Use The Calming Phrase to Cope Through a Trauma ResponseFeb 11, 2022
“I’m too wired to sleep,” my 45-year-old physician patient told me. She had blown the whistle at her job in a hospital setting and was being silenced with a seemingly never-ending legal battle as retaliation for alerting superiors about the mishandling of several cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was reportedly under investigation for trivial “offenses” and she was so distraught about losing her license, the exorbitant legal fees, and the toll of being out on disability leave, that she met criteria for PTSD. This accomplished medical doctor was no longer the bright-eyed, high-achieving, pediatrician all her patients had come to know and love.
She was battling against a huge medical institution that had much to lose if her allegations were to see the light of day. So you can imagine the sense of hopelessness and helplessness felt going up against a giant such as this. My patient could not work, could not sleep, was having unspeakably torturous nightmares, was dealing with constant headaches and body aches, and had little-to-no desire to interact with her mother and adult daughter living with her.
This woman was obviously deteriorating due to the stresses of the legal case, the antagonizing emails from her work, and the fear of losing her license; her livelihood was on the line. She was getting roughly 2 to 4 hours of interrupted sleep per night, and was meeting with a psychiatrist regularly to adjust her medications as needed.
I knew that before we could get her to sleep and function as she did previously, we HAD to address the trauma. We slowly picked through the underlying mechanisms, the negative core beliefs at play, and spent much time on retraining her brain to reduce her sympathetic nervous system response to perceived stress.
The Trouble We Are Facing
I knew that I was not the only clinician facing this difficulty, as I know that, for many of us, we find that our patients have a history of traumatic events that have affected them gravely. A reported 15 million American adults have PTSD in any given year, and approximately 6 out of every 100 people in our country meet criteria for this disorder.
I know in my experience as a psychotherapist, I’ve found that several of my clients are unable to progress in therapy, and have trouble getting quality sleep, due to their post-traumatic responses. And every psychotherapist I know has reported the same trouble at some point in their career.
One Helpful Therapeutic Tool
Although treatment of PTSD in and of itself could take months to see lasting results, there are various self-awareness, calming, and CBT-derived therapeutic interventions that have been shown to help patients gain back much of their ability to function. One small part of the treatment process I use with my patients is “The Calming Phrase”.
This walks them through a set of statements that helps them:
- put their triggering experience into perspective
- understand their body’s reaction
- remind themselves that they are safe and in control, and
- continue the process of training the brain to respond to triggering stimuli in a healthier manner
*Use the active link below to access my PDF of The Calming Phrase. It outlines each statement and gives an explanation of the benefit of that particular statement.*
I have used this with virtually all my clients with post-traumatic stress, as well of many of them with anxiety. They usually modify it to fit their own needs, and many report it helps them get through panic, flashbacks, and anxiety attacks.
I whole-heartedly support you giving this resource to your patients, or even adapting it to fit your own needs! I see it as a tool that I would be thrilled to see help others in their journey toward wellness.
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