Understanding the biology behind PTSD can make combatting it less daunting. This was just one of the lessons shared during Sound Waves’ latest webinar.
Sound Waves a Big Local Impact project, is run by mothers who have tragically lost their children to gun and knife crime. The mothers describe this lived experience as ‘trauma of the highest level’. Sound Waves aims to support mothers who sadly come to experience this loss. They began with sharing information on the trauma they experience.
Miriam Usiskin & Bobby Lloyd were invited to this webinar to share about their work with Art Refuge – most recently supporting refugees stranded in Calais.
Their presentation focused on the physiological aspects of trauma and how these symptoms can be alleviated.
Numerous impacts of the trauma on every day living were highlighted, such as extreme emotional highs and lows, difficulties processing sensory experiences, memory gaps and trusting other people.
Miriam and Bobby stressed that these were normal responses to an abnormal situation.
We then delved into why these all happen with some simple neuroscience. Understanding how the brain’s chemistry alters when trauma occurs is helpful.
Miriam Usiskin looked at the part of the brain called the amygdala and explained it is responsible for survival-related threat identification as well as linking memories with emotion. After trauma, the amygdala can get caught up in a highly alert activated loop. During this it looks for perceives threat everywhere, this is known as hyper-vigilance.
This hyper-vigilance can, however, be eased through rewiring the brain, even may years after a traumatic event.
The presentation outlined treatments that may be recommended following a visit to the NHS. Watchful waiting is when someone who is suffering from trauma is asked to monitor their symptoms to see if they are improved or get worse without treatment. Psychological therapies could include trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), or antidepressants may be prescribed.
But with current long waiting lists for NHS referrals, Bobby went through some grounding techniques which can help. These focus on mindfulness, breathing and orientation in the space that people are in.
Doing something that brings someone into the here and now can help you feel more grounded. Whether it’s distracting yourself through being active or activating multi-sensory activities. Bobby and Miriam gave an example of a refugee who was in a heightened sense of stress and hyperventilating. But after sitting with him for 15-20 minutes regulating his breathing he was able to have a conversation with them.
As well as breathing grounding can also come through tactile activity (holding an object in the palm of your hand), Directed sensory activity (rolling clay, folding paper) and muscle relaxing movements.
Our two speakers stressed the power of emotional resilience as well. This can be built through many different avenues, including family, friends and spirituality.
All this is just a little of the ideas and support we explored, check out the full presentation above!
If you would like to get involved with any future sessions please get in touch –