Emotional Trauma and Its Effect on the Brain
Are you familiar with the term “flight, fight, or freeze”? During a stressful event, the nervous system can turn the switch button off therefore activating the flight, fight, or freeze response.
Let me paint a picture for you on what can occur during a flight, fight or freeze scenario. Let’s say there is a child on the swings in the playground and an older child comes over and starts bullying the first child. One option the first child might consider is running. There is a stress hormone called cortisol that releases through the nervous system. When time heals and the stressor goes away, the nervous system responds and allows the body to return back to normal. However, if trauma is repeated or if extreme amounts of stress occur, excess cortisol gets released into the body. This large amount of cortisol can have negative effects on the brain and can actually damage neurons in the brain.
In deep-seated trauma, there could be triggers that continue to cycle and repeat themselves, sometimes surfacing years later. But with time, the trauma can subside when you consciously move through it. One tool that can help tremendously for adolescents and adults is journaling, suggested by my dear friend, Jennifer Kelly. Kelly (owner of The Yogi Tree, doula and Complete Wellness Specialist) has been studying the effects of trauma. She has seen first-hand how it can affect children through her experiences with her adopted sons, as well as being a foster parent for the past eleven years.
Kelly mentions that an effective journaling process includes recording the severity of the episodes, noting the recovery from each episode and how it can be reassuring to reflect back and see the progress that you are making. This can be a wonderful outlet for older children and teens.