Heal from Trauma

In 2020 I started diligently applying myself to how to heal from trauma.

Over the last 5 months I have seen consistent benefits.
When the ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) symptoms kick on from PEM (post exertional malaise) I feel fear. My ability to soothe myself at these times (self-regulate) is improving. 

As we heal from trauma we help the body to spend more time in a place of rest and digest - a healing state.
The body's natural ability to heal comes into play.

Regardless of the chronic illness with which you live, the 5 simple exercises on this page are worth learning .
Even without illness in your life, they are a sensible healing strategy to incorporate into your daily life.

I haven't yet listed any here, but breathing exercises are also important. You might wish to look up Wim Hoff.

Heal from trauma. Image which lists 5 simple exercises. Also listed on the page as text.

SUMMIT ON NOW August 8 to 14

Katherine Owen, owner of HealingCFSME.com:

It is my pleasure to promote this summit.
I am  a huge fan of Dr Aimie.
Trauma healing exercises are a valuable part of my toolkit for
living well with illness.
I recommend them to you to support your health.

Click through for pre-summit bonus gift:

The Steps to Identify and Heal Trauma eGuide Gift 


Contents for Heal from Trauma

  • My journey with somatic exercises
  • Disclaimer
  • How to heal the nervous system - gently
  • Apply the trauma healing exercises often
  • Orienting
  • Containment hug and bringing awareness to the body through tapping or squeezing
  • The voo breath
  • Reset the vagus nerve - hold eyes to right then left
  • Goal setting for applying these somatic exercises

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My journey with somatic exercises

After about four months of doing somatic exercises to heal from trauma, I crossed a line.
I currently feel more hopeful that I will continue to be able to build up my activity levels.

I notice a hesitation to say that on my website. To be clear, at the time of writing, I have had two days in the last week, where I mislaid that hope. Post exertional malaise PEM kicked in on those days.

But my body hasn't shown such signs of improvement for many years  now, and so I am quietly excited.

I am finding myself telling other people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or other chronic illness about the benefits of doing somatic exercises to heal from trauma.
I am writing this article so I can send them here to decide if it’s something they want to try.

Disclaimer

As so often, I include a disclaimer. I am not a teacher of how to heal from trauma. I am very much a student.
I share this information on the understanding that you take responsibility for your own health.
My hope is to give you some resources to check out.

How to heal the nervous system- gently

Setting out to have a regulated nervous system doesn't work on the principle of 'no pain no gain'.

An exercise which helps another may not help you.

An exercise which helps you at one point may not help you at another time..

You may be able to do a somatic exercise for a few seconds only, and build up over time.

Be gentle with yourself.

Apply the trauma healing exercises often

In order to see results, you need to take these exercises to heal from trauma seriously, and apply them often.

They are not hard. They don't take long. But they only work if you do them!
It's important to make them part of your daily life.

Doctor Aimie Apigian really brought this point home to me. She ran the Biology Of Trauma Summit.
She was clearly well, able to operate at a high level of health, having healed from her experience with chronic fatigue.
And yet she, along with many of her guests, emphasised that she still does these exercises throughout each day.

The aim of the repetition is to build resilience to stress, so that stress doesn't get stored in the body as trauma.

Also to train oneself to have this toolkit of healing exercises available to you.
In a moment when the body goes into fight and flight, or collapse, the prefrontal cortex is not operating, and therefore you are unlikely to think, ‘What lovely resource is available to me right now'.

The way it will be available to you is if you have trained yourself to do the trauma releasing exercise so often that it has become second nature.

Orienting

Many years ago now I was introduced to the trauma releasing exercise of very deliberately looking around you to different parts of the room you are in.
You can do the same if you are outside. This exercise is called orienting.
I learned that orienting cultivates a sense of safety in your nervous system.

However, I didn't take this piece of advice seriously and apply it to my life until I understood the reason behind it.

Are you sitting in your room right now looking at the screen?

If you are on your own, in your accommodation, or even if you are in a public place, you may be very confident that no one is about to come up and verbally or physically attack you. And yet you may find yourself in a state of feeling on edge. Perhaps you hear a noise and feel on alert. If so, it's quite possible that your nervous system is feeling vulnerable to attack.

You may try to reason yourself out of this sense of attack.
However, you have a reptilian brain and a mammalian brain that are older than the reasoning parts of the brain. You also have nervous system responses that are designed to allow you to override your rational mind.

Looking very deliberately around you – orienting– is one thing that you can do many times a day in order to calm your nervous system.

Don't expect this to bring immediate benefits. Just build it into your daily practice.
At a time when your body is safe, let it know that it is safe. You are training your body to be able to tell the difference between danger and safety.

Containment hug and bringing awareness to the body through tapping or squeezing

The video below shares three simple techniques from Peter Levine to help you heal from trauma.
These are tools for how to self-soothe and self regulate the nervous system.

You may at times get lost in your thoughts in a way that does not feel good for you.
You can potentially quieten these thoughts by consciously locating yourself in your body.

If your trauma comes from chronic illness or physical abuse, it may not feel safe to you to be in your body.
Indeed there may have been times in your life when the skill of 'leaving' your body was helpful to your survival.

However, when you leave the body or 'disassociate' too often, you are likely to end up feeling numb to life, as though you are not truly living.
This is your body. This is your life. Claim it.

Three somatic exercises to heal from trauma - from Peter Levine

1. The containment hug.
I find this so helpful. Less so than I did at the start.
A friend had an 'Oh no' response. He felt like he was in a strait jacket! So remember to do what is right for you.

2. Hand on forehead. Hand on upper chest.
And then move the hand from the forehead to the upper belly.
The exercise may take on even more power if you feel the contact of your hand on your skin.
Imagine you are a baby being held and soothed.
You might want to adapt the exercise by gently rocking.

(If you are living with severe ME and are bedbound, putting your hands on your body in this way is a good somatic exercise for you, as it can be done lying down.
This is also a good trauma healing exercise to do if you are lying awake at night. I do it first thing in the morning before I get out of bed.)

3. Tapping as in EFT. Or a butterfly hug tapping. Or squeezing the muscles round the body.

Voo breath for trauma releasing

Instructions start at 2 minutes 20.

Full breath in.

Out breath whilst saying Vooooooo. Feel it in the belly.
Peter Levine doesn't say it here, but follow the breath in your consciousness, up the windpipe and out of the mouth.
That one additional instruction (heard by him in an online course I attended) made this a more powerful exercise for me.

Again he doesn't say it here, but the hope is that the shift in your nervous sytem to the parasympathetic state may be confirmed by a spontaneous in-breath immediately after the exercise. Or a yawn or a swallow.
These indicate that your body is moving into rest, digest and heal.

Reset the vagus nerve - hold eyes to right then left

Instructions start at 1 min 53

Sukie Baxter. She credits Stanley Rosenberg as the author who introduced her to the vagus nerve reset exercise.

This exercise achieves the same result for me as the voo breath so I alternate between the two.

I do the exercise sitting up, and it still has power.

It is my understanding that once you get a spontaneous in breath (swallow or yawn) you can return your eyes to look straight ahead.
But please do your own research.

Goal setting to heal from trauma

ACTION POINTS

  • Bookmark this page so you will be able to find it easily
    (The bookmarks tab is probably at the top of your screen.)
  • Which of the exercises above do you choose to do daily to heal from trauma?
  • At what time of day will you do a formal practice session for a few minutes or more, depending on your capacity at the time?
  • When was the last time when you went into a fight or flight, freeze or collapse response?
    Take yourself back in your mind to this time.
    Imagine yourself doing one of the trauma healing exercises in this moment when it is most needed.
  • If you have an event coming up which you anticipate may take you into a fight or flight, freeze or collapse response, take yourself forward in your mind. Imagine practising one of these exercises before or afterwards.
  • Do you wish to hold yourself accountable to carry out your practice to heal from trauma?
    Consider printing out a chart for one month, or having a table in Microsoft Word, or a spreadsheet which you will tick each day for the next month.

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Thank you from me, Katherine, author of HealingCFSME.com

© Katherine T Owen. All articles on this website are copyrighted. I am delighted if you choose to click above to share this page on social media, but please do not copy, print or otherwise use without my permission. Thank you.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner. The articles on this website are not to be taken as medical advice. Please consult a medical practitioner as necessary.

Disclosure: On some pages, there are affiliate links, for example to Amazon. If you click and then buy within a certain time period, I will receive a small commission which goes towards the running of this healing website. Abundant thanks :-)