When you think of the word trauma, you may think of the big events that can change a person’s life: a terrible car accident, sexual assault, or surviving natural disaster. These are traumas that can be classified as “Trauma” (with a capital “T”).
And then there is “trauma” (with a lowercase “t”). These are the events that are more common and happens throughout all of our lives. Maybe they aren't life threatening, but they are life changing. These traumas are the source of your heartbreak, and lead you to hopelessness and despair.
Both categories, big-T Traumas and little-t traumas, create lasting change in the body and the mind.
But we tend to dismiss the impact of little-t traumas. Maybe its because we don’t see these traumas for what they are, and therefore we think if we are being impacted by them the fault is our own. Because we think we should be able to deal with them quickly, we then end up blaming ourselves for being weak when we cannot seem to get on with our lives.
What constitutes a little-t trauma? A daily-life event that you experienced on a personal level that activated a fight-flight-freeze (sympathetic nervous system) response in your body/mind. An event that blind-sighted you and left you feeling overwhelmed. Examples of little-t traumas are a loss of a pet, a breakup, or a bodily injury.
A little-t trauma can also be created due to a build-up of challenging situations, or one situation that is ongoing, such as working in a highly conflictual workplace, a transition to a new city, becoming a parent, or living with a chronic illness.
Sometimes, one little-t trauma is manageable, but the build up numerous traumas can put you over the top. Your personal capacity to handle little-t traumas fluctuates throughout your life and the seasons of the year. A pileup of a lot of little-t traumas can sometimes feel more stressful than one big Trauma.
What should I do if I notice I am experiencing a little-t trauma?
1. The first step to any change or healing is always awareness. It is important to recognize your distress, and avoid blaming yourself for not handling it better. By labeling your divorce or your move a “trauma,” you are acknowledging to yourself that there is nothing wrong with you for being overwhelmed by your circumstances. And that focusing on your healing is a priority.
2. Not sweeping it under the rug. Like any medical issue that goes undetected and untreated, it can become more problematic over time. There is a cost to our health, relationships, work, and wellbeing when we ignore the impacts of a trauma on our body/mind. Traumas and their effects don’t disappear on their own, but are indeed very treatable.
3.Take care of yourself when you are going through a traumatic experience. Get support, monitor your health, practice self care with healthy eating, exercise, and sleep regimens. Your body and mind are likely going through a lot of change. Give them space and nutrition to process and heal.
To learn more about getting support for trauma or stress, click here.