The Impact of Trauma

Over on my other blog, MyLittleCorner, I made a post on releasing past trauma. Obviously, all trauma is different and I want to stress that if anyone is struggling with it in such a way that it affects your daily life, seek help. It’s very rare to overcome it all by yourself and support is needed more often than not. Support can be in the form of friends, family and professionals.

Firstly, we need to understand what trauma is. ‘Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible’. In the long term, trauma can lead to anxiety, depression, as well as other mental health disorders (1). One common reason for trauma related mental health issues stems from childhood trauma. Childhood trauma is defined as all forms of emotion and/or physical maltreatment, sexual abuse, neglect and negligence. In adulthood; depression, unconscious defences (such as dissociation), unhealthy dysfunctional coping behaviour (substance abuse or eating disorders) can become apparent due to childhood trauma. This is an idea that has significant evidence, with one study showing significant associations between non-sexual child abuse and a range of mental disorders (2). It could also suggest that because individuals who suffered childhood trauma developed mental health disorders in adulthood, are more susceptible to encountering trauma due to anxiety.

It’s no news that anxiety can affect ones decision making. Those who suffer with anxiety disorders, display an inability to adaptively function in everyday tasks, such as employment or social situations. Looking at it in terms of cognitive processing, research has demonstrated two information-processing biases that are characteristic of anxiety:

  • A bias to attend to threat-related information that is presented.
  • A bias to the negative interpretation of undeterminable stimuli (also known as anticipating the worst).

These biases can lead to a general pattern of faster response times when a threat is identified (3). This quick decision making can lead to an increased likelihood of making decisions that favour easing the anxiety, yet; with anxiety, alleviating the tends to be in the short term and avoids any serious confrontation. Avoiding this confrontation can as a result, lead to further trauma and abuse as an adult. So, what are techniques to control it and effectively reduce this impaired decision making?

Techniques to Reduce Anxiety

I want to cover published scientific techniques in the article. On my other blog, I will discuss what has worked for me and what I do believe is worth a try. Everyone is different and overcoming anxiety is a journey of self discovery.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT involves interventions to manipulate dysfunctional ways of thinking and patterns of behaviour and this is aimed at reducing psychological suffering. It has become evident that from large studies that CBT has been shown to result in symptom improvement among individuals with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder. CBT includes a wide range of techniques and this can be decided by a mental health professional (4).

Other Helpful Techniques to do Alone
  • Learning about anxiety. Educating yourself on how anxiety works and identifying triggers creates an incredible power in one self. Through understanding anxiety, you can realise why your brain is thinking this way and attempt to stop it.
  • Mindfulness. It’s very easy to spend a lot of time in a cycle of anxious thoughts. Mindfulness brings us back to the present moment and removes unproductive thoughts. I’ll probably make another post on mindfulness at some point but for now I’ll attach a link.
  • Relaxation techniques. A lot of these relaxation techniques state breathing as a primary example, however I would like to stress that breathing is not the only way to relax. For some people, it could be gaming, writing, reading, watching TV.
  • Breathing techniques to counter hyperventilating. When panicking, breathing does aid in slowing the heart rate and reducing that involuntary response that stems from the fight or flight response.
  • Exercise. It floods the body with adrenaline and other stress related chemicals which in turn can promote relaxation.
  • Learning to be assertive. Through assertiveness you can learn to communicate needs, wants and feelings. This can be beneficial because people can tell you what they need and more importantly, you can tell others what you need in a relationship (5).

These are just a few techniques to try. Controlling any mental health disorder is an incredibly difficult task and takes a lot of mental energy. At the end of the day, it’s about discovering what’s right for you.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check our and follow my other blog MyLittleCorner!

1. https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma

2. (Impact of childhood trauma on depressive and anxiety disorders) – https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/36026/Proefschrift_JGFM_Hovens.pdf?sequence=1#page=66

3. Anxiety and Decision-Making (https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(12)00009-1/fulltext)

4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Anxiety and Related Disorders: a Meta Analysis of Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trials (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5992015/#!po=5.55556)

5. Managing Anxiety (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/anxiety-treatment-options).

PhD Diaries – Money Worries

I come from a single income household, my mother earns money and my father has his addictions. Doing a PhD has made it more difficult to work because it’s full time, but it’s also a bit to do with mental exhaustion. My dogs need an operation, so the pressure is getting to me. I decided to start applying for jobs after my confirmation, so I’m working through it. What has inspired me to write this post though? Well, I need to remember why I do what I do.

Why am I doing a PhD?

To put it as simply as I can, I love to help people. That’s my primary reason. My second reason, I wholeheartedly love science. Science provides an explanation for some of the most amazing questions. It can show us worlds that we never would’ve dreamed of. In terms of helping others, I enjoy giving. I don’t think it’s to feel better about myself, but to prevent others from going through the things I have experienced and my family members have.

My grandma lost her battle to cancer, so naturally, I wanted to be part of cancer research. Cancer is a terrible burden and if I can help further the current research or even save one life, then I think that’s a pretty cool thing to do.

Sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are, especially in the face of money issues. Though, I find it helps to remember your motivations behind what you do. My advice to anyone that has an inner struggle going on inside their brain right now. Ask yourself, who are you? What motivates you? What are your ideals? And do these ideals effect who I want to be?

Simply asking ourselves, allows us to have the eventual end in sight, but also to see the potential of what we do.

PhD Diaries – The Calm Before the Storm

I have a presentation coming up. While this is a major part of a PhD, a lot is riding on this one because it’s my confirmation of candidature. So far, this year has been great. I’ve worked a Literature Review and I have been working on a low risk ethics application. Yes, that’s not really a lot, but COVID has made the process very long. My project is solely data based and it frustrates me that I’m not doing more, but unfortunately there’s not much I can do to speed up the application. That’s not the reason I’m dreading this confirmation though, here’s why.

Last year, I had a supervisor that didn’t really support me. They were abusive and would gaslight me. While I learned a lot because of the situation and grew as a person, I’m still terrified. They are still in my work place and I guess it’s my PTSD. Can they do anything? No. I have a fantastic supervisor now and they are incredibly supportive. Maybe I’m just terrified of what could potentially happen. That they could ask me a horrible question and I’ll freeze. Yet, again, that’s anxiety. The process of overthinking an issue and creating a scenario where something will go wrong. So, this week, I’m going to work on overcoming this. I know my project. I understand where I am at and I’m going to show them I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am strong and intelligent. No one can take that away from me.

Also, for anyone out there who’s struggling with workplace abuse, I don’t know what your workplace is like; but if you’re a student like I was, do everything in you power to resolve an issue that can arise. My biggest regret was not speaking to a course director sooner. Trust in yourself and think objectively. I know firsthand that emotions can get in the way and it’s not always easy to step back. But the mind is a powerful, simply speaking to yourself logically is a great tool.

Well, thanks for reading! If anyone has any advice for my confirmation please share!

The Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

With the growing COVID19 cases in the US, questions into the long-term effects it will have on those diagnosed with the disease are arising. With anti-science and mask wearing currently at a peak, the risks if this continues will be drastic.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most people with the disease, will experience mild or moderate illness that takes 2-6 weeks to subside. Some of these patients do develop lingering symptoms of the disease, which include: fatigue, cough, loss of taste or smell, headache, diarrhea, chest or abdominal pain and confusion. This prolonged illness isn’t only reported by those at risk, with it being presented in both adults and children. Among 18-20 year olds, 20% (1 in 5) reported that some symptoms were prolonged.

At this point in time, all we can do is go off the reports of COVID19 patients and look at other coronaviruses (such as SARS). SARS however, had no where near as much cases as COVID19 so the accuracy can be called into question. The reality is, at this point we just don’t know and it will most likely take years to even begin to understand the lonf-term effects.

The rise of anti-maskers and anti-science has become a major factor in spread of the disease in the US. People need to realise that this pandemic won’t just go away. As long as there is a host for the virus to survive, then it will continue to infect others. Considering we have no idea what the long term effects are, it can cause massive issues for people in the future. It’s incredibly self-centred to put others at risk by refusing to wear a mask. I understand the need to exercise your right to free will, but it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves and those around us safe. Although the cases are rising, Biden provides some hope for the US, because at this point, putting policies in place may be the only way to stop the spread.

It was refreshing to see Biden at a press conference wearing a mask after four years of Trump denying science. Biden gives hope not just to the US, but also to every country watching. It’s now time to listen to scienctists, wear masks and social distance. Reduce the spread of the virus until a vaccine is found. That’s the only solution we currently have.

References:

Climate Change…

This year has brought up a lot of very important social issues. While I do try my best to keep those issues within my mind, I remember that we are approaching a point of no return in regards to climate change. The reality is that the effects we have been warned about for so long are now getting worse. With the current election happening right now, I can only pray that Biden will win. These issues cannot be ignored for much longer.

What is it?

Climate change used to be referred to as global warming. That was a term that was changed because a green house gas emission won’t only cause the globe to warm. We can think of the Earth having this perfect balance of cycles that make the weather what it is. Yet, as greenhouse gas emissions increase, some areas of the globe will get colder and have harsher winters. As a result, the term was changed to combat anti-science. So in the simplest of explanations, climate change is the Earths climate shifting to abnormal weather conditions. One example is that Australia (where I’m from) will experience harsher summers. This will lead to worse bush fires. Another example is North America receiving colder winters. This has been linked to warmer arctic temperatures. Climate change is definitely going to impact us due to harsh weather changes. So, how can we stop it?

What Causes it?

I think before discussing how it can be stopped, we need to understand what causes it. And there are a few things that I can think of off the top of my head.

  • The cattle industry. Humans love beef. Unfortunately, cows produce methane through passing gas, which is worse than carbon dioxide because it’s 28 more times powerful. In order to stop it, we need to reduce demand for it and increase demand for foods like vegetables and other meats. Vegetables take up less land to produce and require less water as well. Even reducing beef intake to once a week would be a major step.
  • The overuse of plastic. We use a LOT of plastic and in order to produce it, the refining process produces methane and carbon dioxide. It’s the same as with beef, we need to reduce demand for it and look at alternatives.
  • Burning fossil fuels for energy. We live in a very fossil fuel based society. Politics is influenced by it, as seen with Trump. My understanding of it is that it’s good for the economy. That may be so, but the planet is going to still be around when we destroy it to the point it’s not longer habitable. The planet will recover eventually. My point is, we need to elect politicians who will make an effort to prevent climate change from getting worse. New jobs will be created through switching to sustainable energy. The economy will survive.

So I’ve gone into a little detail about what causes it and this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s just a few things we need to consider to combat this issue.

Reducing Meat Intake

I’m not saying become vegetarian or vegan. That’s not doable for a lot of people. I am going to say to research what meats are more sustainable to the environment than beef. Chicken is one alternative. But all in all, I do think we can incorporate meat free dishes into our lives 3-4 days a week. I have started to eat vegetarian during the week and I was surprised by how easy it was. The dishes are great and full of flavour if you know how to cook veggies right and there’s always a substitute for meat texture as well as flavour (liquid smoke). In saying that, it’s all about trial and error but you never know until you try!

Alternatives to Plastic

I often do the shopping, so I get to see all the plastic we don’t need coming into our homes. One key plastic item I think is the ones we use to wrap loose vegetables and fruits. We don’t need them. You can argue that you don’t want it to touch the trolley (or shopping cart). I personally have the mentality that I’m going to wash it and cook it to get rid of any bacteria. But there’s always alternatives. They sell these cloth bags that you can take to the supermarket every time you go. I definitely recommend them!

Some other items:

  • Metal or silicone straws.
  • Foods in cardboard packaging.
  • Bring reusable bags to the supermarket.
  • Buying from a local market. I do understand that not everyone has access to this though.
  • Shampoo and conditioner bars.
  • Bamboo toothbrushes. They’re becoming very afforable.
  • Paper lunch bags.
  • Plastic containers for food storage instead of plastic lunch bags or wraps.
  • Bees wax wraps for food.
  • Silicone baking sheets. This reduces the need for baking paper and they last quite a long time.
  • Buying in bulk.

These are just a few ideas but I want to stress that combating climate change is about making the minor changes. We can’t be expected to cut plastic out entirely. But reduction is key, just like with the meat.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy has a bad rep because if the right guidelines and training aren’t in place it can be disastrous. One might argue that they’re prone to natural disasters as seen with the Fukushima in Japan (2011). This was a horrible disaster and many lives were lost. It was determined to be preventable and I can link the article below for further reading if anyone is interested. Nuclear power needs to be handled properly and negligence must be avoided. It’s currently the cleanest and most efficient type of energy we have. Yes, it does produce nuclear waste, however this waste can be used for purposes ranging from medicine to agriculture. It also requires uranium which is a natural resource and will run out. But it buys us precious time to come up with better technology.

We are running out of time and we will reach the point of no return. I am terrified of Trump winning this election because he has turned science denying into a political statement. My biggest fear is that the US will not make any progress to combat climate change and the world will follow. I sincerely hope Biden wins, not only because of climate change, but because the state of the US has becoming frightening. The increased racial tension because of the BLM movement and ignoring COVID-19 has truely concerned me. And the fact that the president has ignored the cries of people of colour and people affected by covid is horrendous. My thoughts are with you America ✊

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my post. Follow for more science posts and please follow my other blog My Little Corner for poetry!

References

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/api.nationalgeographic.com/distribution/public/amp/environment/2019/01/climate-change-colder-winters-global-warming-polar-vortex
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/methane/
https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/theconversation.com/amp/plastic-warms-the-planet-twice-as-much-as-aviation-heres-how-to-make-it-climate-friendly-116376
Fukushima Disaster: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/opinion/fukushima-could-have-been-prevented.html

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