Trauma and stress: its impact on mind and body

An experience of threat so great, such as the experience of those women and children in the refugee encampment of Idomeni, leaves an imprint on mind, body and heart. For some people, even when the danger is long past and over it can still feel as if the dangerous threatening situation is happening right now.

Not everyone may have experienced traumatic events, but most of us have experienced stress in our lives. This is not always a bad thing. Certain levels of stress can provide energy and motivation. But when we feel overwhelmed by what we have to do or under pressure  and we feel unable to meet the demands that life is asking of us, stress can be a more damaging force in our lives.


In the midst of our struggles and difficulties, how can we feel better?

Mindfulness practices offer a means of finding small islands of safety by bringing our attention to the moment –to- moment experience of being present.

The consequences of traumatic experience leave the mind worrying about the future and caught up and entangled in the past. The body can be constantly switched on to red alert, waiting and checking that there is no danger present.  A smell or sound may trigger a memory and we relive a dangerous or terrifying experience as if it is happening right now.

The psychology of trauma tells us that doing practices that can bring us back into contact with the present moment here and now, help the body to know that the danger is in the past.

Learning to manage whatever challenges may arise with steadiness, can also bring a sense of stability and calm. There is much evidence that mindfulness can alleviate and reduce symptoms of stress and help people to thrive.

Over time and with practice, mindfulness can soothe and nourish the mind and body, strengthening our ability to be calm, stable and less reactive to the difficulties we may face in life.