We can change the way we cope with stress, both physiologically and psychologically: the physical conditioning that results from regular exercise will lower blood pressure and resting heart rate and increase lung capacity; counselling can change our behaviour and our cholesterol profile, the risk of heart attack and dying. The workings of the stress response can change over time as we grow, learn, adapt, get bored, develop a hobby, drift apart, mature, harden, forget. The key issues are:
- Control – the belief that we have control over a situation is even more important than exercising that control
- Predictability – tells us there is bad news but comforts us that it’s not going to get worse and helps us to work out what internal coping strategy is likely to work best
- Social support – both receiving and giving: encouragement, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, an ear to listen
- Outlets for frustration – something that distracts us from a stressor and reminds us that there’s more to life than whatever is making us stressed
- A perception of things improving – a perception that things are getting better helps tremendously as it’s not just our external reality, but the meaning we attach to it that’s important
So, coping with stress needs to be about: developing feelings of at least some degree of control; viewing bad situations as individual events rather than permanent or inescapable; finding appropriate outlets for frustration; seeking and giving social support and comfort; discovering the perception that things are improving.
To regain control over yourself when you’ve been traumatised, you need to revisit the associated traumatic emotions and sensations. Confronting what has happened to you can only be successfully experienced when you feel safe and will not be re-traumatised by it. First, it’s important to find ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed by the sensations and emotions associated with the past. Recovery from trauma involves the restoration of self-confidence and the capacity for playfulness and creativity.
I introduce my clients to many of the activities listed on my Resources page, some of which we will experiment with in therapy, others I may suggest they explore outside therapy. All these activities can assist you with coping with stress and feeling overwhelmed by traumatic emotions and sensations, helping you to get “unstuck” and find your way through to the life you’re looking for.
I offer a free initial telephone conversation, giving you as much time and space as you need to consider whether you’d like to come and meet me.