domestic violence, child abuse, and losing loved ones almost simultaneously.
  • Complex developmental trauma: Trauma that occurs early in a child's life e.g. childhood trauma

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma 

While everyone may have a different trauma response, the following are some of the signs and symptoms1 that you should look out for. The moment you notice some of these signs in you, family members, loved ones, or a friend, it is advisable to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional. Remember, with the proper tools and support, it is possible to work towards healing and resetting your dysregulated nervous system.

Emotional Effects Of Trauma:2

  • Depression
  • Sadness 
  • Confusion
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Difficulties in concentrating 
  • Numbness or being on high alert all the time
  • Fear, anxiety, panic attacks
  • Denial

Physical And Psychological Effects Of Trauma

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure 
  • Digestive system problems
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart

What Is The Nervous System?

The nervous system is controlled by the brain, which is your command center. The nervous system plays a vital role in body processes like healing, movement, and automatic responses to stress.

How Does Trauma Affect The Nervous System?

The autonomic nervous system consists of the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. Chronic stress and trauma can cause dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system and affect the immune system, thus impacting overall health.4 

The activation of the body's fight or flight response occurs anytime a person encounters stressors. You can self-regulate your nervous system during stress, which helps to return it back to normal as soon as the stressor has passed, a period called the window of tolerance.5

It is normal for the nervous system to undergo a healing process after traumatic experiences, which can take approximately one month or more.6 Remember, everyone has power and control over their body, including stress hormones. Once you have decided to heal and begin practicing ways to self-regulate, your body is equipped to return to homeostasis.

Here Are 7 Ways To Reset Your Nervous System After Trauma

Traumatic experiences affect the brain and our mental health, which is why taking the necessary steps to recovery is important.4 Here are several tried and true methods that can help you reset the nervous system after trauma: 

Brain Retraining 

While undergoing the healing process after trauma, it is advisable to rewire and retrain your brain to transpose traumatic effects and replace negative thoughts and behaviors with new, empowering choices. re-origin offers a science-based brain retraining program that has helped countless individuals reset their systems and reclaim their well-being. 

  1. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) 

The healing process starts with your mindset—accepting your situation. As paradoxical as it may sound, it is actually the first step to shifting it. Whatever path you take, your chances of recovering faster require your full participation, which can only come from acceptance and a commitment to a new course of action.7 Support might come from your loved ones, friends, colleagues, psychotherapy sessions, or participating in coaching programs like re-origin.

  1. Somatic Experiencing

Somatic experiencing is an approach to somatic therapy developed by Dr. Peter Levine. It prioritizes mind and body connection while administering treatment for physical and psychological signs of various mental health issues.8 The approach is based on overcoming the freeze response and the idea that traumatic experiences can disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system, preventing someone from fully processing those experiences.

Hence, somatic experiencing is helpful when trying to reset your nervous system after trauma. It helps people notice bodily sensations resulting from mental health issues and then uses that awareness to accept and integrate those sensations. 

  1. Buteyko Breathing

This is a breathing technique created in 1952 by Dr. Konstantin Butekyo of Russia. It was used to help people develop healthy breathing habits and patterns. Since then, it has been used to treat neurological and respiratory issues.10 According to various research conducted, several people have testified that Buteyko breathing has cured their anxiety issues. 

Buteyko helps reset the dysregulated nervous system by promoting relaxation through slow and deep breathing, which also saves the body's energy by slowing the heart rate. While practicing this technique, the parasympathetic nervous system activates and calms our body's stress response, making our minds and bodies feel safe.11

  1. Practice Self-Care

It is highly recommended that you practice self-care regularly during your healing process to help you reduce stress. Always set time aside for self-care routines like taking a bath and doing other things that make you feel good.12 

  1. Movement and Exercises

Several exercises and physical body movements have been demonstrated to improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Through the release of endorphins and other processes, exercise has been widely accepted as something that can help people heal and improve both their mental and physical health. 

  1. Anti-inflammatory Foods

It is also worth adding foods that reduce cortisol, the stress hormone in your body, to your diet. Some anti-inflammatory diets high in omega-3 fatty acids11 are avocados, oysters, mackerel, sweet potatoes, bananas, broccoli, melon, or spinach. 

Reset Your Nervous System With re-origin

In conclusion, resetting your nervous system after trauma is a crucial step toward healing and recovery. It can be a challenging process, but with the right nervous system regulation techniques and support, it is possible to overcome the debilitating effects of trauma. Additionally, brain retraining techniques such as those found in the re-origin program can be powerful tools to help rewire your brain and restore your sense of safety and well-being. 

By committing to the process of resetting your nervous system and exploring the benefits of brain retraining, you can take control of your life and reclaim your sense of agency and vitality. Remember, healing from trauma is a journey, but with patience, self-compassion, and persistence, it is possible to restore balance and achieve lasting transformation and renewal. Book an info call today to get started.

References

  1. Brooks, S., Amlot, R., Rubin, G. J., & Greenberg, N. (2020). Psychological resilience and post-traumatic growth in disaster-exposed organisations: overview of the literature. BMJ Mil Health, 166(1), 52-56.
  2. Kleber RJ. Trauma and public mental health: A focused review. Frontiers in psychiatry. 2019 Jun 25;10:451
  3. Sangalang, C. C., Becerra, D., Mitchell, F. M., Lechuga-Peña, S., Lopez, K., & Kim, I. (2019). Trauma, post-migration stress, and mental health: A comparative analysis of refugees and immigrants in the United States. Journal of immigrant and minority health, 21, 909-919.
  4. Kipnis, J. (2016). Multifaceted interactions between adaptive immunity and the central nervous system. Science, 353(6301), 766-771.
  5. Corrigan FM, Fisher JJ, Nutt DJ. Autonomic dysregulation and the window of tolerance model of the effects of complex emotional trauma. Journal of psychopharmacology. 2011 Jan;25(1):17-25
  6. Gersons BP, Olff M. Coping with the aftermath of trauma. BMJ. 2005 May 5;330(7499):1038-9
  7. Bordieri MJ. Acceptance: A research overview and application of this core ACT process in ABA. Behavior Analysis in Practice. 2022 Mar;15(1):90-103
  8. Brom D, Stokar Y, Lawi C, Nuriel‐Porat V, Ziv Y, Lerner K, Ross G. Somatic experiencing for posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized controlled outcome study. Journal of traumatic stress. 2017 Jun;30(3):304-12.
  9. Winblad NE, Changaris M, Stein PK. Effect of somatic experiencing resiliency-based trauma treatment training on quality of life and psychological health as potential markers of resilience in treating professionals. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2018 Feb 16;12:70
  10. Kang ES, Yook JS, Ha MS. Breathing Exercises for Improving Cognitive Function in Patients with Stroke. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2022 May 20;11(10):2888
  11. Krucoff, M. O., Rahimpour, S., Slutzky, M. W., Edgerton, V. R., & Turner, D. A. (2016). Enhancing nervous system recovery through neurobiologics, neural interface training, and neurorehabilitation. Frontiers in neuroscience, 10, 584.
  12. Mintzer J, Donovan KA, Kindy AZ, Lock SL, Chura LR, Barracca N. Lifestyle choices and brain health. Frontiers in medicine. 2019 Oct 4;6:204.

By

Lilyan

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