Chronic Shock and What You Can Do About It

Last week I posted a screening checklist for chronic shock. We had some discussion about results over on Facebook. There were several instances of, "Hey, I score high on a couple of these things. Isn't that just temperament? I don't feel like I'm in shock."

Of course there are personality differences. From the time kids are little bitty some of them are more driven and some are more laid back. This was one of my excuses when I did the shock questionnaire. OF COURSE there are a million things on my To Do List. I have to do a ton of things in order to get where I want to go.

And there is truth to this. It's possible to be busy and still be connected, fully present, and mindful about what you're doing. And then there's the state I was in, which is not so healthy. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. My To Do List felt like Everest, and I was trying to climb it - alone - without any climbing gear. I felt disconnected, disenchanted, flat, and a little hopeless. Also, bone weary.

I've realized, now that I've moved out of shock, that I'd lost the ability to enjoy any one thing. If I was sitting and talking to the Viking, I was thinking about all of the things that HAD to be done. I felt disconnected from people, family and friends alike. I moved from sympathetic shock - running around like a headless chicken while trying to do ALL THE THINGS - into parasympathetic shock - exhausted, depressed, falling asleep while trying to write or drive or pretty much any time I was actually sitting still.

At bedtime, I'd crash for an hour or two, and then my body would wake back up and not know what to do with the whole concept of extended rest.

Who is most at risk for shock?

People who tend to be "care giver" types are at high risk. First responders, including therapists, counselors, and medical personnel, are continually inundated with intense emotions and life and death situations. They are often too busy caring for others to take care of themselves. Individuals who have had personal tragedies, been diagnosed with a serious illness, or had to deal with a financial crisis, may move from stress into shock.

When life comes at us too hard and fast, we move into a fight or flight mode, (sympathetic shock) and/or a freeze mode (parasympathetic shock) and some of us get stuck there. 

What can you do?

  1. Become Mindful. Notice what your body is doing. Is your heart racing, your adrenaline pumping, your brain trying to perform gymnastic feats? Or are you dragging yourself around and constantly hitting caffeine and energy drinks to try to get things done? Are you hitting the sugar or the chocolate by early afternoon? When do these things happen? Are there triggers that send you one way or the other?
  2. Meditate. Meditation calms the body and the mind. It begins to balance out the brain-body chemicals that get out of whack when we are in shock. Five minutes a day can make a big difference.
  3. Practice Yoga or some other form of mindful exercise that includes breath work. Again, just a few minutes a day has profoundly healing effects.
  4. Take a walk in nature. If you're a city person, find a park or a place with trees if you can. 
  5. Drink water. This is legit! Drink water slowly. Focus on it. The water is good for you, but the experience of mindfully drinking it helps move you out of shock.
  6. Heat or ice packs. I scoffed at this. I'll admit it. We were watching videos of some intense, highly emotional hypnotherapy work, and an assistant came to me and offered an ice bag. I declined and said I was fine. Truth is, I was sitting there with tears pouring down my face, my body clenched tight. Not so fine. Next time the ice bag offer came around I accepted. It helps. Especially when I'm drifting off into parasympathetic shock and my body is trying to just shut down.
  7. Essential oils. This works like the ice and heat. Find something grounding and comforting, or something that wakes up your brain. I'm fond of peppermint.
  8. Be fully in the now. Breathe, slow and deep. Focus on being aware of your body. Feet on the floor. Hands on a desk.  
  9. Take a good long social media break. I'm amazed at how much I was being impacted by my Facebook and Twitter feeds. It's important to be informed and connected. But having all of that emotion coming at you all day long can be pretty overwhelming. 
  10. Consider finding a mind-body therapist. This could be hypnotherapy, massage, acupuncture, Reiki, or a number of other modalities.