Learn How to Stop
Learn How to Stop PTSD Nightmares by Dr. Justin Havens: Watch this 5-minute animated video to learn how to stop nightmares and return to peaceful sleep using The Dream Completion Technique.
Do you have unhealed trauma?
Trauma is something horrifying or terrifying that you don’t even want to remember. It can make you feel numb. Or it can be so painful that you want to numb it out with alcohol or drugs. Of course, this is not a good idea, as it can lead to serious problems. Trauma can be created by many things, such as war, abuse, an accident, a violent loss, and many other sources. Symptoms can include flashbacks, fear, depression, difficulty with sleep, emotional numbness, sleep problems, and impulse control.
When you experience trauma, your physiology changes. Your stress hormones and neurotransmitters get very activated. These reactions are meant to be one-time reactions, to get you through a short stressful period. But sometimes your brain might get stuck in trauma mode. There’s a part of your brain that has a sense of time. This part of your brain might not realize that the trauma is over. It might think it has to stay hyper vigilant to guard against more trauma. That’s because the brain is a prediction-making machine. When bad things happen, the brain might be waiting for it to happen again. Triggers are things that cause your nervous system to get re-activated. If you get into a loop of fearing certain triggers, you might start avoiding certain situations or become defensive, angry, or aggressive.
What to do if you've experienced trauma?
There are many things you can do, but none are a substitute for professional help. If you have access to professional help, please get it. If you don’t, and if you are safe, until you get help, you can begin to signal to your brain that you are safe. This way, even if you experience a trigger (something that reminds you of the trauma), the brain knows that it’s not a real threat – and you don’t have to stay in fear, or in hyper vigilance mode.
How can you signal your brain you are safe?
All these methods below can help with this, as they bring you to the present moment. This is important because if you are feeling the effects of a trauma, you are in the past. And if you are worrying, you are in the future. The more you do to keep bringing your nervous system back to calm, back to the present, the more you are changing your brain and nervous system patterns. You can build this habit. It’s like a workout for your nervous system. It’s important to do it every day.
Havening is a self-soothing practice that sends signals to your brain, through the nerve endings in your skin, that you are safe. Using the havening touch on the face, upper arms, and hands can rapidly reduce stress and improve immune response. It's fast, easy, and can be done by anyone, at any age.
There are many other methods to help bring you to the present and calm the nervous system, including neural feedback, qi gong, and yoga. Yoga can help you change the way you hold your body, move, and breathe. In certain studies, yoga has been shown to be more effective in reducing emotional symptoms of trauma than medication. (Of course, we are not advising that you stop taking any medication that has been prescribed for you. Please follow your doctor’s advice). And it’s very important to eat well, get exercise, rest, sleep well, and connect with others.
If you’ve had a recent trauma, go easy on yourself. Do some calming breathing techniques such as the 4-7-8 breath, do tapping, and listen to simple, soothing recordings that will help you relax.
Later, when you are confident that you can self soothe (calm your nervous system), you might try some other techniques such as the Swish Pattern, as long as it’s not contraindicated by your doctor or therapist. It also often helps to find a community of others who have been through a similar trauma. It can be helpful to connect with others who share a similar experience.
Be aware of your meanings
Become aware of the meaning you give to what happened to you. When we assign a disempowering meaning to what happened to us (“It’s not fair,” or “Bad things always happen to me,”) this can negatively affect our recovery. And so can asking bad questions. Bad questions are those for which there is no good answer, and which keep you in an infinite loop of feeling bad. Examples of bad questions include, “Why me?” and “Why is life unfair”? No good answers come from these questions. It’s important to find some positive thing that you will do as a result of the trauma you experienced. It could be as simple as vowing to get stronger, or to help others avoid the pain you went through or being kinder to others. If you can assign any positive meaning, no matter how small, to what you went through, it can help tremendously.