For World Mental Health Day, we sat down with Mental Health Correspondent and certified local counsellor, Sue Morrison, to discuss trauma, stress, and coping mechanisms.
“Dr. Gabor Maté said it best: trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside of you,” Morrison explains. “So it’s not necessarily the event that took place, it’s your reaction to and your perception of the event.”
“We all have different reactions to different situations,” she says. “Two people go into the same situation: one person finds it traumatic, the other person doesn’t.”
One’s upbringing can be a major factor in how we perceive events. Growing up in a caring and emotionally safe home can facilitate the development of coping skills and prevent trauma.
It’s important to proactively address ongoing stress and trauma, as not doing so can have significant negative health impacts. “Stress is dangerous; it can kill over long periods of time,” she warns.
According to Morrison, we don’t always feel like we are allowed to feel our feelings. However, we need to feel like we can express ourselves openly, honestly, and vulnerably.
While some grew up without available outlets to do so, getting adequate sleep and exercise, spending time in nature, engaging in introspective thinking, and talking with friends and family can help us deal with stress and trauma.
“We all need to tune into our bodies and find out how we can relax… and regulate our nervous system,” Morrison states. “We need to make a conscious effort to carve out that time and to get back into that relaxation stage.”
When stress and trauma go unaddressed, anxiety can become a default state of being. This can harm one’s nervous system over time, and speaking with a professional can be beneficial when other solutions are not proving effective.
“Sometimes we need to seek help; we need to talk to someone,” she suggests. “We can learn different skills and coping techniques from a therapist or a counsellor to deal with that stress.”