Caring for the Dual Timing of These Stressors

The book cover for Bessel van der Kolk”s, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.

As Bessel van der Kolk’s book states, the body does indeed keep the score.

When people have gone through trauma and high stressors, their emotional processing is often delayed until they feel safer situationally, relationally, and psychologically. Alongside anything we’ve experienced personally, we should not underestimate how challenging this pandemic has been for us collectively over the last two years.

We’re reaching a period of time when weather is warming and COVID numbers are lower, so we have more occasions to be outside in nature and enjoy the presence of our close relationships through visits, shared meals, events, and travel. This increases our sense of emotional safety. This is a wonderful shift, but alongside it, older, unprocessed feelings may rise to the service. And at the exact same time, we are in the precise anniversary window of the initial lockdown period of the pandemic, and our bodies remember that anniversary too.

With both of these lining up at the exact same time — increased relational safety and an anniversary period — we may notice that people are experiencing difficult emotions and somatic reactions in their bodies. People are anxious, exhausted, irritable, sensitive, or insecure — sometimes, without even knowing why. Stressors that may have seemed mild at another time suddenly may seem insurmountable. People find themselves living multiple stories at once too: An experience is stressful in the present, but additionally, it seems to rhyme with old childhood wounds, so these suddenly rise to the surface in our emotions, and people find themselves reliving and reenacting those old stories in the present.

One of the best ways to care for all of this is to notice it happening and realize that it makes sense. This is a time to care for our needs, practice gentleness with ourselves and others, and honor the overlapping stories that emerge. These experiences are much more painful and disruptive if we aren’t fully conscious of them, or we don’t feel like they make any sense. They do. And the dual timing of this increased relational safety and this significant anniversary will invite our awareness and deep care.

Renee Roederer

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