When Does Stress Become Trauma?

Stress is a normal part of nature, and the human/animal experience. Deer need stress to get away from predators. Humans need stress to complete difficult tasks. Our bodies know how to handle acute stress- we were designed to be able to come in and out of temporary stress states smoothly. That all changes when the stress we experience becomes TRAUMA. The stress we were designed to handle is acute stress- specific, time limited, with the possibility for escape present. The interpersonal and institutional stress that humans experience, however, is often very different. Things such as family violence, poverty, sexual harassment, etc. are often stressors that occur in multiple contexts, happen continuously over long periods of time, and are impossible to get away from. These characteristics of LENGTH, INTENSITY, and PERVASIVENESS are what turn stress into TRAUMA. Trauma is a whole different experience than stress. Our bodies and brains are not as equipped to handle it. The somatic mental health and nervous system regulation techniques I use in my practice are specifically geared for these issues. Sometimes the nervous system needs extra guidance to recall a sensation of safety, and bring ourselves back to a calm baseline.

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