We’d also seen clients who were so consumed by their food that they couldn’t stop eating. Or who were so overwhelmed by their emotions that they couldn’t get back to normal. As their coaches, we searched for individual explanations. We found them in our athletes. Many clients experience trauma of all kinds. It can make it hard to reach their goals. It can also affect their ability to work with others. We all have the capacity to improve our health and well-being. Yet, we often struggle to do so due to trauma. This article aims to help clients identify their triggers and implement effective interventions to support their recovery.
Trauma is a type of stress that overwhelms our resources and ability to cope. In a normal stress response, we recover and eventually come back to our baseline. When we experience trauma, we tend to experience intense stressors that make it hard to recover. A person's subjective experience of a certain event or situation can determine whether they are experiencing trauma. This process is based on a person's perception of the situation and their response to it.
About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lives. While women are more prone to experiencing sexual assault and child abuse, men are more likely to experience combat and accidents. Power and privilege protect people from harm. Those from marginalized groups are more prone to experiencing trauma.
Trauma changes our brains.
When trauma occurs, it can affect how people behave and communicate with others. They may also struggle to identify physical sensations. For instance, they may not know how to tell the difference between hunger and pain.
They may not remember details like when they were little or what they ate as a kid. They may also get stuck or paralyzed. Their story is deeply negative. It makes them feel like a failure. They can’t imagine anything better than what they have done. Their reaction seems to escalate dramatically.
You might be surprised to learn that this behavior is rooted in fear and danger. It involves intentionally agreeing to everything that you suggest. It becomes increasingly clear that they won’t implement it.
Trauma changes our physical health.
The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is a hormonal feedback loop that's sensitive to stress and energy availability. When it gets hyperactivated, it can cause various hormones to get out of whack.
Childhood trauma is known to increase the risk of chronic inflammation, which is linked to various health issues. This phenomenon could be caused by an overactivated HPA axis. People with trauma may also have higher rates of chronic illnesses such as autoimmune disorders.
An unexplained pain that doesn't seem to have a cause. Usually, it's a tight or long-standing sensation that doesn't seem to have a cause. Effects of stress on the endocrine system, including inflammation and the HPA axis, can also increase the pain perception.
Trauma can change our nutrition, exercise, and health habits.
Years of struggling with food and fitness can be very dangerous, especially for people with disordered eating or obesity.
Clients with trauma history may; Lose weight in a binge or overeat. Lose it in a fast or intense way and feel like you’ve already gained control of everything around you. Experiencing a low mood or feeling like you’re already overworked can also help lift spirits. Control and restrict their eating. This will either make them behave in a certain way or they will lose control.
Do things that seem contradictory. For instance, going on a diet and then binging in the evening. Sometimes, people get “brain fog” around food. It can be a sign that something has gone wrong.
The more trauma a person has experienced in their life, the more likely they are to have various symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and/or physical pain.
A study tracked the relationship between BMI and PTSD symptoms over time. Those with higher PTSD symptoms were more likely to gain weight. Women who were abused were less likely to exercise than those who hadn’t been abused, a study found. The findings revealed that the higher heart rate and increased feelings of anxiety and fear triggered by being abused evoked the same feelings in women.
Trauma can also change us for the better.
We can feel bad about ourselves sometimes and still grow. We can also feel good about ourselves.
A person might lose everything in their life, but then have a moment where they decide to dump all of their accumulated stuff into the garbage can. This is called post-traumatic growth.
It can also help to think about how we can help others in similar situations. Knowing how to recognize trauma can help clients get started on the path to making repairs.
As a coach, How can we help? within our scope of practice!
Familiarize yourself with the signs of trauma. Knowing the signs of trauma can help you spot potential clients who might be experiencing psychological distress and can help you support them
Affirm the validity of people’s feelings. Don't say “It’s not that big deal” to people when they are struggling. Don’t avoid the topic. Instead, say something that’s truly sorry.
Maintain and respect boundaries. Don’t become a caregiver for clients. Be aware that these concepts can help you care for them but also prevent you from becoming their caregiver. Open, non-confrontational language to give off a friendly, non-threatening vibe. As Fitness professionals; always get your clients consent to touch them before assisting them with their posture, when you have body-related trauma it can help a client feel more secure and safe.
If your client is open, explain the trauma response. Having a client who has experienced trauma can help to share what happened to them during their trauma response. It’s a simple concept: Your body and brain are responding to something that happened in your past. This pattern of physiological response is what causes your health issues. It’s not because they forgot to pack their lunch or they bought the wrong groceries. It’s because they’re not sure who they are or how they define themselves.
Help clients learn to calm themselves. Balloon breathing: When people breathe deeply, their brain processes parasympathetic input from the heart, which can affect their heart rate. By extending your exhale, you're helping to keep your parasympathetic, calm-down state. Core-engaged breathing: Your spine's configuration can affect the nervous system's physiological pressure receptors. For instance, stretching the spine activates sympathetic receptors while restricting the sympathetic ones. Performing a fetal position helps relieve pressure on the spinal ganglia. Breathing deeply through your ribs and core helps keep the pressure at bay. This is also beneficial for minimizing stress on the brain. These exercises can help clients develop their awareness of concrete physical sensations. They can also help them avoid focusing on the sensation of their feet on the floor.
Have a referral network at the ready: You can also refer mental health professionals to people in your community or across the country.
Serve, but preserve. There are a lot of people who choose to work with a coach instead of a therapist due to various reasons. One of these is that they don't have insurance or are afraid to discuss their mental health. There are times when you should not be afraid to ask for permission from a client. When it comes to coaching, there are some key differences between therapists and assistants. For instance, while the former are usually supervised, they can also get along with other therapists and share advice. As a coach, it's important that you regularly talk to like-minded individuals. They can help you get through tough times.
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