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What Does Trauma Look Like? Explore the Symptoms of Trauma

What Does Trauma Look Like? Explore the Symptoms of Trauma

Symptoms of Trauma

While many people have a specific idea of what trauma looks like, the truth is the symptoms of trauma can take on many different forms. In my practice, I specialize in Trauma/PTSD counseling based on a Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy approach, and I’ve found many clients are suffering from trauma and don’t necessarily realize it. Why? Because their symptoms don’t always fit into a neat little box.

Today, let’s take a closer look at what trauma is, what the many symptoms of trauma are, and how you can achieve healing, transformation, and peace through the right therapeutic techniques.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is typically defined as a psychological and/or emotional response to a disturbing or distressing event; the event or experience can overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope and often leads to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. It can diminish the individual’s sense of self and ability to feel a wide range of experiences and emotions.


Now, what that definition doesn’t touch on are the numerous gray areas and uncommon symptoms of trauma. As we all know, perception of events is subjective–everyone processes a traumatic experience differently.

For example, one person may have experienced a tornado destroying their hometown and is now fearful and has traumatic flashbacks of the day. Another person may have gone through the same tornado but lost family members and/or their home. Each person may suffer from the symptoms of trauma as a result, but it may look different and have varying degrees of severity and life disruption.

Understanding the Symptoms of Trauma

Keeping in mind that one person’s trauma will vary greatly from another person’s, and this list is by no way all-encompassing, here are some of the more common symptoms of trauma:

  • Anger and/or fearfulness
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event or experience
  • Emotions that follow no predictable pattern
  • Disbelief and denial
  • Emotional detachment and dissociation
  • Intense feelings of despair, sadness, and powerlessness
  • Persistent feelings of guilt, shame, and feeling responsible
  • Isolation and feeling like no one understands
  • Self-medication or self-harming behaviors
  • Physical symptoms including, but not limited to, nausea, headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, racing heartbeat, agitation, dry mouth, and fatigue

Whether the trauma is a result of abuse, an accident, natural disaster, or events experienced in the line of duty, the symptoms can be debilitating, creating a roadblock to healthy relationships and positive life experiences. It isn’t something you can just “get over” or “move on” from. Nearly all people who experience trauma need extra support and therapeutic strategies to make it to a place of peace and healing.

Get Help for Symptoms of Trauma


If you think you may be suffering from symptoms of trauma, please know you are not alone and help is available. As a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, I’m honored to provide counseling guidance, strategies, and the compassionate, nonjudgemental support you need in League City, Texas.

There’s no need to struggle through each day and battle with painful memories on your own. I’m committed to helping you find healing so you can regain control of your life. Connect with me online now to schedule a Trauma/PTSD therapy session.

Do You Need a New Year’s Mental Health Checkup?

Do You Need a New Year’s Mental Health Checkup?

A new year should feel like a fresh start—a blank slate full of possibilities. However, for many people, it’s just a reminder of how disappointing life is. In fact, the “new year, new me” posts on social media tend to rub salt in the wounds of someone who feels like things will never change, or who just feels stuck in a cycle of dissatisfaction.

What would happen if you used a new year and a new decade as a catalyst for change in your life? No matter what is holding you back now, it’s possible to break-through the roadblocks and challenges to experience a life full of peace, hope, and possibility. However, the first step to getting there is a New Year mental health checkup.

Assess Where You Are Now to Get Where You Want to Be

You likely take the time to make a doctor’s appointment for a health check-up, but what about your mind? Some people will even prioritize car tune-ups before they would consider a mental health checkup. The truth is, taking the time to assess where you are now is a crucial step to getting you where you want to be down the road.

Above all, seeking out a reliable, qualified therapist is a great way to begin the process for a proper mental health assessment. In the initial session, your therapist will go through a questionnaire with you. This will be a time to determine what issues you are currently facing and the state of your mental health and overall well-being.

The mental health checkup process is necessary prior to beginning any kind of therapeutic treatment plan. It helps your therapist to identify where you are now, goals for therapy, and the best strategies for helping you to achieve those therapeutic goals.

Why Choose Therapy for a New Year

What if you could count 2020 as the year you set intentions and took action? Therapy is a tool to help you make that happen. Consequently, taking that first step to schedule therapy can be the first step to true, lasting transformation in your life. It’s about you deciding you are not satisfied with how things are. And you are ready to do something about it. It’s about you no longer settling for less than a fulfilled, peaceful life.

Is Therapy Right for You?

Do you think you may be suffering from symptoms of anxiety, depression, or trauma? Or are you just ready to get a personal tune-up for the new year? Help is available. Turn to Ana María Serrano for the guidance, strategies, and support you need in League City, Texas.

She offers individual counseling through the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy approach as well as the Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Therefore, whatever roadblocks may be holding you back in life, Ana María will help you tap into clarity and develop the skills and practices necessary to live in peace with yourself and others. Connect with her online now to schedule a session to get your New Year mental health checkup to make the most of 2020 and beyond.

The Clutter Cleanse (Part Six)

The Clutter Cleanse (Part Six)


The Laundry Room and Mud Room

Laundry and mud rooms are probably the most rewarding places to organize because whatever we do to make life easier for ourselves there will flow into the rest of the house and save time.  In these rooms, we need to find a place for dirty, wet and bulky items that will still be seen and easy to reach.  


Most new homes are built with cabinets in both rooms.  Cubby hole storage makes sorting clean laundry and supplies easy.  It is also nice to have cubbyholes for each member of the family so they can put their laundry away.  Front-loading appliances allows the top of the machines to be used for folding laundry.  The room should have practical and functional storage as well as look good.  Furniture can be substituted for shelves, cubes or cabinets if need be.  Anything with a surface and storage is good, bookshelves, etageres, sideboards are all good.  Use your imagination, and you can even move an unused piece of furniture from another room in the house, and it can become the new utility piece of the laundry or mud room.  Tables are nice in these rooms because we can always use a work surface for folding laundry, sewing, wrapping or sorting.



Baskets in a laundry room are very helpful to store small items. 

You can store cleaning supplies, clothespins, miscellaneous items you pull from pockets, all in containers.  Some containers you might use are canning jars, cookie jars, canister sets, plastic storage boxes and wood crates.  The easier they are to clean, the better.


A place to hang clothes while they dry is helpful as well as a place to store rags and dirty clothes, sheets, and towels waiting to be washed.  Pegs, racks, and stands are useful items to have in the laundry room and mud room to store wet things, shoes, jackets, and bags.


If you have lots of room, a bulletin board or chalkboard for family information and notes and mail slots are nice too.  A dream mudroom would have a sink, a towel bar and hook, a basket for pet sundries, a can

for pet food, a bench and a table for laying things as we come in the door.  This is also a good place to store firewood.

Keeping your laundry room and mud room organized can be very rewarding because it will keep dirt out of the rest of the house and make your cleaned laundry feel cleaner.

Clutter Cleanse (Part Two)

Clutter Cleanse (Part Two)



There are a few ways to de-clutter our homes.  The first way is to purge.  This is the easiest, cheapest and most obvious. To do this, we go through with garbage bags and boxes and select everything we have not used, enjoyed or noticed for the last 2 years and put them in the bags and donate them to a good cause.  In Part One I told you why you should de-clutter your home.  Today I will get down to the nitty gritty and see how.   Purging is not the only way to de-clutter.  Just because you haven’t worn a dress for 2 years does not mean that you won’t want to wear it next week.  You can still keep artwork after you run out of wall space and you can keep toys that a child has outgrown.  The secret is to organize and use your creativity and/or to have adequate and clever storage solutions.

clean-living-room        treasure-chest

Alternatives to Purging   Furniture and accessories can double as storage and clutter control.  If you choose your furniture wisely, it can add aesthetically, functionally and add storage to the room. We can use space wisely and add storage.  Thinking outside the box can bring creative and unusual solutions.  One of my favorite ideas (because I love to learn) is to turn a dining room into a multipurpose room with library shelves and books.  This would maintain your dining room and give you a cozy nook to study and read.   Creative solutions are available as well.  Do you have thousands of books that you enjoy, but tend to clutter the house?  Cover them (see the picture with the giraffe) with book covers that unify.  This allows you to keep your books and declutter at the same time. Anytime you can unify the look; visual complexity will diminish.   Something that is just taking up space in one room can serve a useful purpose in another.  You may consider how you can repurpose something instead of throwing it away.   By adopting new habits, like seasonal cleaning and review, organized rooms should be easy to maintain.  Many of us keep health or spiritual journals.  A household journal is helpful in keeping information and going back to see what works and doesn’t work.  I don’t know about you, but when I change where I put my Christmas decorations after 20 years, I better write it down. Otherwise next year I may never find them.   Next, we’ll begin a room by room walk through with suggestions and ideas for managing your home!

Clutter Cleanse Part One

Clutter Cleanse Part One



Visual Complexity


Minimalism, clearing space, and decluttering are all quite popular right now, and there’s a good reason for that.  Clearing away and decluttering your space can help to eliminate stress.


We have detoxes; spiritual cleanses, and now we have a clutter cleanse.  There have been many studies that show that visual complexity has an effect on our feelings.


We react to sensory stimulation.  Sensory information comes from sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.  Any of our five senses can be over stimulated.


The important thing to understand in your home is our stimulation threshold.  That is how much is too much or not enough.  Reaching a healthy balance is important.


We are limited to the amount of information we can process.  We can experience overload in a cluttered space.  This overload causes stress.

The tricky part is that we all have different thresholds. Under stimulation can cause anxiety.  If we have been living in an environment with high stimulation, then we may have adapted and enjoy the arousing and pleasurable environment.  It would take a lot to overstimulate us.


The following graphics illustrate the results.


Over Stimulation / Stress


Under Stimulation / Anxiety



Visual Complexity


If we’re overstimulated in our workplace, we will probably relax better in a home that has less visual complexity.  If our career has us in a very sterile environment, we may look for more complexity to offer intellectual and spiritual stimulation.


People with attention deficit disorders will not have the same threshold as an individual who requires less time to understand and retain information.  There is also research and theory that an effortless attention can restore the capacity to pay attention.  The best example of this would be to draw ourselves to nature in our surroundings.


If you want to determine if you have a high threshold for visual complexity, look at the following homes.  Which one are you drawn to?



The first has a good deal of visual stimulation.  The second blends with the environment and would offer less visual stimulation.

Many elements add visual stimulation to space.  “Stuff” is one of our bigger problems, kids toys, mom’s books, dad’s video games, these all add to visual complexity when left out.  Furniture, accessories, window treatments and wall hangings, as well as lighting, can add to the visual complexity.


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5 Tools to Help You Battle Stress

5 Tools to Help You Battle Stress

StressWork stress, home stress, family stress, money stress—they can all add up to a whole lot of pressure. The ability to recognize and respond to stress is a crucial skill for everyone to learn, especially because stress is tied to many conditions that can harm our health. Psychological stress occurs when the world’s demands tax or exceed our ability to adapt to those demands.[i] Our bodies then release hormones (including cortisol and adrenaline) that can mimic a real attack. It is these compounds that can impact our health in (sometimes) serious ways.[ii]

Stress affects the brain and can lead to feeling sad and burned out, but it can also impact heart[iii] and digestive health.[iv] The good news is that relaxation is a skill that can be learned.

Here are some of the best ways to help get stress under control:

Breathe: Because you can control your breath, it is one of the best ways to make changes to your body. You breathe fast when you are nervous and more slowly when you are relaxed. It also works the other way: you can tell your body that you are relaxed by consciously slowing your breathing. Slow breathing can work in the moment but is much better if you practice every day.

Relax: When you are feeling stressed, there is nothing worse than hearing “just relax.” But relaxation, and especially progressive relaxation, is a great technique to learn. Progressive relaxation is easy: you start at your toes and relax each muscle as you slowly move up your body. Pay attention to the way you hold your body and where you feel most tense . Letting go of those tense areas can help you feel relaxed.

Be mindful: Mindfulness can be defined as a state of active and open attention on the present. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to what is around you in the present moment. The scientific community has become enamored of mindfulness, and there are multiple studies using this technique in many different populations (from children to older adults) and for many different conditions (from work/school performance to heart, digestive, and other conditions).[v] (If you need so help developing your mindfulness practice download my FREE meditation 101 guide.)



Exercise: Your body needs exercise as much as it needs food, water, and light. Exercise, especially intense exercise, has a way of bringing a sense of calm to your day, and its effects last for days.[vi] Exercise today to help you with a stressful situation tomorrow.

Trigger awareness: What causes you to go into overload is unique; we all have our triggers. Most of us know we are becoming stressed well before it happens. Trigger awareness is one of the most important skills to learn for stress reduction. When you learn what your early warning signs are, that is when you can start your relaxation techniques (or go for a run or walk).

Stress relief works.

People who practice these techniques have been shown to lower their blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, increase blood flow, feel energized, boost confidence, and have better concentration and mood. It is well worth your effort to learn some (or all) of these techniques to handle stress.

But to get the most benefit from these techniques, you must practice. Stress reduction is a set of skills that you get better at with time. The list above is not exhaustive. Other techniques may work for you: Go get a massage, spend time in nature, dance to your favorite music, take a warm bath, play with your children or pets.

Start small. Start today. Don’t wait for an especially stressful time in your life to start practicing stress reduction.

Source Shaklee Naturally Blog
[i] Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Miller GE. Psychological stress and disease. JAMA. 2007 Oct 10;298(14):1685-7.
[ii] Ranabir S, Reetu K. Stress and hormones. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011 Jan 1;15(1):18.
[iii] Dimsdale JE. Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2008 Apr 1;51(13):1237-46.
[iv] Mayer EA. The neurobiology of stress and gastrointestinal disease. Gut. 2000 Dec 1;47(6):861-9.
[v] Brown KW, Ryan RM. The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology. 2003 Apr;84(4):822.
[vi] Deslandes A, Moraes H, Ferreira C, Veiga H, Silveira H, Mouta R, Pompeu FA, Coutinho ES, Laks J. Exercise and mental health: many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology. 2009 Jun 10;59(4):191-8.

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