Overcoming Shock and Crisis

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of going through some type of crisis, shock, or trauma, hopefully there were people around to help you. In the best case scenario, you’ll be able to rely on the kindness of strangers and professionals trained to guide you through this situation.

However if you have the misfortune of going through a negative experience alone, I want to be sure you have the necessary tools to take responsibility for your own healing and treat yourself from the immediate after effects of crisis.

When you go through an emergency, there are several physiological changes that happen, which fundamentally alter the state of your consciousness, such as:

  • The reptilian mind, or brainstem, becomes hyper active.

  • Adrenaline shoots from your adrenal glands located above your kidneys and into your bloodstream.

  • Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone,, floods the bloodstream agitating all the cells in your body and preparing your muscles for fight or flight.

  • Your heart rate will begin to increase pumping blood into your muscles.

  • Blood flow will also reduce to certain internal organs, and the frontal lobe of the brain.

In preparation for the emergency, as the flood of neurochemicals and hormones saturates your cells, your perception will become altered. You may experience tunnel vision, the inability to see peripherally. You may become fixated on what’s happening directly in front of you to the exclusion of the rest of your environment. Some people experience hearing loss and are unable to perceive people speaking, loud noises, or sirens.

Exactly what will occur to you will, of course, depend upon your individuality and the circumstances. However, it is sufficient to say that the longer and more intense the shock affecting your system the more intense your body’s physical reactions.

If this remains unchecked for too long it may lead to cardiac arrest or worse. It is of the importance to get control over yourself during these intense moments of shock, however, the methods for doing so often fall far short of their intended goal.

The most effective way that we teach to gain control of your bodies functions under Extreme duress, is through slow conscious deep breathing.

First, deep breathing is one of the few tools that we almost always have access to, regardless of the crisis. This type of breathing involves more than just filling your lungs with air and exhaling. So, a step-by-step practice to teach the correct method follows.

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width, with your feet parallel.

  2. Sit up, taking your back off the back of your chair (if you can) and make spine straight.

  3. Place your hands on your thighs. It should take minimal effort to maintain this position.

  4. Exhale out of your mouth and empty your lungs fully contracting your stomach and diaphragm.

  5. Next close your mouth and inhale slowly and deeply. As you do so, your abdomen should expand like a balloon being filled with air. Your shoulders and upper chest should remain still until the inhale is nearly complete.

  6. Once you have inhaled completely filling your lungs hold your breath and count to four slowly. You should feel as little strain on your body as possible.

  7. Then slowly exhale out of your mouth, allowing your abdomen to contract and empty your lungs.

  8. After you have exhaled, hold your breath and count to four slowly.

  9. Then repeat the steps 5-9.

Inhale… 2…3…4… Hold…2…3…4… Exhale…2…3…4… Hold…2…3…4… Repeat

When done correctly, you will feel your heart rate slow down, and your vision and hearing will return to normal. Any shaking in your muscles or nervousness in your stomach will begin to dissipate. The effects of the increased levels of cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline running through your bloodstream will diminish.

Most importantly, you will be able to think clearly and your sense of well-being will begin to return.

At times, I have students who attempt to practice this deep breathing exercise during a critical moment of fear and shock, and they report to me that it did not work. The key to ensuring that this exercise works in-the-moment, is making sure that the deep breath you take fully expands your belly in abdominal region keeping your chest and shoulders still.

What you are doing internally when you take slow deep breaths while expanding your abdomen, is massaging all of your internal organs. Your kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine, large intestines, adrenal glands, gallbladder, etc. are physically massaged by taking a deep breath inside your torso. It is this internal massage that will move lymph fluid, blood, and the associated stress neurochemicals through your body preventing them from overloading your mind, changing your emotional state from shocked and afraid to calm and in control.

If you would like more information about this technique and others to help you during the moment of crisis, or if you would like to learn further techniques on how you can gain control over your own emotions, contact us or attend a Trauma Sensitive/Informed Yoga class.

We are here to help you.