Rachel Graham

Do the Japanese have it all figured out? Is their concept of ikigai the secret, with Gratitude being the key to helping you identify your life’s purpose? 

While visiting Japan a couple of years ago. I met “Bob” the taxi driver. He left a lasting imprint on my heart. You never know the power you have on others just by exuding positive vibes and gratitude for that person. Go out today and share your positive mojo! Life is too short to be negative!

Bob

Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living. How do you live in the philosophy of ikigai? Gratitude might just be the key. Ikigai is living out our passions, focusing talents on a certain purpose, or working towards a personal mission. Living with a sense of gratitude is being aware of often overlooked and taken for granted are the gifts and opportunities afforded to us, which is called gratitude. Gratitude is the deep appreciation for something or someone that has helped you. It is the quality of being thankful and producing an innate feeling to somehow return the favor or pay it forward in one way or another. For the most part, you feel gratitude when you perceive a value in something, be it an object, person, or service; It can be something abstract like a relationship, support, and love. Gratitude is understandably an important component of your ikigai.

“Gratitude is the simple, scientifically proven way to increase happiness and encourage greater joy, love, peace, and optimism into our lives.” – Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

Through thankfulness, a sense of well-being grows within and from this inner well-being, everlasting and meaningful relationships can develop. Gratitude reinforces positive perspectives that lead to an overall enjoyable and happy life. Gratitude is optimistic in nature and with that optimism comes better decision-making. What can we do to further the appreciation of life’s little joys? Although there are several techniques you can use to identify the good in life, it all starts with the practice of mindfulness, which is also a familiar practice of ikigai.

Being mindful simply means that you focus your time and energy on the present, and how the moment might be influencing you. With regular practice, you will be more attuned to your feelings and how they are affected by your surroundings. Ways you might practice gaining gratitude and appreciation-

  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Consider and honor your accomplishments 
  • Meet challenges head-on without trying to avoid them
  • Appreciate the differences in the people, places, and things around us
  • Find the positives in everything, even conflict
  • Work on building your communication skills, with empathy instead of judgment
  • Share the positive impact your family and friends have had on your life, use specific examples
  • Say thank you early and often

Living a life in gratitude creates a habitual practice of authentically expressing yourself. Be it your coworkers, customers, or the clerk at the supermarket, showing appreciation can brighten someone’s day. Most important of all is to show gratitude to yourself and enjoy the little things in life. 

Find beauty in each day, being grateful for the little things life has to offer you can make a big difference! My life’s purpose is to help others find theirs. Many times, we lose sight of the importance of life for whatever reason. Discovering you’re meaning and purpose in life is essential for leading your best life.

 

Journaling helps to create a safe space to grow and evolve – and writing helps to awaken oneself.

Learn How Journaling Can Help You Become Calm, Self-aware, Mindful, and Resilient.

How the practice of journaling may benefit you in some, or all of these ways.

  • The act of journaling stimulates and expands your creative output and provides the permission and space to sit in the calm and quiet of your thoughts long enough to place them on paper. With the rush of the world today, as we quickly move from one thing to another, journaling can serve as a time when you allow yourself that mental/mindset break needed to increase awareness and creativity.
  • With the practice of journaling, you create a dedicated time and space. Reflecting on your feelings and emotions is safe. Your journal practice allows you the opportunity to check in and face yourself, honestly and authentically every day. As a result, you’ll find greater self-awareness and self-transformation. The positive benefits of self-awareness and transformation are resilience, joy, gratitude, and positive feelings. Conversely, without awareness, people are stuck in their passionless, and passive life which can create a disconnect from oneself, causing anxiety and depression.
  • Sitting with your feelings and thoughts long enough to put them on paper, allows you to feel the entire range of emotions you might not otherwise have taken the time to process. Really honoring your feelings in this way creates a sense of inner peace and relief.
  • Our brains work overtime trying to create a new norm so that we are adaptable to our environment quickly. Writing down your accomplishments will help you remember how wonderful you are as you look back on your life.
  • By journaling daily, you set time aside for yourself because you matter enough. You take the time to put your intangible thoughts and feelings on paper, making them tangible.

Journaling serves many purposes beyond writing down feelings or what happened in your day. Five purposes that journaling can serve depending on where you are with regard to your energy needs.

  • Journaling is a useful way to track your progress and goals
  • Journaling helps you track and grade your progress
  • Journaling also serves as a way to record one’s life by recording daily happenings and how one felt about them
  • Journaling can serve as a therapeutic tool, helping to process and heal your feelings
  • Journaling can create awareness around your wins, making it easier to identify and celebrate your accomplishments

Do you think about taking up the practice of journaling, but you don’t know where to start? Some people use digital voice recording for their journaling activity, but studies show there is a benefit to the act of journaling with a pen. The act of writing helps one to process feelings and information better. Handwriting your thoughts and feelings is a slower process, allowing your brain to fully feel and process those emotions.

What journaling method works best for you? If you think typing will get you started and stay consistent, then type, and if handwriting feels better because it allows you the time and space to focus on your feelings, then do that. Either way, is easier than you might think, try it, it really can be life-changing. Rachel Graham’s journey has also included journaling, and learn more about her life-changing journey by contacting her for more information on how you can achieve your life’s goals and purpose.

Your daily yoga practice builds a strong mind, body, and spirit, leading you towards becoming your best self and to the discovery of your life’s purpose

Can your yoga practice help you find yourself? Those who practice yoga faithfully, claim that their practice, not only helps them find themselves, but also helps to identify their life’s purpose.

The practice of yoga is an art of living, and its origins can be traced back to northern India over 5,000 years ago. Yoga is amongst the six schools of philosophy in Hinduism and is also a major part of Buddhism. Within yoga, and its meditation practices, are long, documented records of how yoga provides peace and resolve for many.

The common thread of suffering is the belief that there is a lack of something. Suffering is caused by the lack of a solution to whatever problem is at hand. Some examples of the lack you may be feeling in your life might be:

  • The lack of money
  • The lack of food or water
  • The lack of good health

Yoga trains your mind and body for logical thinking in a variety of critical situations. A trained, conditioned, and prepared mind and body provide the training for most of us to handle whatever challenges life offers. The ability to react to problems, with solutions, will also assist in finding that a problem could be the gateway to a better life. How is that possible?

There are times in life when years fly by, and life feels stable. There are also times of instability when our family life or job might be in jeopardy. It is in times like these that a yoga practice can create a state of self-realization, where you know your worth in all aspects of your life including your family and your job. Knowing your worth allows you to see clearly, each situation and find a logical solution to whatever problem presents itself.

 Through yoga and meditation work, you can tune in and focus on your thoughts, dreams, and desires. Through this practice, you learn that every thought starts with the energy to think it.  You learn to focus your attention on the energy of thought, nurturing that energy into your reality.

Your yoga practice brings an awareness of the immense power and energy of a thought, a plan, and an action.  You will make mistakes along the way and those mistakes can become the foundation of your success.  Practicing the principles of yoga in your daily life creates a better world for you and those around you. In this better world is where you will find yourself and your purpose in life. 

According to the yoga philosophy, the purpose of life is self-realization and unity.  Through yoga practice, you work on being the best person you can be, in all aspects of your life.  Yoga is about looking inside yourself to understand your mind.  One technique you might use to become more aware of your mind and thoughts is to keep a spiritual diary.  A spiritual diary is different from a regular diary in that you focus on the same question each day as a way to fully understand and improve yourself day after day.

These questions might include things like:

  • What form of yoga practice did I do today?
  • How much quiet time did I set aside for personal reflection?
  • How much Karma yoga did you practice during the day and how did that practice make you feel?
  • How do your relationships feel each day?  Did you help those with that you have a relationship without ego or attachment?  Did you feel love for them?

The practice of taking daily inventory trains your mind to focus and be aware of your feelings, your impact on others, and the impact of others on your daily life. Rachel Graham talks about her focus and awareness of her impact on others, which is how she discovered her life’s purpose.  Contact Rachel today to learn more about how to discover your life’s purpose.

Workplace burnout: How can you recognize and manage the stress and does finding and following your life’s purpose help to combat it?

Burn-out comes from chronic workplace stress that isn’t successfully managed and usually accompanies these elements:

  • Feeling exhausted or depleted of energy
  • Feeling negatively distant from your job
  • Reduced productivity

Burnout is a break between a person’s life’s purpose and what they feel they have to do. Burnout usually presents itself as emotional exhaustion or losing your sense of self which makes a considerable impact in life.

The effect and impact of workplace burnout are widespread. From an increased workload to a perceived lack of control, and job insecurity leads to high turnover, reduced productivity, and poor mental health.

When an employee feels stressed, for an extended period of time, they experience mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. There are many early predictors, indicators, and manifestations of workplace burnout and stress some of which might be:

  • A perceived lack of control based on conflicting role responsibilities resulting in pressure from many, often incompatible and competing demands
  • A lack of work performance recognition results in the worker feeling devalued
  • Lack of management and team support 
  • Feelings of unfair and inequitable work
  • Incongruence between environment and relationship
  • Excessive job demands and feeling that work is unfair
  • Working harder and longer to absorb the company

The early signs of work burnout can be recognized by the following feelings, physical ailments, and thought patterns:

  • Feeling tired, irritable, distracted, inadequate, and incompetent
  • Physical ailments such as muscle aches, body and head pain, reduced appetite, and weight loss or gain
  • Feeling emotionally trapped, hopeless, and depressed
  • Poor concentration, disorganized thinking, and indecisiveness

How does the workplace stress and burnout manifest themselves?

  • Persistent tardiness and absenteeism
  • Diminished output, aspirations, and commitment
  • Increased pessimism and apathy
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Substance abuse issues

[SPACING OFF]

Satisfaction and work-life balance in the workplace is recognized through these employee sentiments:

  • Work satisfaction
  • Organizational respect
  • Employer care
  • Work-life integration

Balancing all four factors is essential to overall employee wellbeing and satisfaction, reducing the probability of burnout. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of burnout, focus on the following actions which you can do on your own. Actions you for work-life balance include-

  • A workload that is planned and shared
  • Task and workload delegation
  • Healthy boundaries

The following is a list of what is needed for you to manage work stress and burnout-

  • Control of resources can impact your sense of purpose and autonomy
  • Invest time and energy in your work relationships, creating a positive team, and working on common goals
  • Feeling recognized and valued for your work contributions
  • Alignment in personal and employer values
  • The balance between high pressure and less complex tasks
  • Physical and emotional breaks contribute to resetting and regaining focus

There are ways to fight for purpose while you are living your life and taking care of your responsibilities. 

  • Stay focused on what matters to you
  • Focus on facts instead of the fears that float around in your head
  • Experience your feelings instead of pushing them down and ignoring them
  • Failures how you are trying, don’t be too hard on yourself about them

Your sense of purpose is the single most crucial factor in your life’s success. It defines what success means for you and describes your role in making your vision a reality. Read how Rachel Graham turned her life around by leaning into her life’s purpose.

The good, the bad, and the ugly – what  you need to know about prescription medications

Living in the 21st century we are used to the many prescription medications that have afforded us drugs for among many things like maintenance and a cure. Without prescription medications, many people would be dying from the disease. Other prescription drugs make a smaller impact by alleviating daily ailments like the flu or a cough.

There are many benefits of prescription drugs, but they also have a dark side, which aids in societies suffering. Our society suffers from a serious misuse and dependency on prescription drugs.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of prescription drugs?

The benefits? Prescription drugs are used to stimulate and mimic a well-functioning body, and as a result, many people live a higher quality of life and without them, the risk might be as lethal as death. Prescription drugs provide solutions for life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some types of cancer.

Not all drugs are used to treat serious illnesses. Some treat small ailments from time to time with remarkable success. Antibiotics for infections, flu medication, and prescription cough medicine are used only while the patient is sick. Some prescription drugs cure the ailment; some make it easier to live with so that the patient can endure the sickness. Prescription drugs make life easier when dealing with a short-term illness.

The drawbacks? Some people use prescription medications that are intended for others, for longer than intended, which is unsafe and ill-advised. Narcotic drugs prescribed for pain and insomnia are especially addictive. Dosages, length of time on the drug, and the type of drug are all contributors to whether someone becomes addicted or not. 

Prescription drugs are subject to misuse. Once the prescription has been written and filled, it’s out of the doctor’s hands. Teens and adults take prescription drugs that were not intended for them in an effort to feel some of the side effects. Having these drugs in the home means easy access for pill-sharing among friends. This can cause severe injury and even death from misuse or overdose.

There is a time and a place for prescription drugs. When taken properly, they can enhance the quality of life and make ailments easier to deal with. Misusing prescription drugs, however, is a severe problem in our society. The is an accepted general attitude that if a doctor prescribes the medication, it must be safe for anyone to ingest it. Prescription drug usage should be carefully monitored by health care providers, and when in the home should be secured without easy access.

If you or your loved one has or has had an issue with the misuse of prescription drugs, you are not alone. Many times, individuals who struggle with addiction lose sight of the importance of their life;  rediscovering you’re meaning and purpose in life is essential for your adventure back into the world of a healthy lifestyle. Contact Rachel Graham to hear her story and how she turned her tragedy into triumph. 

Are you on the Edge of Emotional Incest? Do you recognize the signs of this abuse in yourself or others?

Emotional Incest: Learn about it, how to recognize the signs of this abuse in yourself or others, and steps to take to heal from it.

Though not sexual, emotional incest is as harmful and leaves just as many long-lasting, detrimental effects on the abused. Emotional incest occurs when unhealthy emotional interactions cause inappropriate and blurred boundaries between an adult and child in a psychologically inappropriate way. When a parent looks to their child for emotional support or treats them more like a partner than a child, it’s considered emotional or “covert” incest. 

Emotional incest creates a huge burden for a child, often making them feel guilty for leaving the parent to do things that normal kids do, like engaging in extracurricular school activities. A child suffering from emotional incest isn’t able to form happy or healthy relationships; they are too used to the emotional manipulation of being made to feel responsible for fixing the upset or sadness of the parent. 

How to recognize whether you’ve suffered from emotional incest

  • Does your parent share inappropriate feelings and experiences with you?
  • Are you able to have friends and do activities outside the home and away from your parent or are you made to feel guilty for wanting to be with and do things with your friends?
  • Do you feel responsible for your parent’s emotional well-being? Are you a ‘fix it’ person, putting more emphasis on what others need than your own? 
  • Do you feel odd or uncomfortable around your parent? Does what they do or say ‘creep’ you out and make you feel uncomfortable?

Common reactions to emotional incest are troubles with maintaining appropriate boundaries, eating disorders, self-harm, relationship dissatisfaction, sexual intimacy issues, and substance use disorders. A child who grew up in an emotionally incestuous environment may have left their childhood home, but all those original issues of dysfunction don’t just magically cease to exist. Most negative effects don’t begin to manifest until adulthood. Examples of emotional incest might include:

  • Sharing adult experiences and asking children for advice. Anything from marriage issues, sexual feelings, and worries about adult problems are all topics that should be discussed with adults, not children. Inviting children into the problems of adult relationships blurs normal parent/child boundaries. 
  • Egomania. When parents require constant praise for their efforts and personality. Whether in private or in public, the child’s adoration of the incestuous parent can take over, forcing the child’s needs to take a backseat to the parent’s esteem or narcissism.
  • Best friends. Boundaries are blurred when a parent and child are ‘best friends. When a child is used as their parents’ confidante, discipline, expectations, and personal responsibility are all impacted. A child is not capable or emotionally able to handle adult situations, which negatively impacts their social and psychological development and wellbeing.

Emotional incest occurs most often when a parent is lonely, newly divorced, or with new unfamiliar responsibilities and roles. Emotional incest is a difficult concept to articulate, and it often goes unreported. When a parent becomes a best friend, it may seem like the complete opposite of emotional dysfunction and the child might even enjoy some aspects of that ‘special’ relationship. Although the child likely knows they are being treated differently, the feeling of maturity can be exhilarating. Children can also have a sense of feeling helpful and even feel powerful since they are the ones guiding their parents along an adult journey. For all of these reasons, it is difficult for a child to ask for support.

Maybe it’s not you who has suffered from emotional incest but someone you are in a relationship with. Below are five obvious signs that can help you identify whether you are dating a victim of emotional incest.

  1. You feel like you don’t know exactly who they are, something is missing, there is inauthenticity, not being vulnerable, not putting all the cards on the table.
  2. Chameleons in aspects of their life, with no firm boundaries, couldn’t be who they truly were, changing themselves depending on the ever-changing 
  3. Enmeshment with the offending parent
  4. Significant other feels responsible for perpetrating parent feelings, has to fix it and make it all better. Had to focus on the needs of the parent of the child to survive
  5. Not able to set healthy boundaries with the perpetrating parent

Whether you have personally experienced emotional abuse or can see the signs in others, below are behaviors to heal from emotional incest

  • Create and communicate boundaries around things that make you feel uncomfortable
  • Get outside support independently of your emotionally incestuous parent- to remind you every day that you are not alone
  • See a therapist or join a support group to process any unresolved issues
  • If you still live with the incestuous parent, get out by saving your money so you can remove yourself from the situation
  • Understand that it is painful and hard, but healing will be worth it
  • Be aware that you were trained to be a people pleaser, focusing on other people’s needs as more important than your own
  • You probably have a desire to be invisible. You were trained from an early age to understand that no one wanted your opinion, you were better off blending in, and not standing out. You don’t know who you are, and you may freeze and freak out when forced into the spotlight.
  • You don’t like advocating for yourself, you much prefer others to take the lead. 
  • You don’t know when to stand up for yourself or create appropriate boundaries because you don’t know what is normal. You’ve likely lost your voice in terms of standing up for yourself 
  • You have difficulties in relationships. You most likely don’t understand what an honest, open, and vulnerable relationship looks like 
  • You’ve been placed in a little boy or girl role your entire life so you likely can’t relate to your own self
  • You may have a tough time being authentic, intimate, or vulnerable, instead, you present the version of yourself that is expected 
  • You are a people pleaser, so you probably have a challenging time saying no, instead you are more likely to go with the flow and not be disagreeable
  • You feel like you have no power in your life
  • You are judgmental of others because you and your incestuous parent judged you so harshly.
  • You have an unrealistic view of what normal ‘family life’ is all about  
  • You may feel anger or rage toward the inappropriate, emotionally incestuous parent
  • You likely can’t remember childhood as you survived through disassociation, numbness, blocked, and repressed feelings
  • You will likely have to learn how to regain your voice and stand up for yourself

If your journey has included emotional abuse, you are not alone. There is support for you out there. Contact Rachel Graham to hear how your journey can lead you to your life’s purpose, there can be positive life transformation born from something negative.  

What is covert narcissist abuse? Are children who are raised by covert parenting groomed and doomed for a life of abuse?

Narcissists and narcissism, words are thrown around without much thought, a blanket label for inappropriate behavior.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a cluster B personality disorder in the DSM-5 and is defined as having a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, the constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy and must meet 5 of these nine criteria.

  1. A grandiose sense of self-importance
  2. A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. A belief that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people or institutions
  4. A need for excessive admiration
  5. A sense of entitlement
  6. Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  7. A lack of empathy
  8. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him/her
  9. A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

For a narcissist, there might be problems occurring in these two or more areas:

  • Identity
  • Self-acceptance
  • Empathy
  • Intimacy

Narcissistic behavior can be overt or covert.  An overt narcissist has behaviors that are easily recognized by others.  Covert Narcissistic behaviors are more subtle and often less obvious.  A covert narcissist may present as self-effacing or withdrawn and it’s thought to be caused by genetics, childhood traumatic abuse or events, emotional unavailability of caregivers, and personality and temperament. 

What are some signs used to identify a covert narcissist?

Passive self-importance— a covert narcissist craves admiration and might give back-handed compliments, or minimize their accomplishments or talents to encourage caring people to reassure and praise them.

Blame and shame— Covert narcissists employ a gentler approach to explain why things are your fault and why they are not to blame.  They may play the victim or engage in emotional abuse to put themselves in a position to receive reassurance and praise.

Confusion— Covert narcissists take pleasure in creating confusion, gaslighting, creating doubt, and causing their victims to second guess themselves.

Procrastination and disregard—Covert narcissists will do whatever is needed to keep the focus and attention on themselves and they tend to target caring and compassionate people who are easily manipulated.  The covert narcissist wants you to feel like your time and interests are not as important as their own, making you feel small and unimportant.

Giving with strings attached— a covert narcissist might look like they are compassionate and giving but their behavior is motivated by what they want in return.

The emotionally neglectful—The covert narcissist is incapable of developing and nurturing emotional bonds.  Although a covert narcissist looks emotionally accessible, their behavior tends to be performative, with an intent to exploit the person, leaving them feeling small and disregarded through blame and shame.

If you have a covert narcissist in your life, there are some things you can do to protect yourself against their emotional abuse:

  • Avoid taking anything the covert narcissist does or says personally.  Understand their behavior is meant to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do, with little to no regard for how it may impact you. They need a “narcissistic supply” from those around them to feel validated.
  • Set boundaries that communicate your values so the covert narcissist cannot exploit and manipulate you as a means to an end for their goals. This can often mean having zero contact.
  • Advocate for yourself- When dealing with a narcissist, it is easy to lose your voice.  Tune in to yourself, your goals, and your talents as a way to strengthen your relationship with yourself.
  • Create a healthy distance from enmeshment- The goal of creating space is not to hurt the covert narcissist but to protect yourself from harmful interactions.

How being raised by a covert narcissist may lead to a lifetime of abuse:

  • It is a societal belief that parents want what’s best for their children. The covert narcissist relies on this cultural assumption as a way of hiding abuse and neglect, gaslighting their children by stressing their ‘loving’ parent persona.
  • The covert narcissist works hard to cultivate a caring, principled, devoted, and self-sacrificing image, using their children as a scapegoat for all that is negative.
  • The covert narcissist is prone to hostile attacks camouflaged by a slip of the tongue, sarcasm, or false concern which for a child can feel like death by a thousand cuts.
  • The covert narcissist always plays the victim, so they don’t have to take responsibility, instead of receiving sympathy for the ways they are neglected, disappointed, or harmed by others.
  • Plausible deniability is used by the covert narcissist as a direct form of manipulation such as dismissal, gaslighting, minimizing, and triangulation.
  • Covert narcissists make themselves look good by comparison to others, appearing more reasonable, selfless, and easygoing often by playing up the long-suffering martyr routine.
  • Covert narcissistic parents exert ongoing control by offering the child the validation, attention, praise, and gifts they crave, creating a confusing I love you/I hate you dynamic.

Groomed from infancy to accept the unacceptable and cruel behavior, children often blame themselves for the failure in their parental relationships. When we finally understand that we don’t have to ‘win’ a parent’s love, we realize that we have lived our entire lives without that love, surviving solely through our own resiliency.  It is not that we are unlovable, instead, our parent’s profound impairment may come from their own unresolved trauma. Narcissism is hard to treat clinically because by definition the narcissist does not see a reason to change. Narcissists are incapable of having deeply authentic, intimate, vulnerable, and healthy relationships. If you are expecting these things from the narcissists it is similar to asking them to speak Greek to you when they have never been exposed to or understood the Greek language. You will be consistently disappointed expecting them to have a skill they do not.

Healing from the covert narcissistic abuse takes learning to trust ourselves after years of gaslighting.  For recovery, we must distance or in some cases eliminate the relationship to gain our own trust and disavow the pervasive self-doubt and blame we were brainwashed with as children.  For more information on mental health topics visit Evolve and Transform, where Rachel Graham shares her own experiences and invites others to do so as well.

Do you know the origin of your autoimmune disease? How has your body kept the score for your trauma?

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk writes in his 2014 book “The Body Keeps the Score”, he explains how trauma is relived in the body long after the traumatic event is experienced. His research shows how these bodily symptoms show up in the way a person sits or breaths, the way they hold themselves, their sleep patterns, and their overall digestion. 

In his work “The body keeps the score,” van der Kolk focuses on traumatic stress as the root of neuroscience. Traumatic stress changes the functional, chemical, and emotional function of the brain, specifically the limbic area and brain stem. The hyperactive status of the amygdala triggers the release of stress hormones and hinders the hippocampus function, causing traumatic memories to remain vivid. When the prefrontal lob function is deactivated due to stress, there is a decline in the ability to balance the stress hormone, which causes panic, agitation, and hypervigilant responses. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explains, “If a child grows up having to deal with the rage of their parents, they will learn to stifle their own anger and desire to retaliate against those that have hurt them. While for survival, they get good at monitoring the moods of others, they also become very still and quiet so as not to open themselves up to the anger or retaliation of their parents. How might trauma show up in the bodies of these children? Traumatized people tend to have bodies that are hyper-alert, responding to breath and touch by flinching and bristling at contact, they might also shut down and become numb.

What happens to the physiology of the brain when trauma is experienced?

Have you heard the term fight or flight? As humans, we are equipped with automatic responses that help us survive. When a person feels stressed or experiences a traumatic event, the body discharges chemicals called cortisol and adrenaline to help the body have what it needs to either fight or flee. This is the body’s automatic reaction to stress and trauma, and it is beyond our control.

Changes the body may go through when stress and trauma are present:

  1. Feeling dead inside or lacking interest in things you once loved.
  2. Feeling the need to fight against the perpetrators of the traumatic event.
  3. Fleeing from the situation that causes stress or the traumatic event.

Dr. van der kolk goes on to say that bodily and brain changes from emotional and physical trauma can be present long after the event(s) and can influence one’s psyche and body, including thoughts, and feelings. 

Common symptoms of trauma might include:

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event where the body doesn’t recognize the time-space continuum and behaves as though the event is happening now
  • Unexplained feelings of anxiety or feelings of dread.
  • Splitting where your brain and body separate as a psychological mechanism to tolerate difficult and overwhelming situations. This makes it easier to manage the emotions that they are feeling, which on the surface seem to be contradictory.
  • Disassociation is the way your brain manages overwhelming pressure
  • Hyperarousal shows up with feeling restless, nervous, and the inability to relax
  • Insomnia is often a symptom of trauma where a person may feel that the unconscious state of sleep is unsafe 

The immune system is sensitive to stress with the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol has the most influence over your immune system and its general purpose is to balance the immune function. When stress is severe or prolonged, the cortisol control over the immune system can be permanently impaired, which leads to increased inflammation. Inflammation is linked to a range of diseases and disorders, including autoimmune disease, heart disease, and diabetes.

When stress is pervasive, prolonged, and extreme, the body reacts by resisting the production or effects of cortisol which causes inflammation. Increased inflammation, changes in gut microflora, and a genetic predisposition can lead to autoimmune diseases. 

Below are a few autoimmune diseases that have been directly related to stress and trauma:

  • Type 1 diabetes affects the pancreas and insulin which can damage blood vessels and organs like the heart, kidney, eyes, and nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is when the immune system attacks the joints.
  • Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis when skin cells develop too quickly, creating inflamed and itchy red patches
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)- Chron’s disease and Ulcerative colitis
  • Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands with symptoms of weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and low blood sugar.
  • Graves or Hashimoto’s disease both attacks the thyroid and can cause symptoms of bulging eyes and weight gain, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, and hair loss, respectively.
  • Lichen Planopilaris (LPP) a rising autoimmune disorder that affects the hair follicles causing permanent hair loss.

Understanding the correlation between trauma and its effect on the body paves the way for new treatments for emotional unwellness. Rachel Graham shares her trauma story and its relationship with an autoimmune disease to normalize the mental health discussion. Contact her today.

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