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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Private: Trauma Recovery Program
About Lesson

Month 2 Week 4


Health Literacy Focus: Understanding Psychological Symptoms


Understanding Overwhelm.

Sensory overwhelm occurs when you feel flooded or overloaded by sensory stimuli, such as sights, sounds, smells, or touch. It can be a symptom of hyperarousal, one of the clusters of symptoms that define PTSD. Hyperarousal symptoms include being easily startled, feeling tense or on edge, having difficulty sleeping, and experiencing heightened reactivity to stimuli. Sensory overwhelm can exacerbate these symptoms and contribute to a sense of being overwhelmed by the environment.

Chronic stress in PTSD disrupts one’s physical equilibrium, which can lead to hyperarousal or hypoarousal symptoms. In other words, the stress associated with trauma recovery changes the way our brain perceives external stimuli, which can make us feel disconnected from or completely overwhelmed by the world around us. Physical responses to sensory overwhelm may manifest as dizziness, restlessness, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, headaches, abdominal discomfort, tremors, sore throat, breathing difficulties, sleep disturbances, nausea, or panic attacks. Emotional responses may involve feelings of anxiety, fear, heightened arousal, irritability, or aggressive tendencies. When we feel overwhelmed by environmental or social stimuli, we often use coping strategies such as withdrawal.

Sensory overwhelm can feel, well, overwhelming. However, many strategies and treatments can improve overwhelm. They can include relaxation techniques, mindfulness practices, and exposure therapy. For example, by bringing our awareness to mindful attention to bodily sensations and movements, we can help regulate arousal and integrate traumatic memories. Some approaches that focus on this include Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Other interventions like neurofeedback, play therapy, yoga, equine-assisted therapy, and expressive arts therapy also show promise in restoring a sense of agency and connection to the body. Further, strategies such as scheduling downtime, seeking support, and connecting with others can help mitigate sensory overwhelm.

Coping Toolkit: Creating Your Own Sensory Overwhelm Plan


What is a Sensory Overwhelm Plan?

A sensory overwhelm plan involves setting yourself up for moments of overwhelm. If we have a strategy for coping already available, it is much easier to implement than trying to think of what to do in moments of overwhelm. Incorporate the following ideas into your sensory overwhelm plan. Write down your plan and keep it with you, or put a note in your phone so that you have easy access to these steps when you really need them.

Take Charge with Breaks: Plan regular sensory breaks. Don’t push yourself too hard. Step away from overwhelming environments periodically, even if it’s just for a short walk or a moment in a quiet space.

Build Your Sensory Toolkit: Prepare for overwhelm by putting together a personalized kit with items to manage your specific sensitivities. Sunglasses can help with bright lights, while full or partial earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can block loud sounds. Fidget toys can provide a calming distraction in stressful situations. Ensuring that you are wearing comfortable clothing, no pins are poking your scalp, and your glasses are clean and free of smudges can also help. Carrying bottled water and a small snack can reduce hunger and thirst, helping to reduce the overall sensory load.

Identify your triggers: Recognize the environments and activities that lead to your overload. If crowds and loud noises drain you, prioritize quieter settings. Look for sensory-friendly options whenever feasible, such as in movie theatres or restaurants.

Create Safe Spaces: Find places where you can retreat when feeling overwhelmed. This could be your car, a quiet area at home, or a designated quiet room at work. Take short breaks in these safe spaces to relax and regroup.

Embrace Routine: Establishing a routine helps your body and senses anticipate what’s ahead. Knowing what to expect reduces the stress of dealing with an unpredictable world. Stick to consistent daily activities that bring you comfort, and plan relaxing routines to unwind after overwhelming situations.

Remember, sensory overload is a real experience, and you’re not alone. By using these strategies, you can develop a personalized sensory overwhelm protection plan.

Self-Care Activity: Improving Nutrition


Understanding Supplementation.

Dietary supplementation is the practice of consuming additional nutrients, often in the form of pills, capsules, powders, or liquids, to complement or enhance the diet. These supplements typically contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, herbs, or other botanicals. The purpose of dietary supplementation is to fill gaps in the diet where nutrients may be lacking, to support overall health and well-being, or to address specific health concerns. You’re working on being intentional with your diet and have started paying attention to learning about the nutrients in the food you regularly enjoy. Are you covering all the bases? If not, consider supplementing with reputable brands that are third-party tested since many nutritional supplements are not content-verified by a standardized body.

Try It.

Note: Before starting any new diet or nutritional plan, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it’s safe for you.

Now that you’ve adjusted your diet to include more whole foods and fewer processed foods, consider looking into the following supplements and asking your healthcare professional if supplementing may be helpful for you.

Vitamin B12. Our bodies need Vitamin B12; it makes healthy blood cells and helps keep our nerves working properly. Low levels of vitamin B12 can cause pernicious anemia, a reversible blood disorder that causes fatigue and difficulty thinking and concentrating. Consider incorporating more B12 into your diet and seeing how you feel. B12 is only found in animal foods such as fish, meat, chicken, and dairy, but Costco has a great methylated B12 sublingual tablet that most people can absorb well.

Leaky Gut. Stress can impact gut barrier function, leading to “leaky gut,” where harmful substances can enter the bloodstream and potentially lead to inflammation and altered immune response, affecting mental health. Consider consuming more gut barrier healing collagen (bone broth, skin-on chicken), and L-glutamine (plant and animal proteins), or in supplement form. Costco also has a well-priced tub of collagen that easily mixes into coffee, drinks, or smoothies with no perceptible taste. It also makes drinks taste creamier.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). NAC is a supplement form of cysteine, an amino acid that helps build antioxidants and supports the brain. Its benefits for mental health may include reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety and helping with bipolar disorder and OCD. NAC influences neurotransmitter levels and protects against oxidative stress, contributing to its therapeutic effects. However, NAC is not found in foods; cysteine, which the body can convert to NAC, is present in high-protein foods like chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds, and legumes.

Lion’s Mane. In a study, younger adults who took capsules of lion’s mane mushroom powder showed improved mental performance speed. Another study demonstrated slowing Alzheimer’s symptoms and improvement on cognitive tests. Lab studies show that Lion’s Mane mushrooms are a good source of hericenones and erinacines, two chemicals that accelerate the growth of brain cells.

Collagen. A 2021 study indicated that supplements with collagen may benefit the gut microbiome in mice, though further research is needed. You could also try to boost your body’s collagen production through your diet. To help your body make collagen, try eating more citrus foods, meat, eggs, and nuts.

Relaxation Technique: Guided Relaxation Exercises


What is Self-Hypnosis?

Self-hypnosis meditation is a process where you use self-induced hypnotic techniques to achieve a state of deep relaxation and focused attention. It involves guiding yourself into a trance-like state where your mind is highly receptive to suggestions and imagery. This first involves setting an intention for your session, such as reducing stress, improving sleep, or cultivating positive emotions. Like other meditations, it also involves being in a safe, quiet, and comfortable space, focusing on relaxing your body, breathing deeply with intention, and focusing your mind. From here, you will focus on your intention, utilize positive and affirming language, visualize achieving your goal and stay in this relaxed state for as long as you feel comfortable. Self-hypnosis meditation can be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-improvement. It can help you tap into your subconscious mind to make positive changes in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Try It.

Set your intention: Decide on the goal or intention for your self-hypnosis session. This could be to reduce stress, boost confidence, improve sleep, or any other personal goal.

Find a quiet, comfortable space: Choose a place where you won’t be disturbed and where you can relax comfortably, either sitting or lying down.

Relax your body: Start by relaxing your body from head to toe. You can do this by tensing and then releasing each muscle group or by focusing on your breath and allowing your body to relax naturally.

Focus your mind: Once your body is relaxed, focus your mind on a specific image, thought, or sensation. This could be a peaceful scene, a positive affirmation, or a sensation of warmth and relaxation.

Use suggestive language: While in this relaxed state, use positive and affirming language to suggest the changes or outcomes you desire. For example, if your goal is to reduce stress, you might repeat to yourself, “I am calm and relaxed.”

Visualize your goal: Imagine yourself achieving your goal in vivid detail. Picture yourself feeling confident, peaceful, or whatever outcome you desire.

Stay in the hypnotic state: Remain in this relaxed and focused state for as long as feels comfortable, allowing the suggestions and imagery to sink in.

Exit the trance: When you’re ready to end the session, count yourself up from 1 to 5, slowly bringing yourself back to full awareness. Open your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

Journal


Weekly Journal Prompts:

 

Additional Resources


Sensory Coping Skills: Using Your Body to Cope With and Calm Big Emotions