Life brings unexpected challenges and events, which shake us up so deeply that our body, mind, and spirit activate different survival mechanisms to alleviate our suffering. We become numb or we even “erase” events from our consciousness so that we can continue living our life as peacefully as possible. The trouble is that trauma is supposed to be a temporary solution for relief until we can truly acknowledge, grieve, integrate, and heal from difficult experiences.
Why may trauma, grief, anxiety, depression, and PTSD occur?
Humans are wired to survive, no matter what happens to us. When we experience something that affects us deeply, our whole being goes through different defense or survival mechanisms such as fight-or-flight and dissociation to stabilize and keep us alive, at least in the short term. Animals in the wild go through a similar process – when an antelope is chased by a lion, their autonomic nervous system reacts quickly to help them become a fast and strong runner so they can escape from the predator. Afterward, they shake the fear and tension out of their body and continues to live their life normally.
When it comes to overcoming trauma, grief, and complex PTSD recovery, many of these survival mechanisms aren’t well understood by the mainstream medical field. For example, panic attacks are seen as pathological events in our society (as well as crying, screaming, and other ways of release) but are actually a way for the human body to release trauma. The trick is to be informed about panic attacks so that when they happen, we can let our body release trauma without the added fear, and eventually liberate our body from the need to have them.
Unfortunately, our mainstream society has no context for natural healing, so we are taught to get rid of or suppress any symptoms associated with trauma. After we experience the effects of trauma, we are afraid and ashamed to show our emotions and talk about what we did or what happened to us. We are even made to feel like the trauma is our fault and that we should “man up,” get over it, move on, take a pill, grow up, and snap out of it.
Changing the approach to recovery
One major problem of Western society is that we have let go of the importance of a healthy community and the support we can have through our connections with others. People are lonelier than ever in this digital age, left to deal with symptoms of trauma or PTSD alone – a truly difficult, if not impossible, feat. We, however, weren’t meant to live this way! When we lived in tribes and villages, there was always a shaman or medicine person who guided individuals through trauma, grief, anxiety, depression, and sickness. The community as a whole supported each person through hardship. There were fire and dance ceremonies, shamanic journeys, fasting, herbal remedies, and many different tools used by the shaman and the tribe to help the ailing person. Since our society frowns upon these practices and deems them as dangerous and ineffective, we are left to suffer unnecessarily or live in fear of our next trigger.
Obviously, we need to experience something very different from the mainstream ways of dealing with trauma symptoms. The good news is that many people and psychologists on the cutting edge, such as Gabor Mate and Stanislav Grof, are diving deep into how humans react to trauma and what we need for complex PTSD recovery. They understand that humans need to heal holistically – body, mind, and spirit. Collectively, we are learning much more about how people healed themselves in the past and are developing new and effective holistic wellness techniques that are aligned to our modern culture.
Begin to overcome trauma and its symptoms
The first step for us is to acknowledge that we have been hurt in some way, that we have had a deeply disturbing experience, and that we would like to heal this part of ourselves so that we can thrive in life. We also have to commit to working on getting better without using our trauma as an excuse to stay in a suffering or numbing mode.
We then need to seek out help from places that resonate with us and that feels good. The reason why some forms of relief resonate with us over others has to do with many factors, including our values, our belief system, our upbringing, our life experience, and the culture we are immersed in now. This is why it is important to find healing modalities that we believe in and that feels nurturing and safe to us, especially methods that originate from cultures we don’t come from. For example, yoga has become extremely popular in Western culture (especially once it was modified to fit the Western mind) and has been very effective in alleviating symptoms of trauma, depression, anxiety, grief, and PTSD.
The best natural remedies for trauma, depression, anxiety, grief, and PTSD
Although many of us are led to believe that mainstream pharmaceutical medicine is the only way to heal from different symptoms of trauma, there are many very effective approaches we can use to naturally heal ourselves. Below are some insights into how you can use alternative medicine and holistic healing to overcome trauma and symptoms associated with it.
When we are born, our primary need is to connect with our mother – to feel nurtured, loved, taken care of, and safe. This important connection is aided by “love” hormones, such as oxytocin and dopamine. When we grow up, we cease to be dependent on our parents, but our relationships with family members and other people are crucial in our emotional regulation, hormonal balance, and even survival. People have survived starvation but not solitary confinement – this is how important creating positive relationships is to us and other creatures. Building a community around us or joining one that is right for us will be crucial in our healing outcomes. You can start by searching for group events in the area you are living in currently or you can look for online communities that work for you. The events could center around your hobbies such as cooking, dancing, movies, food, music and so much more. At Guards Down, for instance, we organize virtual communal events, festivals of healing, and trivia nights for our community so that people can meet to talk, network, and support each other.
- Plants, Healthy Diet, and Lifestyle Change
When we commit to a healing journey, there are many helpful ways we can change our external environment, so it is more conducive to healing. One of the major ways you can make a big difference in how you feel is by modifying how your eat and drink, and introducing organic herbs into your diet that can significantly help you heal your body and consequently your mind and spirit. Since our autonomic nervous system is usually overtaxed when we experience trauma (a lot of tension is stored in the body), there are many herbs and foods which can help us ease and even expel this tension.
For example, CBD, an extract of the cannabis plant, has been shown to soothe the nerves and alleviate tension and pain. Even if it is not necessarily a cure for our trauma, CBD and other medicinal herbs can help us bring our nervous system to a level where we can feel good enough to take further steps in our healing process. Some other herbs that are excellent for calming the nervous system are stinging nettle, ashwagandha, lavender, linden, chamomile, marshmallow, thyme, tulsi, oat straw, schizandra berry, astragalus, and Rhodiola. Flower essences, energetic imprints of flowers from plants such as golden yarrow and star of Bethlehem, can also help with symptoms of trauma when we embody the strengthening and calming energies of these flowers to overcome grief, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of complex PTSD.
Another aspect of healing is figuring out what kind of healthy diet works best for us. Foods that are particularly good for the nervous system are seaweed, cilantro, bitter greens, root vegetables, and berries. For healing through herbs and healthy food, consult a good naturopath or herbalist who doesn’t generally prescribe pharmaceutical medicine before trying natural methods.
At the same time, you can work on eliminating habits that no longer serve your health such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and having people around you (friends, bosses, neighbors, family members) that bring up your stress levels. Some of these lifestyle changes will need special help from a life coach, counselor, or therapist because these behaviors are often our coping mechanisms for trauma.
- Movement, Body Work, and Energy Healing
The body stores much of the experiential memory of trauma, and this tension needs to be released from the body so that our nervous system can function optimally. There are many ways that this stuck energy (it can be held in any part of the body) can be released.
For instance, you can join a choir, take dance classes, act in or watch a theater play, participate in sports, learn a martial arts form such as judo, go hiking regularly, start a garden, go to a spa for sauna and massage, get Reiki, learn how to meditate, participate in retreats and different healing ceremonies, go swimming, join a kirtan group or an orchestra, form a band, take yoga, sound healing, or chakra balancing classes, try acupuncture and reflexology, go see a comedy show, take up running or walking in nature, go to a sweat lodge, go camping, or take a relaxing bath. Any form of movement that you enjoy will help facilitate trauma release from different areas of the body.
- Meditation and Spiritual Practice
One of the most neglected self-care practices is taking care of our spiritual needs. Although we all have different opinions about spirituality, connecting to something that helps our hearts feel less heavy and feel more at ease in this world is essential to our healing. Whether we do it through religion or in our own special way, we can find something that our belief system can embrace.
To work on your spiritual well-being, you can join meditation sessions, listen to spiritual lectures or read books about different spiritual practices, consult a counselor, medicine person, or a shaman, join a men’s or woman’s circle, or take a shamanic journey. Sound, art, music, and creative expression tend to bring out the spiritual side of human beings, so listening to exhilarating music, looking at beautiful art, and creating something new, be it a collage, a piece of music, or a meal – activities that bring you into a meditative state – can help release some of the trauma symptoms. In addition, astrological and tarot readings can significantly help people with trauma move forward in life.
- Storytelling, Talk Therapy, and Counseling
Our mind is sometimes the biggest roadblock to our recovery. Being able to share our story by getting it out of our mind can produce immensely powerful results. We can join a group therapy session or can be a part of a group (spiritual or centering around a hobby) where we can have an opportunity to share our story. Through hearing other people’s stories, we can gain the courage to tell our own and to get support from others in the process. If we aren’t able to talk to someone when we need it, journaling and writing out our thoughts and feelings can help tremendously.
Storytelling has been one of the most used healing modalities throughout the ages. There are wonderful programs that help us “rewrite” our negative story about what happened to us or certain sabotaging beliefs that feed our trauma. Possibly the biggest belief that keeps us back from healing is that we don’t deserve a good life. The truth is, we all deserve good things, no matter what we did or what happened to us in the past, and rewriting our story can help us reconceptualize our life!
One-on-one coaching, counseling, or therapy can also help us with some of the thinking patterns associated with negative beliefs and roadblocks to recovery. There are also other modalities, such as hypnotherapy and yoga Nidra, that help to reprogram our mind into a state that works positively for us. In addition to trauma accumulated in early childhood and throughout our lives, our own birth can be a source of trauma that is later triggered by life’s difficult events.
To go even deeper, trauma can be stored in the DNA, and therefore, we can inherit it from our ancestors. This branch of biology that studies how the environment and experience impact our genetics is called epigenetics. Our epigenetic predisposition can then make us either more susceptible to retraumatization by triggers, or our system is more sensitive to negative events and emotions even if we aren’t aware of any trauma from this life that warrants these reactions. We can heal this ancestral, birth, life, or even past life trauma, through mind-body modalities and through techniques such as past life regression, which can bring insight and healing of the trauma we hold onto from our different reincarnations.
Benefits of culturally sensitive therapy
From birth, we are taught how to be a part of our family, our community, our culture. We develop a belief system surrounding this “programming,” which can impact us either positively and negatively. For example, someone who grew up going to the doctor for any discomforts and is used to taking pharmaceuticals to “heal” will be most helped with this modality, even if modern medicine has numerous drawbacks. But someone from a culture where herbs are used to heal ailments will respond better to an herbal regiment, rather than by taking a pill prescribed by a doctor. This is because our belief system has a lot to do with our expectations and how things around us affect us.
Culturally sensitive therapy or counseling allows our background, life experiences, values, and beliefs to shape how our healing looks like. If a woman, for instance, grew up worshiping around singing and music, this type of experience would be most likely effective as a healing method for her. In this community, she is also more likely to meet like-minded people with whom she can relate on a deeper level and share her experiences without feeling judged. If we feel like we are a part of something that we can trust and relate to, we are more likely to continue on our healing journey, improving the likelihood of healing from trauma. Sometimes all we need are positive experiences with other people which shows us that life can be different and that living trauma-free is possible.
Holistic healing and wellness
Once we know which healing modalities resonate with us, we can then start on our wellness journey and pivot as we see what works and doesn’t work for us. Since holistic healing has been shown to be the most effective approach, we can choose modalities that work on our body, mind, and spirit. Because all parts of us are intricately connected and influence each other, one healing modality can overlap substantially in the ways it can help us heal and can have many things in common with other modalities. Laughter, for instance, is a powerful tool for holistic healing – it lets us focus on positive emotions through the body (the physical act of laughing) as well as the mind (the positive effects laughter has on our mood).
Your choice of a modality will depend on what truly resonates with you and what you can stick with for a while. Always feel free to change a modality if it no longer works for you or if you become interested in other ways to heal. Remember that healing is a process and any step we take toward self-care and love will help us release more trauma to feel better and to enjoy life more fully.
Are you ready to find ways to overcome your grief or trauma? Reach out to one of our culturally-sensitive trained coaches and counselors to find someone who you can relate to, and can recommend effective, alternative solutions for your specific needs!
Are you looking for natural, herbal remedies like CBD to help your healing process? Visit our CBD shop to find the perfect product to help you overcome symptoms such as pain, fear, anger, sadness, insomnia, anxiety, or depression.