Working as a physician treating substance use disorders sparked my interest in chronic stress and trauma and how it affects teachers. I learned that most of my patients struggling with addiction experienced traumatic stress, and many people use drugs to cope with the consequences of traumatic stress. I began to learn as much as I could about stress and trauma so I could effectively treat my patients.
How stress affects the nervous system
I learned about the Adverse Childhood Experiences study that indicated that certain challenging early life experiences increased risk of social problems, disability, and chronic diseases that are among our leading causes of premature death.
I learned how chronic stress and trauma affects the brain and the body.
I learned about Polyvagal Theory which helped me to understand that a nervous system affected by trauma responds with defensive behaviors that interfere with learning and connection when it senses danger or threat, and that one of the best ways to regulate a dysregulated nervous system is through co-regulation with a regulated nervous system.
I wanted to eventually contribute to a program that would support young people who faced adverse life experiences.
I have been learning, practicing, and teaching meditation for many years. I began teaching iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation as part of group counseling in the substance use treatment program in which I worked. It was transformational for my patients. It helped them become more comfortable with discomfort, decreasing their desire to self-medicate away challenging emotions.
My own personal practice of iRest® helped me through difficult life experiences. My desire to share this healing practice with a wider population increased. And I knew that one way to support young people is to support the adults in their lives.
The importance of self-regulation
Under the best of circumstances, teaching is hard, and the pandemic made it even more stressful. Physical distancing, remote learning, loss and grief have affected not only teachers, but students as well, and many teachers have been affected by more vicarious trauma than usual from hearing about the challenges that their students have faced.
JabuMind provides soothing voices that are available at any time, with short practices that were created specifically for teachers to help with maintaining self-regulation during challenging times, based on information from teachers about what would fit into their day.
Among the important lessons that I learned about trauma is that we cannot heal what we do not feel. As challenging as life is now, it is important to feel all our feelings, including the difficult ones, instead of denying them or numbing them away. Many people end up as patients in my work in addiction medicine because of their attempts to avoid feeling challenging emotions.
I have been treating patients struggling with opioid dependence for many years, and now the pandemic has overshadowed and exacerbated the opioid epidemic. Life is challenging, and it’s essential to find ways to calm our nervous system when we inevitably face difficulties so we can cope with whatever arises without reacting in ways that are harmful to ourselves or others. The practices in JabuMind can help.
Thanks for the important work that you do to educate our youth. May you remember that self-care is essential and find the support you need to continue this valuable service.