Category: Trauma & Healing

HOW TO TREAT ADRENAL FATIGUE – Recovering from Stress Overload

HOW TO TREAT ADRENAL FATIGUE – Recovering from Stress Overload

Learning how to treat adrenal fatigue is part science, part intuition and part trial and error. It requires that we tune into our body’s signals, learning as much as we can about interpreting them and then addressing the issues. This is best done by paying attention, noticing, charting, and working with a professional who can provide knowledge, objectivity and a course of treatment. Personal participation and commitment is the number one priority. Most of us need to restore our ability to listen to our senses and intuition, and trust them.

THE FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY

Before we can begin to treat adrenal fatigue we must alter the way we look at the healing process. In our culture we have been taught to hand over responsibility for our health to health care professionals. When we have a problem, our first course of action is to make an appointment with our doctor. Then, the doctor asks us a series of questions, pinpoints a problem, and either schedules further testing or writes a prescription, which we fill, take and wait. We play a very passive role in the healing process. Our body is also treated as if it is simply a passive recipient.

THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO HELP THE HEALING PROCESS

When addressing stress induced illnesses and conditions, of which adrenal fatigue is one. It is imperative to look at ourselves from a holistic viewpoint. What we most often forget in the current medical model is that our body wants to heal. Therefore, if we work with it instead of acting upon it we become better able to understand and see ourselves as a whole being, not just a lot of disparate parts.

Our body sends us signals. It is trying to call our attention to an area of concern. When we cooperate with these signals in a meaningful way, we are better able to support the healing process.  In the case of adrenal fatigue, the presenting symptoms are vague. A traditional medical practitioner will look for a specific problem. Common diagnosis include, IBS, depression, anxiety, acid reflux and/or blood pressure issues. Treatment of choice is an over the counter or prescription drug. We may gain some relief of symptoms but we treating secondary conditions does not address underlying cause(s).

OUR BODY IS OUR BEST OFFENSE

There are two forces at work that impact our ability to recover and heal from adrenal overload. First, is our survival instinct that does everything it can to see that we survive. It’s less interested in whether or not we thrive. As an innate physiological response, the survival instinct and its physical responses (the adrenal system), react instantly to a perceived threat. Without any conscious, intentional help from us, our body instinctively and physiologically enters a state of fight, flight or flee. A life saving response in the right circumstances, it’s not such a good thing in modern times. We are bombarded daily with what our body and adrenal system perceives as threats of bodily harm, when in fact they are not. Our body doesn’t know the difference between the news and reality. It’s more about perceived danger than actual danger. This is where the mind comes into play.

Our minds have evolved to the point where they’ve become very adept at overriding our instinctual response. When we watch something that angers us on TV we don’t jump up and punch the TV. We may turn it off and go do something else. This is a healthier response but our body has already amped up adrenaline production, and, it takes time for it to dissipate. However, we move on to the next hit. And the next. Multiply this by a hundred times a day and our physiological response begins to work over time and our body becomes fatigued.  This fatigue often shows up as things like depression, weight gain or loss, aches and pains, susceptibility to viruses and colds, IBS, high blood pressure, etc.

…AND OUR BODY’S SIGNALS OUR BEST DEFENSE

Our body wants to heal. When we work with it, instead of against it, it’s a happy camper. To treat adrenal fatigue we must stop ignoring what it is telling us. In fact, we need to pay very close attention and learn to understand its language.  The days of “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” is over. That edict served its purpose for previous generations. We are smarter now. More aware and better informed. We can choose to do things differently and we must.

TREAT ADRENAL FATIGUE NOW

relaxing lavenderThe three most important tools at our disposal are:

  1. Develop an awareness of our body’s signals and what they mean
  2. Practice a lifestyle that includes rest, quiet and a stimulus free environment
  3. Support the body’s healing process with good nutrition and basic supplements

TUNE INTO YOUR BODY’S SIGNALS

This takes time, attention and practice. It is necessary for most of us to obtain the support of a professional who can help us interpret our body’s signals. Scientifically based, there are patterns we can learn. For example, what you may be experiencing as lethargy may be a signal of mild food allergies. Or, intermittent low-grade depression may be a signal of an imbalance in the digestive system. Use of antibiotics and/or unbalanced food choices tend to lead to this problem.

If this sounds too complicated or overwhelming, don’t worry about it. What’s important right now is to begin paying attention to what you are doing and keeping track. Keep a journal of what you eat, how you feel, your sleep patterns and environmental influences. Pay attention to anything that repeats itself. For example:

  1. Do you have trouble falling asleep or waking up?
  2. Or, always wake up at 3 a.m.?
  3. Do you have lows at particular times of day?
  4. What foods does your body reacts negatively to?

Keep a list. Your initial goal is simply to become more aware.

REST & QUIET

Our body, and our adrenal glands in particular, needs ample time to reestablish an equilibrium. How much rest and quiet is needed varies from person to person.  However, if you believe you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, or any kind of stress overload, take steps right away to begin modifying your life.  Begin today by adding just a little bit more rest and quiet into your daily routine.  This can be done by turning down the volume on the radio, turning off the TV, and turning your attention away from the news that pours in 24/7. Spend less time on social media and more time reading a good book or doing something creative. Spend more time outside with nature and less time driving, shopping and doing. It’s amazing what just a few simple steps can do to help your body heal.

SEEK MORE SUPPORT AND DO LESS SUPPORTING

We women think it’s our responsibility to hold up the world. In many ways it is. However, we must learn to hold ourselves up first. One of the best things to do to reduce stress is to associate with more positive, supportive people and spend less time with negative people. You can still listen to your troubled friend, just change the balance. For every hour with him/her, spend twice the time with someone who listens to you or with whom someone who is energizing.

DRASTICALLY REDUCE STRESS

At first it may be necessary to take drastic steps toward stress reduction in order to get back in touch with what it feels like to be relaxed. Most of us have forgotten. We also need to take drastic measures to provide ample support for the healing of the body.  Once we’ve repaired the damage we can add some stress back in. Returning to a high state of stress must ever be a priority as that was the cause of the problem in the first place!

Major, stubborn stressors such as a job, a marriage/relationship, caregiving, difficult children are not easy to turn off and may take time to change. Begin today by making yourself and your health a priority step by step.

THINK OF BALANCING A SCALE

It helps to think of the giant scales of justice when we begin to treat adrenal fatigue. One side of the scale is filled with things that stress us and drain our energy reserves. To begin to balance the scale we must add positive, healing practices and remove energy depleting, stress creating habits from the other. Bit by bit as we add in healthier food, more quiet time, healthful exercise (such as yoga, stretching and gentle exercise), more time in nature, more time doing what we enjoy doing, and less time pushing ourselves to do things that drain us, the scale will start to balance and we will start to feel better.

A PROBLEM THAT TOOK TIME TO DEVELOP TAKES TIME TO RESOLVE

Once we understand the nature of adrenal fatigue, we must then accept that it takes time to heal. In order to keep adrenal fatigue at bay permanent lifestyle changes are necessary. There are no quick-fix solutions, but incremental changes can not only improve our quality of life physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

A personalized, one-step-at-a-time approach to overcoming adrenal fatigue is best done with the help and guidance of someone who understands the process. Long-standing, well-entrenched and often unconscious life-style habits of thought and behavior are in large part responsible for leading us into our adrenal crisis.


Coming Soon: Support for the Healing Journey

How to Find a Health Practitioner to Address Adrenal Fatigue

Helpful Dietary Changes to Support the Healing of Adrenal Fatigue

How to Chance a Stressful Life into A Life You Love

SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

compassion fatigueAdrenal fatigue is a term that has been growing in popularity and use in recent years. As research dives deeper into the mind/body connection, patterns and connections are emerging. The signs of adrenal fatigue below is offered here to help raise awareness of the effects of stress on our bodies, particularly as we age. Years of high stress living may only begin to show up as signs of adrenal fatigue as we enter or fifties and sixties. Our body reaches a point where it can no longer cope with what we are asking of it.

There are a few things to consider as you read through the list of symptoms. First, please understand that the list provided is merely suggestive information and not a means of diagnosis.  Use this list to evaluate your current situation and ask yourself, a) have I been dealing with high levels of stress for extended periods of time and, b) have I taken sufficient time and care of myself for a complete recovery? Tune in to your body and pay attention to what you are feeling through the day for a week or more. See if any patterns emerge. Keep track in writing. Then seek the support of a healthcare professional. The ebb and flow of mood and energy levels throughout the day provide valuable information to professionals.

Finding the appropriate healthcare practitioner is important.  Traditional medical doctors are less willing to look at us as whole people, body/mind/spirit. They are trained to look for specific illnesses and diseases, and are not keen on looking at a large collection of symptoms and suggesting lifestyle and nutritional support. In addition, most of us have not established a sufficient broad relationship with our doctors. They haven’t the time to tale into consideration what is going on in our lives, and what has been going on for years.

Women are often told they are depressed, worry too much, need to lose weight and exercise, or just need a vacation. They are also often given drugs that only mask or complicate the healing process. We’ve learned not to trust our intuition and our body’s signals.  All traditional doctors are not the same. Some are very keen on a wholistic approach, others not so much. I have had great success working with a Naturopath.  She just looks at things the way I do, understands me, takes all the time I need and above all has helped me heal and become more resilient. Prescription drugs and expensive testing may be helpful but are not always necessary. (Contact me for some guidance on this if you are having difficulty.)

COMPASSION FATIGUE ~ A Specific Type & Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

I learned the signs of adrenal fatigue when I began researching my own symptoms after a particularly frustrating visit with my doctor. It was months after my mother had died and I was having difficulty getting back on my feet.  What I was experiencing was not,in my mind, simply grief.

signs of adrenal fatigue

My exhaustion was deep and physical, not just emotional. I was nearly non-functional, and nothing I did seemed to help. I knew about “burnout” and started my research there. This led me to “compassion fatigue”. It resonated and so I stopped my research and began viewing my predicament through this lens. It made perfect sense to me. Not only had I been caring for my mother, but gad previously spent considerable time caring for my husband after two accidents and a heart attack while raising my two sons through the teen years and into college. My husband and I were also business partners in a home based business that ran our lives 24/7. Yup. Burnout it was and I began to treat it as such with some improvements.

It was not until much later when I sought help from a non-traditional source, when a life complication knocked me back into exhaustion.  My doctor was not at all helpful, nor was talking therapy. I began working with Dr. Crystal Honeycutt, a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Clinical Herbalist (AHG). She changed my life. (If you would like to talk with a holistic health professional in your area reach out to me via email and I will do what I can to help you find one.)

COMMON SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

Many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are also symptoms of other conditions, such as depression, and chemical and/or nutritional imbalances in the body. It is the collection of symptoms and the patterns that are useful in recognizing adrenal fatigue.

  1. Loss of motivation or desire to do things you previously enjoyed
  2. Feeling tired and run down
  3. Low grade depression
  4. Difficulty getting up in the morning even after a good night’s sleep
  5. Feeling overwhelmed and like everything is just too much
  6. Things once done easily take more effort
  7. Craving salty and/or sweet snacks
  8. Difficulty getting strength and energy back after an illness
  9. Feeling better after 6 o’clock at night than any other time of the day
  10. Nothing seems fun anymore
  11. A cloudy, foggy brain
  12. An inability to handle stress
  13. A week immune system – frequent colds and illness
  14. Allergies, asthma, respiratory complaints,
  15. Dark circles under the eyes
  16. Lines in the tips of the fingers
  17. Joint pain
  18. Insomnia
  19. Poor circulation
  20. Weight gain
  21. Low blood pressure
  22. Blood sugar issues
  23. Decreased sex drive

RESULTS WILL TELL THE STORY

Remember this list is not a definitive answer. Talk with a professional, or two. Find someone who will take the time necessary to offer guidance and support.  In the meantime, any positive life style changes to reduce stress and improve your nutrition will benefit you, no matter what the diagnosis.


MORE ARTICLES

STRESS * BURNOUT * COMPASSION FATIGUE * ADRENAL FATIGUE

 

 

 

HEMP OIL – Is it Good for You?

HEMP OIL – Is it Good for You?

Hemp oil is all the rage these days. It seems it’s the latest best new thing for our health. When I was asked to review a hemp oil product I Hemp Oilhesitated.  I’m a bit of a late comer to whole foods and natural remedies. From a philosophical standpoint I’m always open to new ideas and an ever-expanding view of life, but when it comes to ingesting things I don’t understand I fall back on my upbringing.  My English mother made it abundantly clear to her five children that the only things worth ingesting were meat, vegetables and potatoes, in small amounts three times a day. She’d throw in a multi-vitamin on occasion for good measure. It served me well in the psycho-tropic drug era, but things have changed.

Modern medicine failed me one too many times and a complex world left me searching for better solutions to my health concerns. No more would a pat on the head and a prescription from my doctor serve me.  Little by little, I stuck my toe in the waters of “natural” remedies. Fortunately, I had a willing and very patient guide, and my outlook has forever changed.  So here I am facing down Hemp oil, wondering if I dare. After all, it has cannabinoids on the label. Sounds suspiciously like marajahooch, and I’m too old for that stuff! But, I decided to take the risk because if it does what they say it does, I’m in!

First of all, Hemp oil does not contain THC, the stuff in marijuana that some of us once found so appealing. In fact, it’s a slightly different plant, as you will see in the graphic to the right. So rest easy and read on.

HERE’S WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT HEMP OIL

Hemp Oil in Your Diet

Hemp Oil Receptra PrimeHemp oil, a vegetable oil, is derived from hemp seeds. Low in saturated fats, it is high in antioxidants. Added to your diet it naturally addresses muscle and joint pain and arthritis by reducing inflammation. In addition it reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and blood clots, according to the “Journal of Nutraceuticals Functional and Medicinal Foods”

According to RECEPTRA  who sent me the sample, “Research is surfacing that shows hemp oil’s antioxidant content is ideal for removing toxins from the body that cause inflammation. Inflammation, “a silent killer”, can lead to muscle and joint pain as well as a variety of other diseases and conditions. Using Hemp CBD Oil, like Receptra Naturals, is a great way to battle the complications of inflammation-causing toxins, as well as potentially prevent its/their existence entirely.”

Not all Hemp oil manufacturers are equal. Across the board, Receptra received high marks. Cannainside reports: “Unlike many of the brands out there that claim to test their oils, Receptra Naturals uses a third-party laboratory to test their products and post the results online. Yes, you can go to their website, identify the batch of your product, and view potency, mold, and heavy metal lab results. Isn’t it about time the rest of the industry catch up?”  See more reviews below.

Hemp Oil for Your Skin

The sample I received from RECEPTRA is a dietary supplement, but Hemp oil is also great for the skin. Hemp oil skin products can be used to alleviate dry skin. Rub it directly on dry or cracked areas. Use it on hands, feet, cuticles, nails and to remove makeup. It’s also used to condition hair, reduce acne and eczema. Research has found it to be an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis as well.

MY EXPERIENCE with RECEPTRA PRIME Hemp Oil

I’ve only been using it a week but so far it’s a painless process. Whenever I start something new, I start out very slowly. The directions say to use a full dropper 2 to 3 times a day. I started with 1/2 dropper once a day, and am now taking a full dropper once a day. I started it with plenty of aches and pains so if it helps I will be sure to let you know!

What natural remedies do you use?

 


Receptra Naturals Review

Receptra Naturals Review: Pure Hemp Extracts for an Active Lifestyle

 


 

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

CHIA SEEDS ARE GOOD FOR DAMAGED SKIN

ARE WE TAKING TOO MANY PRESCRIPTION DRUGS?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Receptra Naturals. The opinions and text are all mine.

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR FEAR & ANGER POST ELECTION

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR FEAR & ANGER POST ELECTION

Fear and AngerPanic, fear and anger are very normal responses to what has taken place over the last week (and months). Many of us feel threatened and angered by all that is happening. We are in hyper-reactivity mode and our emotions have been propelling us forward. Everywhere people are saying and doing things they would not ordinarily say or do.

This high adrenaline response (survival response) is a natural and normal biological response, programmed into our DNA, to give us the biological resources we need to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe in a threatening situation. It is not ALL that we are. Not by a long shot, and it’s important that we take time, now, to reconnect with the rational and more expansive aspects of our selves.

The threat seems immediate and our bodies are responding as if it is. But, it is not, at least for most of us. Our bodies don’t know this, and the adrenaline coursing through our veins is telling us to fight or flee when there’s nowhere to flee and no one to punch! We take this adrenaline to social media and pick fights with our words, or we bark at our kids or spouses. This doesn’t satisfy our bodies need for calm. In fact, it keeps us in a heightened state of reactivity and keeps the adrenaline flowing.

Our best course of action at this time is to do the opposite. It may feel counter intuitive, but we need to make a concerted effort to calm ourselves. Remaining in a hyper alert state for long periods of time is hard on our bodies and will ultimately drain our resources. We may need these resources down the road when a course of action becomes clear.

Now it behooves us to take a deep breath and do everything we can to find our center of calm. We think more clearly when we are calm. We act more carefully and intelligently when we are calm. During challenging times such as these, we need to think and act with the best of who we are, not in reaction to a set of circumstances that at this time is beyond our control. There will come a time for action. We will know it when it arrives. Today, taking care of ourselves and restoring our sense of security within ourselves is our job.

As we live out the coming months and years, our ability to be vigilant in our self-care, will allow us to stay the course. Establishing a sense of security and calm within ourselves provides an anchor that will help us ride out the storms.

In my experience this can be accomplished by engaging in any or all of these practices. You may have your own.

  • avoid unnecessary confrontation
  • decrease exposure to inflammatory rhetoric/media
  • disconnect entirely from the internet for a period of time
  •  limit news/TV/electronic devices
  • take several deep breaths periodically throughout the day – we tend to hold our breath and breath shallowly when we are tense; deep breathing actually activates calming mechanisms in our body.
  • moderate exercise – a brisk walk, swimming, dancing
  • spending time outdoors, preferably in a natural setting away from the hustle and bustle of every day life.
  • pets can be calming – take some time each day to cuddle with yours; no doubt they will be calmer as well!
  • eat healthfully and avoid alcohol and junk food (Adrenal Burnout Soup Recipe)
  • get lots of sleep (even if you need a little help to do so for a while)
  • spend time with people who are calm and with whom you feel safe;
  • avoid those who don’t (it doesn’t mean you have to stop loving them!)
  • soak in a hot tub
  • use essential oils in a diffuser or sprinkle on a cotton ball and carry in your pocket
  • meditate/pray
  • practice mindfulness
  • body work/massage/
  • read positive, reflective literature
  • tune into yourself in silence; heart/mind/body/soul
  • Listen to and follow your intuition

We will get through this together.  Dorothy


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An Opportunity for Change – Sometimes It Comes When We Least Expect It!

An Opportunity for Change – Sometimes It Comes When We Least Expect It!

Opportunity for Change
Angel statue in the graveyard of Trzic, Slovenia by ~lordradi

Life delivers the opportunity for change and growth, often when we least expect it. Once-in-a-lifetime events are just such opportunities. When the pot is stirred by events such as graduations, weddings, job changes, loss or a move, it is not uncommon to lose one’s perspective.

The weeks leading up to my son’s wedding brought a heavy load of unfinished-business-stress barreling down on me, not to mention the necessity for getting it all together and showing up for the function itself.  I knew I was facing a challenge and an opportunity for change, but much of it lay beneath the veil of my perception.  I was trying to stay cool, centered and in balance, but the tide of change had its way with me. I couldn’t stop it. I just had to go with it.

I wasn’t worrying about anything in particular. It was more like this giant, multicolored cloud over my head. Sometimes the pending celebration felt over the top exciting and at other times I was pretty sure it was going to rain down doom on me.

I’ve had many an opportunity for change since the accident, now six years ago, give or take. I’ve struggled to regain my resilience and equilibrium not only from it but from events of my life before it. I understand now that my ” come apart”  was just as much a result of the life I’d lived up until the accident as it was the accident itself. In fact, I’ve come to see the accident as a gift. It woke me up, even as it sent me reeling into a “dark night of the soul”.  It gave me the gift of opportunity — opportunity for change.

The wrenching impact the accident had on my life, inside and out, forced me to relinquish perspectives and beliefs that had paralyzed me throughout my life. It’s been a hard-fought battle, but when I headed west last September, I realized I had turned the corner.

It’s uncomfortable, at times, being a whole different person. I don’t respond and react to things the way I used to do. The chaos that ran around in my head and interfered with my relationships is gone. I show up, just as I am. That surprises me, but I’m pretty sure that’s the way we are supposed to be! I don’t worry problems to death. I think about them, feel them, let them roll around inside of me and then I either act on them or set them aside. I prefer now to share the wisdom I’ve gained rather than my problems. It just makes more sense.

I was overjoyed when I learned of my son’s engagement. I loved the woman who came into his life and mine and I was so, so happy that he was happy. As the date approached and plans needed to be made, I froze. I couldn’t move forward. I didn’t seem to be able to get myself to make flight reservations, or buy a dress, or do any of the things I thought I would be eager to do. For six weeks leading up to the wedding I wrestled with demons, demons that had no cause to wake up until a family event such as a wedding landed on my doorstep. It was an opportunity for change.

With guidance, support, determination and effort I was able to lay to rest another layer of outdated beliefs, fruitless expectations, and I eventually came out a little more me. It was necessary. It was liberating. It was, painful. I took several more steps to set the record straight for myself, to align my outside with my inside. I said things I needed to say. I did things I needed to do. Of course speaking what is true for oneself does have its consequences. For a year now, people have been dropping away like flies. I am discovering that what I was told I would discover when I dared to let go of unhealthy relationships, was true – – in the empty space my tribe has begun to show up.  Wow, what a difference!

I continue to learn that diving deep is seldom easy; that unwrapping and removing our masks is an ongoing process and challenge, particularly for those of us who are part of the scar clan – the deeply wounded. I’ve also learned that it is always possible to heal from the past, to become more resilient, and find greater inner strength. We may no longer have the same physical capacities we once had as we age, it’s a bit more challenge when stress arrives on our doorstep from a physical standpoint.  We do however, have many other skills and abilities that more than do the job. Our bodies may yell at us and buckle under with physical eruptions when we push our limits.  It may take longer for us to recover from stress, both internal and external. Our inner capacities, however, only increase and expand. We are so much more than we were — beneath the surface.

Perspectives change. We change. Life changes.

Change is the one constant in life.

Life events are an opportunity for change and growth.

We can choose to fight it or we can learn from it. The more often we are able to gird our loins and learn and grow from the process the more often we will be carried on the wings of angels to a richer, more meaningful life.

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LEARN ABOUT EFT (EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE)

Chrystal Honeycutt, ND, RH, AHG has been my go to person for support and guidance as I learn to manage and deal with PTSD, and stress overload. She taught me to use EFT to help re-ground myself during stressful times and process my feelings around change and past trauma. She recently posted this video on her You-Tube Channel. It is a clear introduction to the process and if you’re interested in learning the process and using it I highly recommend you take a few minutes to watch it. After an introduction to the process she exhibits tapping on the subject of change.

The Power of Our Imagination

The Power of Our Imagination

Friends and Acquaintances by Gale Franey
Friends and Acquaintances by Gale Franey

A person’s ability to imagine is a potent source of power that every person alive possesses. We may believe that our imagination has been displaced by pain and trauma or that we no longer have access to it, if indeed we had any to start. Or, we may be operating on the assumption that we need to think our way out of the emotional and psychological quagmire that keeps us fixated on our problems.  I believe,  that regardless of the state we are in, our imagination is available to us and can become a potent ally in our efforts toward health and wholeness.

We are all born with the power of imagination. Think about it. Can you remember a time in childhood when you were so immersed in play, your imagination so taken with the imaginary world you had summoned up that what your mind had created  seemed absolutely real to you?

I remember creating a home in the woods across from my childhood home. Tree trunks became walls, mounds of snow were fashioned into chairs and fixtures. What my friends and I created was absolutely real to us. I’m pretty sure to the eyes of an adult it would simply have been snow and woods. My perfectly crafted kitchen, complete with a pot of soup atop a beautiful white stove would have been rocks, and branches.

Our imagination is a source of power available to us at all times. Those of us who have been traumatized or who have suffered severely in our lives have turned a good portion of our imagination over to our pain.  What is fear if not a thing devised by our imagination? Perhaps the more potent our imagination, the more severe our pain.

Since my accident and subsequent PTSD, all it takes is a flash of an image at the right moment to set my heart racing. In a nano-second I am plunged into the arena of my imagination, re-living the accident as if it were presently happening. I had just such an experience last week while exercising at the club I recently joined.

I always choose a treadmill that faces a large window, so that I can focus on the big beautiful tree across the parking lot, rather than the TVs that are on the wall to either side of the window and always on. I had done so this day, but I just happened to glance at the TV, almost a side-wise, mostly unconscious glance at the screen to my left. Just as I did, an image of a man driving a car, his face painted with impending doom and terror, flashed before my eyes.  In the following nano-second the impact occurred,  and my imagination jumped into overdrive. In a split second, I was thrust into the midst of my own nightmare. Captured unwittingly, I felt as if I had no control over my suffering.

If we can recognize the power that our imagination plays in our lives,both for good and ill, we can begin to direct its course. We can choose where we will put it to work. You may say, “but we have no choice when fear overtakes us, when the physiological effects of PTSD become the driver of our emotions and imaginations” but, I believe we do have a choice. Our basic survival instinct may be broken. Our brains may replay horrific images and memories, seemingly without our say-so, but I believe we can, bit by bit, take back our power and retrain our imaginations to work in our favor and in cooperation with our healing efforts.

Using one’s imagination to counteract depression, anxiety, and trauma is a tool that is always at our disposal. Instead of choosing to let fear run the projector in our mind, we can choose hope, beauty, love, and reinforce these things as often as possible in our day-to-day lives. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a process, a practice, and ultimately a choice.

This is the fundamental principle behind the gratitude journal. When we stop and think about something good in our lives for which we can be grateful, a mini-film plays in our imagination – a reliving of something positive – and positive feelings flood our bodies. This, my friends, is far better than the flood of fear that when left unchecked leaves us only to continue suffering.

Making the choice to pay attention to what our imagination is doing, to become conscious of the imaginings that are transporting us to painful places and choosing, when we can, to imagine positive images and outcomes can begin to create an environment where healing can take place.  Our imagination can become our best friend instead of our worst nightmare.