Your Brain On Trauma Part Two: The Hippocampus
Welcome to Part 2 of our Your Brain on Trauma series; if you missed Part 1 check it out: Here. One way that trauma affects our brains is that is disrupting our memory. We have a hard time remembering the event itself, we have a hard time remembering things in general, we may remember only bits and pieces, the memory may be mixed up and out of order. This is what happens when the hippocampus, our memory center, is disrupted.
The hippocampus lies in the middle of our brain and is responsible for transferring and storing information of the day into memories. When we experience trauma our hippocampus is short-circuited by the rush of sensory information. Due to this short-circuiting, the hippocampus does not do its job properly. Part of that job is to sever the emotional context of the event from the memory of the event.
The amygdala sits right next to the hippocampus and is responsible for emotions like fear and anger. When the hippocampus does not sever the emotional connection properly that is when we suffer from things like flashbacks and nightmares. Beyond those issues having memory problems can certainly affect our day to day lives. So, how do we help the brain heal?
Sleep is so incredibly important for us. This can obviously be hard to do if you are suffering from nightmares or unpleasant dreams but getting a healthy sleep routine and sleep hygiene down can help drastically. Make sure your room is cool and dark, keep electronics (yes phones too) out of the bedroom. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
Journalling and writing can help improve memory and recall. It is not suggested that you write about your trauma without the guidance of a trained professional, but writing about your day to day life especially noticing the positives and having a gratitude journal can help you strengthen your hippocampus.
Getting up and moving, especially any form of vigorous exercise can help heal the brain. Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to help people learn, recall, and process information. It also has the added benefit of a decrease in stress and anxiety.
Here’s the challenge: for the next week try to improve your sleep, write a daily journal, and get up and move. Go at your own pace and have patience with yourself. Even if you take two steps forward and one step back you have still taken one step forward. If you are struggling then please seek our a trauma-informed therapist near you.
Disclaimer: This blog is designed for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes. It not meant to be a substitute for any mental health or medical treatment. If you need a doctor or therapist please find one near you. Please do not attempt to do anything without your doctor and therapist or other professionals go ahead and remember to use common sense. Pictures from Pixabay.com.