Facing Fears and Dealing with Trauma

We all have trauma. Some experiences are worse than others, some easier to deal with. For many we pretend we aren’t dealing with trauma and thus keep our survival brain operating instead of our socially engaged learning brain. This hurts us all and gets worse with time. Trauma impacts your physical health, relationships, and ability to be successful. Is it time you faced your fears and healed your trauma?

As we move through this season of endings and watch mother nature let go, it’s a good reminder to reconnect with parts of ourselves that have been wounded and shunned. 

During this time of year many spiritual practices focus on reconnecting with the past, honoring those who have come before, and remembering we are connected to a much larger system – nature, family, seasons, history, ancestors, and even traumas. 

I am not affiliated with this movie. I just really like it. I like the concept and spirit of how important it is to honor our ancestors and ourselves at the same time while holding space for all that the family story may contain.

Past trauma keeps us stuck and living as though the bad will happen again. This year what might happen if you faced your fears, looked deeper at your family stories, beliefs, patterns, and trauma to truly heal your body and soul?

In honor of Halloween (Samhain/Día de los Muertos) this month, let’s honor the past and reconnect with our true selves even if it scares us. Many of us avoid things we are fearful of. This makes sense. Usually when we feel fear there is danger near and we need to move away from it to survive. 

The way the brain is set up, the amygdala is wired to help us understand danger, where it comes from, and what to do about it. Its signal inspires for us to get away from things we deem as dangerous. Unfortunately sometimes things we believe are dangerous are just what we believe, they truly aren’t dangerous for us, but caught in belief patterns of fear based on past experiences. What they are doing is hitting the danger, danger, danger button of our brains based on past experiences. It is linking to times when we were afraid or when our ancestors were in danger. But it may not be true today. 

When the amygdala gets going it can be hard to break from the cycle of fear. This is part of what is not working in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result of a traumatic experience – physical or mental – our nervous system gets highjacked. This highjacking keeps us “looping” in hyper-vigilant states looking for what is wrong, even after the danger is over. 

In addition to being on edge for what danger is coming at us, we can also go into what is known as a hypo-arousal state. This numbed out feeling, lack of connection, and sense of being apart from our experiences is a survival mechanism to keep us alive. Often we bounce between the two states and feel more and more fearful and confused. 

Our bodies are pretty brilliant when it comes to making sure the species goes on. However if we do not heal traumatic wounding and reset the nervous system back toward health it wreaks havoc on our immune system, cardiovascular system, our relationships, our ability to work, and our concentration and thoughts to name a few items. Research continues to link trauma to a number of chronic conditions, like chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, obesity, sleep disorders, headaches, and digestive issues. To heal it we must work with our dysregulated state and allow ourselves to build capacity to stay present to what is happening in front of us now, not what we have experienced in the past. 

In therapy we often work using pendulum states – moving between an escalated nervous system presentation to safety – while the therapist helps regulate the whole system. We work to build what is called a window of tolerance for sensitivity and stress while adding healthy coping skills back into the system. 

Once the nervous system is reset and the healthy coping skills learned, it’s not like the trauma didn’t happen, but instead of being a gaping wound that hurts to move, it’s a scar that may be sensitive to similar experiences. It’s not hurt anymore, but it reminds us that we had a scary or terrifying experience in our past. It helps us see how strong we are and helps us learn to be more kind to ourselves and others. 

As we turn toward trauma it does not mean we have to repeat all the details of the event(s). Often we don’t know them. The brain is good at managing states so we don’t even remember all the ugly stuff we experienced, however the body knows. The experience is still categorized in experiences and needs to be “filed into the right chapter” of life. We do this in a variety of ways, but telling the story isn’t necessary.

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As we begin to face what fears we have, we slowly become more free. We learn that not everything that was will happen again, not everyone we meet will hurt us, and not every trip outside our home ends badly. We slowly begin to see that life is full of good things and bad things. Things we like and things we don’t. Little by little we come out of our shell and heal. We get stronger. We get braver. We get more connected to all that is around us. 

During this time of letting go, closing down, honoring ancestors, facing goblins, ghosts, and ghouls. Are you willing to face your own demons? Then let’s get started. 


If you are ready to face your own demons … contact us and we can help you determine the next steps on your personal journey. Studio B ~ Create. Your. Self.

Studio B is the culmination of my journey as an exercise scientist turned psychologist. Visit us and see how we can help you Create. Your.Self

How to work out and get exercise right during a pandemic

I have been getting lots of questions about how to workout during shelter in place rules. A number of people have struggled feeling tired and overwhelmed even though they aren’t sick and not working out regularly. So many of us are off our routines. When we get off our routines our system gets off. This is our nervous system response to stress.

We often do not realize how much work our bodies are doing to manage stress. We feel like it should be fine, we should be fine. And … we are not. We are in need of more rest and support – even when things are not “that bad”. It is important to listen to your body and meet it where it is. Give it what it needs to be your optimal self.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get moving even when your nervous system is busy managing the uncertainty and stress.

For more information on working with your body and nervous system to program your workouts: read more here https://stacyrd.com/get-moving-the-li…

For more videos to help you stay on psychological track, check these out: https://stacyrd.com/exercise-videos-f…

You can learn more about me on my blog at: www.Stacyrd.com

or psychology practice website: www.stacyreuille.com

Your Body Holds the Answers. Ordinary to Badass Podcast Interview.

Join Marie and I as we talk about how to manage social distancing and still feel connected during the COVID-19 outbreak, how to treat mental health with diet and exercise, and what it means to be the best you possible.If you haven’t heard her podcasts yet … check them out! She has amazing women talking about life and working to create the life they want to lead. I like to listen while I work out- these ladies are INSPIRING!! I always workout a little harder, thanks to their stories of hard work and success.

In this episode I talk to Stacy Reuille-Dupont, PHD.  Stacy is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a licensed addiction counselor, and a certified personal trainer.  Stacy incorporates Psychology and movement to help you get results!

In this episode we talk about her fitness club burning down, how to manage stress during covid-19, and using movement to improve your mental health!


Connect with Ordinary to Badass on Instagram 

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Show notes page

https://ordinarytobadass.com/your-body-holds-the-answers/

Below is the link to the podcast on iTunes. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ordinary-to-badass/id1479878786

Acceptance of What is vs. Changing What You Don’t Like.

Ever learned how to surf? Surfers will tell you it’s about being patient and accepting the ocean just as she is. You have to be present to the moment if you are to be ready. To ride the next wave as it changes energy and crashes to the shore you have to be open to accept what it is, as it is. Today we are looking at how to use self regulation to bring acceptance to the moment you are in, not the one you wish was happening.

Many people I see in my office are able to regulate themselves when things are going good. When things get challenging however … many struggle to maintain practices that keep them focused on what is working. 

Many ask me how they are supposed to maintain hope when things are hard. It is a tricky dance between acceptance of what is and awareness of what is not wanted. Holding this paradigm in balance can help make sure you are focused on what is working and what needs to be changed. This can be a tough balance to find and relies on maintaining enough self regulation to help yourself be present to what is, just as it is.  

An easy way to remember how to care for yourself is the acronym HALT. Are you:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

If you are any of these things you will be more irritable and struggle more relationships and completing daily activities. As you work on taking care of yourself, making sure these areas are covered goes a long way toward helping you handle difficult situations with grace. 

Let’s break down each of the letters into actionable steps. It is here that you have power and control. You may not be able to change the situation you are in, however you can change how you are orienting to it and how you show up. Thus helping yourself accept what is, just as it is.

H – Are you hungry? Then eat. A nice balance of good fats, protein, and carbohydrate goes a long way to help you regulate your emotional experience. In its basic form, this is about taking care of physical needs, however, it can be about much more. If you have enough to eat but still feel hungry, what are you hungry for? What are you feeding yourself? Is it nutritious? Does it fill you? Think about not only the food you eat but the media, music, social experiences, physical spaces you find yourself in. Are they nourishing or do they feel depleted and bland? Take care to feed all of your senses well. Without nourishing intake you will feel empty and life will lose its sweetness. When those things happen we begin eating for reasons other than physical hunger. 

A – How are you with your anger? Many of us were taught that anger is bad or violent. That is not true. Anger is only violent when you act out violently to discharge it. It is only “bad” when the results of your actions have created further complications (guilt and shame) to deal with. When we are suppressing anger it leads to all sorts of issues. 

Anger revs up our inflammation system, thus we feel more body aches, joint pain, have concentration issues, memory problems, and heart stress. It wrecks havoc on many of our tissues because all that extra inflammation has no where to go. It cycles through the body looking for an outlet only to circle through the system again and again. 

Emotionally suppressed anger often leads the despair that underlies depression. When you feel so trapped to influence anything well, the world looks pretty hopeless. I often coach people to feel their anger in little bits. This keeps it manageable,. As noted above may of us have seen and experienced negative outbursts of anger. Anger doesn’t have to be explosive, but it does need to move out. Anger’s job is to help you notice something unjust or when a boundary has been crossed. It is a catalystic emotion, one that makes change happen. It wants something done and feels better once expressed. It is in the expression mistakes of acting out are made in ways we are not proud of.  

Learning how to gather the information and then make decisions based on the most effective expression of those emotions is called emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is something we all learn. Emotions are just here to give us information. Once we get the information and respond to them, rather than impulsively react, they dissipate. 

L – Feeling lonely, even in a crowd. There is a great quote on the poster “How to Build a Community” it says, “no one is silent, though many are not heard”.  Often we feel like no one is listening to us even when they ask for our thoughts. Many of us do not have someone in our lives who can deeply hear us, beyond our words and actions, but really hear what underlies our experiences. Sometimes we can’t even hear ourselves at this level. 

Again on a basic level, if you are feeling lonely reach out to your support system. Get around people where you can smile and feel at least a little connected. Notice how you keep yourself disconnected when you are in a crowd. Do you go to the coffee shop and make no eye contact, wear your headphones, and make sure you are nowhere near another body? You might want to take off your headphones and try to make some eye contact, you can decide how close to stand in line, but paying attention to natural connections in our surroundings is a way to begin to reconnect the world. If you are feeling lonely in a crowd it may be time to start doing therapy to experience the sensations of being deeply heard or to learn skills to be more effective in your communication patterns

T – Tired. This could be truly physical, you didn’t sleep well last night or it could be deeper and more extreme like I am tired in my being. If you are feeling physically tired, work to get better quality sleep by practicing sleep hygiene. If you are feeling tired in your being you might want to look at the emotional load you are carrying. Many of us are unaware of our deep sadness, anger, or fear, it has always been there. It may be something that was handed to us by our families and so we know it well. 

Or it might be that life has been hard and you are weary of the burdens related to living or losing. In this case, relieving the fatigue is about taking a life inventory and beginning to get rid of that which no longer serves you, grieve what you have lost, and work to build positive experiences into your day no matter how small. Again, this may require the help of a professional and someone who can really support you through your process. 

As you work to help yourself navigate changes in your life with grace, remember it is acceptance of what is that makes all the difference. It does not mean you have to like it, want it, or agree with it … but you do have to accept it is what you are dealing with if you want to shift. 

By taking care of these 4 areas you are already moving toward being able to move through change with less disruption and strife. 

Want to feel more regulated and in control of yourself? Remember: HALT

  • Hungry – feed yourself well. This included nutritious foods as well as everything you consume – media, social experiences, music, art, nature, anything you let into your body.
  • Angry – feel your feelings, notice what boundary needs to be set and take action in a productive way. Work to let it out a little at a time if it feels too big to do at once. Be patient with yourself. This can be difficult. 
  • Lonely – reach out to a member of your support crew. Notice how you keep yourself separate and defend against connecting. Work to engage with your environment and others with more ease. 
  • Tired – get some rest. Even a small break, short walk, or simple breathing exercise will help shift your mood. Get some sunshine. Sunshine is known to help raise energy levels. If you are feeling the heavy burdens of living life, get some support and help to determine what you can let go of and what to keep. Then learn new skills to cope with in more healthy ways that leave you feeling energetic not depleted.  

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Social Distancing While Parenting and Being a Social Worker

How many of us are feeling the effects of trying to balance our lives while social distancing? In this post a good friend of mine outlines her experience parenting, while working from home, while worrying about the effects of the global pandemic on her children. I think many of us can relate on all sorts of levels – parents or not.

Guest Post By: Megan Murphy, LCSW

I begin writing some scattered thoughts after the third night of tossing and turning and waking up with a sore jaw and neck, from all of the things my brain must be trying to work out at night.  I notice that mornings, I tend to feel strong and hopeful.  I am noticing that afternoons are really hard, and my mind truly wishes it could download or shut down, sleep or reset.

I am familiar with anxiety and depression.  I have dealt with these emotions at many different times in my life, and overall, I have been able to overcome them, or at least survive, cope with, and accept them in my life. 

This has been a very confusing time for my mind, like it is, for so many others.  My career as a Social Worker, who works with many vulnerable populations, including the severely and persistently mentally ill, has given me more strength and hope than I could ever explain in words.  I have seen people survive and thrive in circumstances, I am quite sure I would never survive.  I’ve seen the communities of the homeless, helping one another, and caring for one another.  I’ve seen families doing their best to support their own, with limited resources, sometimes limited intellectual capacities, and very often, with judgment from the outside world.  My career has taught me so much about resilience.  I am so grateful for these clients and to so many people I have worked with along the way, who put their hearts, souls, and brains into this work.  I have no doubt that the clients I work with, have taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  I THANK them to no end!

It has been heartbreaking not to be able to support these people face to face, to help get them the resources that they need now more than ever.  However, I am grateful for a job that knows that keeping all of us (clients included) healthy in the short term, will only help, not hurt our mission, to help them in the long term.  Or, as a wise man (thanks Dad) told me, “sometimes you have to stay in the fight, to win the fight”. 

Parenting has been a whole different level of anxiety, acceptance, and resilience during this time.  I have two sons, ages 14 and 9.  We are beginning to work on schooling from home.  I have so many worries about this time in life for them.  For my 14-year-old, I worry about this time in his life.  He is supposed to be working on independence, separating himself from his parents and working on finding himself.  Peers are also such a huge part of learning and growing at his age.  It’s so hard to tell him that we don’t have answers about when life may be “normal” again.  It is so hard to say “no” to so many requests.  I am so proud of him.  I can tell he is frustrated and worried.  It always seems that right when it’s needed, he invites his brother into his room to play games with him.  He is an amazing human being.  I worry about my skills to work and teach him from home, while also paying attention to emotional needs.  

For my 9-year-old, I worry about his enthusiastic, open view of the world and an absolute need to connect, move, and be excited about life!  Lately, he has denied every request to go outside on a walk.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed he is anxious about it.  “Is it safe”, “what if I see a friend on a walk”, “Can we talk to each other”, “am I sick”, “are you sick”, “will we all get sick”.  “Are we safe”.  While my husband and I do our best to reassure him, we don’t have the answers.  He seems to feel best when saying, “family first, right mom”?  

While these things worry me, I am reminded of how much gratitude I have.  I do not have to parent without a partner.  We are able to do this as a team and take turns when the other is feeling overwhelmed.  So many do not have this and they are HEROES!  Sometimes, I get frustrated with my own anxieties and worries because I am SO aware of the hard times others have and are experiencing.  My life has been so easy overall.  I have never needed for a thing, and have always had an abundance of love in my life.  I feel guilty and ashamed sometimes that I have so much fear. 

I have parents who give me strength.  My father, a Vietnam marine, has this way of saying just the right things, to keep me focused and strong, during hard times.  My mom, an independent woman, who has been a caretaker of many kinds, keeps me sane with love and constant communication and ideas of ways to keep myself busy.  My brothers are both amazing and show me love and support, and I hope I do the same for them.

I have an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who check-in, send me love, and inspire me.  

I have friends that keep me grounded, strong, and grateful.  Each of them gives me something so special and unique and I cannot imagine life, or this crisis, without them.  We send each other videos, love, and ideas.  Let me tell you, these are amazing women!

The lack of answers is what continues to be the hardest.  I told my friend Jamie the other day, that while I am so aware that I am not alone, I “feel” alone.  She said, “yes, we are trying to accept and process something we have no answers to, and only fear.  We feel alone because we are not allowed to be around others”.  That felt so validating.  

So, for the moment, I plan to give myself grace.  I plan to accept that some moments I will feel strong, and others I may not.  I will do my best to show up for my family, friends, children, husband, and clients, with love, and understanding, that they too, will have good moments and not so good moments.

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