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An easy to use tool to help overcome traumatic events quickly
If I close my eyes……………. I can give you a blow by blow account of the accident that killed my car and left me black and blue.
The unfortunate event happened 3 years ago.
And truth be told, it took a long time to get over.
Getting over the trauma
The bruises on my head and torso, took about three weeks to disappear, taking on a shades of grey, green and yellow.
The flashes of pain, across my chest and shoulders, finally subsided at the 3 month mark.
The psychological trauma, this took a lot longer.
And even now, I find myself a little “freaked” out by the prospect of driving on the highway in the rain.
Ironically the accident didn’t happen when it was raining, it happened at dusk, but somehow my brain equates rain, with extreme danger.
Reliving a traumatic event is NORMAL
Like me, most people get over it, eventually.
A few unlucky souls, go on to develop more serious hang ups, officially referred to as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
What makes some folks more vulnerable than others, is not well defined. But one variable that does influence the outcome, is the frequency of intrusive memories, shortly after the event.
The bigger the problem at the get go, the more likely the problem is to persist.
Minimizing intrusive memories
Should be the goal.
A group of European researchers have found a way to do this using cognitive neuroscience. The technique is so simple, anyone can do it.
The making of a bad memory
Or a good one, requires repetition.
In the case of a bad memory, repetition is effort less. The brain replays the events as it grapples to make sense of what happened.
The memory trace, gets stronger and stronger, with each replay.
But it is precisely in these moments, the first few hours post trauma, that these memory traces can be “disrupted”.
Messing up the memory trace
Now there are ways to “disrupt” this trace, think electroconvulsive therapy.
It works, but it’s neither practical or appealing.
What about a game of Tetris or Candy Crush ?
The brain bandwidth is limited
Reaching for the gaming console shortly after the moment of trauma, creates competition.
You can concentrate on the game or you can ruminate on your trauma.
You can’t do both at the same time.
The brain just doesn’t have enough resources……
A visit to the ER
This is was the conclusion of a study that recently took place at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
All the people enrolled in the study, had been involved in a motor vehicle accident, within the last 6 hours. They had been hurt, but were still compus mentis, enough to either
- Play a game of Tetris (for at least 10 min, and not longer than 20 min) or
- Play being a reporter, by keeping a log of their visit to the emergency dept. The task took about 20 min
Each “player” received a dairy and was asked to keep tabs on any experiences of intrusive memories, for the first week following the trauma.
For the purposes of this study, an intrusive memory was defined as any image, sound or smell of the event, that popped into their mind without warning.
Less intrusive memories
The frequency scattergraphs show the time course of the number of intrusive memories recorded in a diary each day.
The size of the circles, reflects the number of people reporting an intrusive memory. The solid lines is a summary of the data.
Playing tetris definitely accelerated recovery.
Add to your tool kit
Bad things happen all the time.
Being able to shut them out, and move on, is crucial to begin the healing process.
A quick game of tetris or something similar, is pretty easy to implement. You probably have at least one visuospatially demanding game on your phone or PC. In a traumatic moment, whether it is your own or someone you loves, charge it up and disrupt that bad memory trace.
A shot of the stress hormone defends against BAD memories, extracting them like a rotten tooth so they don’t come back and haunt as post traumatic stress disorder.
Lavender oil won’t cure ANXIETY, but, it will take the edge off an anxious moment and just being a little calmer, is more healthful than being FREAKED OUT.
Pop something small and sweet into your mouth – the very taste of sugar on the tip of your tongue, will dial down your stress levels