Regardless of the cause, stress and post traumatic stress from all sources have a cumulative effect in one’s life. Work problems, relationship issues, economic events, health concerns – they all add to the same metaphorical pile of stress. The mind-body connection is so strong that stress begins to change the physiology of an individual. Ongoing or long-term stressors are particularly problematic in the way that they wear an individual down over time and engrain negative patterns in the body, mind and nervous system.
People who’ve endured high levels of distress earlier in life, especially during the developmental years of childhood, are often predisposed to feeling emotionally and physically unwell during stressful periods later in life. One of the reasons for this predisposition is the existence of well worn neurological pathways that were used previously to experience distress and anxiety on a frequent basis. The mind and body has so much practice feeling these negative ways that being on edge becomes one’s default setting again later in life as the nervous system accesses the pathways it has utilized the most – those associated with feeling stressed. Meanwhile, the neural pathways that help an individual access a sense of being calm and centered may be underutilized, atrophied if you will, and may be difficult to access at times.
Those who have endured numerous disturbing experiences, regardless of how long ago they occurred, may also be predisposed to stress, anxiety and depression. This is because life’s most intense events often leave a residual effect in the nervous system. Unprocessed data lies dormant in the mind and body for years and years, interfering with an individual’s ability to function optimally.
Individuals facing major stressors should be relieved to know that all therapists have experience helping their clients reduce stress. However, not all forms of therapy are equally effective. Many therapists offer only traditional “talk” therapy which focuses effectively on thoughts but fails to address the physical symptoms and physiological changes clients frequently endure. Talk therapy alone fails to address or heal the impact that events have had on one’s nervous system.
A large and growing body of research on the effectiveness of different forms of therapy shows that holistic therapies that address the mind-body connection, such as a well-researched form of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (or EMDR), are more effective and often more efficient than talk therapies. That’s because clients experience greater amounts of relief when they not only get to talk about their problems but when they also get to practice physically feeling relaxed and gain natural tools to use to lower their stress level anytime. These body-centered therapies effectively help clients change their default settings in daily life from feeling stressed out to feeling grounded and centered.
EMDR includes a collection of copies strategies, called resources, that trains the body and nervous system to access positive feelings. Another component of EMDR, called trauma reprocessing, facilitates the mind’s innate ability to finish processing disturbing events. By doing so the negative charge that was previously associated with these events in the body and mind is decreased. EMDR does not erase the distressing things one has been through. However, it does allow one to express and let go of the negative components that came with those distressing events and to reach a state of calm understanding instead.
The therapists at Flourish are highly trained and experienced in utilizing EMDR to help our clients lower their stress and to feel more grounded and empowered.