Course Content
Month 1
This month, we will focus on understanding the intrusive and avoidant symptoms associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance and influence of physical exercise, and the calming power of breathing exercises. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to physical exercise, a breathing exercise, and journal prompts.
Month 2
This month, we will focus on understanding the psychological symptoms associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance of eating a balanced and healthy diet, and the transformative power of relaxation techniques. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage your symptoms, a self-care activity related to nutrition, a guided relaxation exercise, and journal prompts.
Month 3
This month, we will focus on understanding the reactive symptoms associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance of rest, and the therapeutic power of visual meditations. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity focused on rest, a guided visual meditation, and journal prompts.
Month 4
This month, we will focus on understanding the psychological associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance of sleep, and the healing power of mindfulness meditations. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to sleep, a guided mindfulness meditation, and journal prompts.
Month 5
This month, we will focus on understanding what cues are and how they impact you, the importance of social connection, and the soothing power of rhythmic movement and mindful exercise. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to connection, a guided rhythmic movement or mindful exercise, and journal prompts.
Month 6
This month, we will focus on managing symptoms, the importance of celebration, and some additional relaxation techniques. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to celebration, a relaxation technique, and journal prompts.
Private: Trauma Recovery Program
About Lesson

Month 3 Week 3

Health Literacy Focus: Understanding Reactive Symptoms

Understanding the Startle Response. 

After experiencing trauma, you may develop a heightened startle response, which is an exaggerated reaction to sudden or unexpected stimuli. This response is often a result of the brain’s heightened sensitivity to potential threats, as it remains on high alert following the traumatic event. The startle response is linked to the body’s fight-or-flight response, where the sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to either confront or flee from danger. In individuals with PTSD, this response can be triggered by stimuli that are reminiscent of the traumatic event, even if they are not actually threatening. This heightened startle response can lead to feelings of anxiety, hypervigilance, and a sense of being constantly on edge, making it difficult for you to feel safe and secure in their environment.

Psychophysiological (brain-body) reactivity to aversive stimuli, such as impaired inhibition of fear and exaggerated sensitivity to stressors, is a key process associated with trauma exposure. The Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal (HPA) axis is a complex network of feedback interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland, which regulate physiological processes like immunity, fertility, and stress response. PTSD patients often exhibit heightened feedback sensitivity in the HPA axis and increased norepinephrine secretion, indicating exaggerated stress reactivity in PTSD. Studies have shown that people with PTSD often exhibit elevated physiological reactivity to startling stimuli. One study found that individuals with PTSD showed greater reactivity than others, especially in heart rate, particularly in ambiguous and low-threat conditions.

The physiology of the stress response progresses through stages of alarm, resistance, and exhaustion over many years, with cortisol depletion occurring in some individuals who have been exposed to ongoing or long-term stress. Some people with HPA axis dysfunction report symptoms such as fatigue, unexplained weight changes, poor sleep quality, trouble sleeping, poor immune response, difficulty managing stress, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, depression, sugar or salt cravings, inflammation, poor circulation, weak nails, and hair loss. Some therapies believed to be helpful in repairing feedback mechanisms in the HPA include adaptogenic herbs, such as ginseng and rhodiola; nutrition changes, including reducing processed foods and increasing whole foods to stabilize cortisol levels; exercise; and stress reduction techniques, like mindfulness, yoga, and breathing techniques.

Coping Toolkit: Yoga for Stress Relief

What is Yoga for Stress Relief?

Yoga, aimed at uniting mind, body, and spirit, has become a popular stress management practice in Western cultures and has been shown to decrease depressive and anxious symptoms. Typical yoga practices combine stretching, holding various poses (asanas), deep rhythmic breathing, and meditation to increase physical flexibility and strength. Yoga benefits health, improving insomnia, sleep quality, and overall well-being through increased melatonin secretion and cardiac output. Studies have shown yoga’s effectiveness in reducing depression, anxiety, and stress across diverse populations by enhancing positive affect and self-compassion and reducing cortisol levels. One study found that 12 sessions of hatha yoga significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and depression in women. Yoga has further been shown to improve self-description, psychological status, quality of life, and mental health by enhancing stress management, reducing negative emotions, and promoting mental balance

Yoga’s effectiveness in stress reduction is believed to operate through mechanisms like increased mindfulness, interoceptive awareness, self-compassion, self-control, and spiritual well-being. Preliminary evidence suggests that yoga may modulate the regulation of the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system, reducing physiological stress markers like blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol, and cytokine levels.

Try It.


Self-Care Activity: Rest

Understanding Social Rest.

Social rest includes two distinct types of rest. First, it refers to the rejuvenation and replenishment one experiences through meaningful social interactions and relationships. Social rest involves engaging in interactions that nourish our emotional and psychological well-being. It is about being in the presence of supportive people who understand and accept us without judgment, allowing us to feel seen, heard, and valued. Social rest can occur during quality time with loved ones, deep conversations with friends, or participation in supportive community activities. These interactions can help reduce feelings of loneliness, stress, and emotional exhaustion, contributing to overall mental health.

The second type of social rest refers to limiting social fatigue. Social fatigue is caused by social interactions that you find stressful, overwhelming, or draining. Social fatigue can result from constant social obligations, superficial interactions, or spending time with individuals who deplete our energy. For some of us, this may be loud gatherings that become overwhelming. For others, it may be specific people who drain our energy reserves. Managing your social battery and ensuring it is fully charged is an essential type of rest. The importance of the first type of social rest lies in its ability to counteract the effects of social fatigue.

By seeking out and prioritizing restorative social connections, we can enhance our emotional resilience and improve our capacity to cope with life’s challenges. This form of rest is essential for maintaining a balanced and fulfilling life, as it supports our need for connection, belonging, and emotional support.

Furthermore, social rest can be a crucial factor in recovery from stress and burnout. When we are overwhelmed by life’s demands, positive social interactions can provide a sense of relief and perspective, reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles. Engaging in social rest allows us to share our experiences, receive empathy, and gain emotional support, which can significantly alleviate stress and promote a sense of well-being. Therefore, incorporating social rest into our lives is vital for sustaining our mental and emotional health, helping us to recharge and remain resilient in the face of adversity.

Try It.

Harry_Roa_Gallery suggests the following ways to engage in social rest:

Alone Time – Taking moments of solitude is vital for recharging after social interactions. Research shows that spending time alone can improve creativity, productivity, and mental well-being. Embrace solitude to rejuvenate your mind and spirit. For example, spend an evening reading your favourite book, taking a solo walk in nature, or practicing meditation.

Quality Connections – Surround yourself with supportive and uplifting relationships. Strong social connections are linked to better physical and mental health. Cultivate relationships that bring positivity and fulfillment into your life. For instance, prioritize spending time with friends who uplift you, join a hobby group or club, or volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about.

Assertive Communication – Learn the power of saying no. Setting boundaries is essential for maintaining balance and protecting your well-being. Research suggests that assertive communication can reduce stress and enhance self-esteem. Practice saying “Thank you for the offer,” to assert your boundaries with grace. For example, politely decline invitations or requests that don’t align with your priorities or values.

Shared Activities – Engage in enjoyable activities with others to foster connection and recharge. Participating in shared experiences promotes bonding and strengthens relationships. Studies show that shared activities can increase feelings of belonging and happiness. Make time for shared joy and connection in your life by organizing a movie night with friends, going for a hike with loved ones, or joining a sports team or fitness class together.

Remember, rest is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for your well-being.

Relaxation Technique: Visual Meditations

What is Guided Meditation?

A guided meditation is a form of meditation where you are led through a series of mental images and instructions by a trained practitioner, teacher, or through a recorded audio/video. The guide helps you visualize relaxing scenes or sensations, and directs your focus to various aspects of your experience, such as breathing patterns, bodily sensations, or emotional states. This form of meditation is often used for relaxation, stress reduction, and mindfulness training. The guide may also introduce themes or concepts for contemplation, such as gratitude, compassion, or self-awareness. Guided meditations can vary widely in length and complexity, making them accessible to beginners as well as experienced meditators seeking specific outcomes.

Studies have reported significant improvements in PTSD symptoms with meditation-based interventions. Further, one study revealed that participants experience a sense of wholeness in nature-based settings, gaining increased self-awareness and the ability to act in accordance with their physical and mental capabilities, leading to improved executive function. Forest recreation, including activities like forest therapy, is recognized for improving mental health. Studies have shown its benefits in treating psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, chronic stroke, alcoholism, PTSD, chronic widespread pain, and hypertension. Forest therapy has also demonstrated stress reduction and cardiovascular relaxation effects. Results of one study showed significant reductions in negative mood aspects and anxiety levels following forest exposure.

As such, we will be combining meditation with greenscapes today in a guided forest meditation.

Try It.

Begin by finding a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, allowing your body to relax with each exhale.

Imagine yourself standing at the edge of a lush forest. Picture the tall trees, their leaves rustling gently in the breeze. Feel the coolness of the forest air on your skin and the earthy scent of the forest floor.

As you step into the forest, notice how the ground feels beneath your feet. It may be soft with moss or covered in a carpet of fallen leaves. Take a moment to appreciate the texture and temperature.

As you walk deeper into the forest, pay attention to the sounds around you. Listen to the birds singing, the rustling of the leaves, and the gentle flow of a nearby stream. Let these sounds guide you deeper into relaxation.

Notice the play of light and shadow as it filters through the canopy above. Watch as the sunlight dances on the forest floor, creating a beautiful mosaic of light and dark.

As you continue your walk, be mindful of your surroundings. Notice the colours of the leaves, the shapes of the trees, and the textures of the bark. Take in the beauty of nature surrounding you.

As you walk, let go of any tension or worries you may be carrying. Allow the peacefulness of the forest to envelop you, filling you with a sense of calm and tranquillity.

Continue to walk at your own pace, taking in all the sights, sounds, and sensations of the forest. When you feel ready, slowly begin to bring your awareness back to the present moment.

Take a few deep breaths, wiggle your fingers and toes, and gently open your eyes. Take a moment to savour the peace and relaxation you’ve experienced during this guided forest walk meditation. 


Weekly Journal Prompts:


Additional Resources 

2-Minute Neuroscience: HPA Axis –