What is normal? None of us are immune to trauma. Even though people have an incredible capacity to survive and bounce back from terrible events, these can leave their mark and sometimes well after the event can have an impact on our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Trauma can be experienced once or many times. It can be experienced as a child when we are developing and are particularly reliant on others for nurturing and stability. It may be experienced as a loss of someone or something of value in our lives. It could be experienced as unexpected events that threaten our security or others and leave us feeling vulnerable. It could be experienced as abuse or neglect which can leave us feeling emotional and unsafe. Distressing experiences may occur in our homes or at school, among family or friends, at work or in our community, in combat or during peace keeping, or when there is an accident, illness or emergency. People may find it difficult to discuss traumatic events and sometimes find it hard to get the help they need. We respond to trauma in very different ways - perhaps by continuing on with our everyday lives, retreating from the world, becoming involved in more activities or particular activities, associating more or less with certain people, self harming or using medication, food, drugs and alcohol to meet our needs. Individual changes are common and can include feelings of anxiety, low energy, lack of pleasure, mood swings, anger, hypervigilance, guilt, fear, lack of trust, feeling overwhelmed, ‘shutting down’ or disassociation, loss of confidence, flashbacks, disturbed sleep and nightmares, hypersensitivity, numbness, difficulty concentrating/ organising/ remembering/ working or doing regular activities, difficulty or disinterest in socialising or in normal relationships or intimacy, physical pain or poor health, lack of appetite, difficulty controlling emotions or bodily responses, or increased risk taking. What can help? Understanding normal reactions to traumatic experiences can be empowering. Part of this can be viewing these reactions as strengths or coping mechanisms designed to help you survive but which at certain points may no longer be as useful or desirable. It is normal to feel the effects of trauma as changes in bodily sensations long after the event and this can then cause people to feel helpless to move out of these states. Those who have experienced trauma say they are seeking the following: compassion and genuine understanding, wanting to feel safe, feeling proactive and in charge of their bodies and lives rather than reactive, having choices, going at a pace that suits them, not ‘being told’ what to do, not being asked to discuss the traumatic events if they do not wish to, meaningful activities and purpose, connecting with others, wanting to feel a sense of joy again. At Mudanca we are committed to learning from the people we are supporting and to using Trauma Informed Care and Practice to help people with what matters most to them. We strive to promote feelings of safety, trust, stability, choice, collaboration, empowerment and hope. We use a range of evidence-based approaches and therapies. These include Motivational Interviewing, Sensory Modulation and Relaxation Techniques to help people develop skills, activities, routines, environments and relationships which support day to day living as well as to prevent feelings of crisis. We recognise that regular talking and drug therapies, particularly in isolation may not offer people all the skills and control they desire to recover. That is why many of our approaches involve doing things that have immediate positive effects. We know from neuroscience that trauma changes the central nervous system, particularly when the trauma occurs at a young age and on multiple occasions. We also know that through neuroplasticity our nervous systems have enormous capacity to replenish and reprogram themselves at all stages in our lives. Sensory Modulation is informed by this neuroscience and seeks to activate parts of the central nervous system to help people feel in charge of their bodies and to engage fully in their lives. It utilises sensory based activities to help people function and feel better in the moment and in any aspect of daily life. It offers skills for self soothing, calming, distraction, energising, grounding, improving tolerance, mood or functioning when due to past trauma, using language or thinking are not easy or possible. It also helps with understanding and managing the sensory nature of trauma including triggers, sensations in our bodies, modulating arousal levels and different types of activities that can either promote or challenge self-regulation.