“My heart beats so hard, I feel like I have an earthquake inside of me. It’s weighing me down and my hands shake with the need of safety and comfort.” -Karen Quan
There are points in everyone’s story where life happens and we must respond. The choices we’re presented with in those moments are usually not linear and they rarely make sense. Whether it’s an illness, a death, a recent tragedy, or an extramarital affair, when bad news is presented, what do you notice in your body?
Does your heart beat faster?
Do your palms drip with sweat?
Do you talk faster or slower?
Do you stare out the window unsure of how to respond?
Do you completely vacate your body?
Adrenaline responses cause us to fight, flea, or freeze. It’s a very normal way of protecting ourselves from danger. No matter the response there is a trigger in the human heart that says “danger, danger”. Once you hear that, the adrenaline in our bodies begin to pump through our veins, our mouth becomes dry, our digestion slows, and our breathing becomes faster, more shallow. In moments of trauma, it is this visceral reaction that can save our lives. The thing is, once the trauma fades, the body sensations stay. And each significant moment that follows, can feel like the earlier trauma, prompting the same response.
The way you handle current significant moments indicates a story in you. A story of loss, pain, and struggle. The way you respond now is often the way you’ve been responding your whole life. What was your role in your family growing up? Where do you over-function or under-function? If your heart begins to pound and anxiety starts to swarm your thoughts, here are a few things to remember.
Put down your phone. Take a break from social media. Go for a walk. Drink some water. Confide in a good, trusted friend. Slow down. Take several, big deep breaths. Once you begin to breathe normally, then make a plan.
We have all experienced trauma one way or another. In order to stop the cycle of adrenaline responses it’s important to slow down and rest assured that you don’t have to save the day or rescue anyone. You don’t have to go away. You don’t have to make someone laugh, you don’t have to figure everything out. Showing up for yourself is plenty. It’s only then that you have more to give.
Your adrenaline responses are normal, but you can slow the impact of them so that you have a sense of choice again. If you need help sorting through your stories of heartache and loss, we’re here to help.