Taking care of stress is taking care of trauma
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
The Oxford Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances,” and it’s natural. Our brain comes hard-wired with a stress alarm system for our own protection, signaling our body’s “fight-or-flight” response in moments of danger. Once the threat is gone, “your body is meant to return to a normal, relaxed state” (Mayo Clinic). Unfortunately, sometimes our survivors have a difficult time turning off those alarm systems.
The PSOT interdisciplinary approach means we care for the entire patient - mind, body and soul. Among the nation’s top medical care, legal aid and physician-lead group therapy, we also provide care for an all too common alignment that can slip through the cracks - stress.
Stress can lead to many health problems, like heart disease and high blood pressure. Left unchecked, stress could weaken the immune system, cause serious depression and anxiety, lead to insomnia, or even gastrointestinal problems like ulcers.
Survivors bear an enormous amount of stress from their past trauma. They carry a constant fear of being sent back to hostile or dangerous home they have fled. They go through each day with a cloud of uncertainty, wondering if today is the day they will be unjustly detained or separated from their family. Even wondering if they’ll ever see the family they had to leave behind. Survivors are always on high alert.
Thanks to our community of supporters, PSOT can provide survivors active and creatively stimulating forms of stress treatment and management. One of those ways is through yoga.
“I love watching yoga participants at PSOT slowly settle into their bodies and the space over the course of [a] class,” says Zoe K., volunteer PSOT yoga instructor with trauma informed training, and 7+ years experience teaching yoga in studios, NGOs and non-profit settings. “At the beginning of class, there is often a lot of hurried, twitchy, anxious movement. By the end of the class... there is a softening of peoples fingers, toes and faces as they let their weight drop to the floor. When they sit back up, there is a sustained openness and grounding in their bodies and faces - which is subtle - but moving.”
Zoe is passionate about teaching yoga to some of NYC’s most vulnerable, and came to PSOT through a non-profit called, Yoga Within Reach, which provides access to yoga to underserved NYC communities. Through her practice, she notes yoga can boost the immune system, improve blood sugar levels and heart rate. It can balance the nervous systems, improve focus, reduce reactivity, aggression, depression - even fear. When this happens, care can improve across the board: physicians can treat alignments, medications can be more effective and the myriad of paperwork for social and legal services doesn’t seem as scary.
The yoga clinics, provided every other Monday evening, are open to all PSOT clients and are an integral part of the community and self-care we provide survivors.