How the body responds to stress
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How the body responds to stress

Have you ever noticed how specific areas of your body respond to stress? Maybe it’s a quickening of the heart rate, deeper swallowing or a throbbing in the head? These responses are the result of our nervous system becoming dysregulated and going into sympathetic activation or as most of us know, the flight/fight response.

As the longest nerve in the body and the ruler of our sensory and motor functions, the Vagus nerve is inextricable from bodily responses to trauma, and is the one that needs to be engaged to regulate our system. This nerve is in charge of our digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, immune system responses and mood, just to name a few. Therefore, when we think about trauma-based approaches to therapy we also need to think about the Vagus nerve and how to re-engage it when we are experiencing a trauma response.

Some people often view the body and the mind as separate entities, but this is just not the case. When we feel certain ways or have particular experiences, our nervous system sends signals to the rest of the body and to our brain. Therefore, as the Vagus nerve in our body is linked to our brain, messages are being sent back and forth which makes it impossible for mind and body to function separately.

When someone has experienced trauma, either single incident or repeated, their nervous system will develop heightened reactions to stressful situations. Essentially this means that it is vital to approach these emotional and bodily cues through a trauma-informed lens. Otherwise, how can we understand what our bodies are telling us and recognize when we are in a survival response and ultimately, how can we then learn to take a step back, recognize we are activated and then take the best care possible of ourselves when we need to without so much judgement too.

When we are trauma-informed we can recognize the past is still present in our bodies and be hopefully less and less engulfed by it over time.

Take care!

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