For the past month I've seen numerous patients and loved ones struggle to cope with shock, stress and grief. Many have experienced reactivated PTSD as current events trigger past traumas and even generational trauma. In one way or another many are processing a collective experience of shock, or susto. In traditional Latin American cultures susto is described as a 'spirit attack,' the shamanic concept of 'soul loss' following an acute shock. Susto is a variant of PTSD with chronic somatic and nervous complaints following a stressor. Some of these symptoms include:
- Digestive complaints
- Loss of appetite
- Increased susceptibility to illness
While much has been said about the need to maintain vigilance, be pro-active, to not become complacent in the face of threats to democracy and social justice, it is imperative that we tend to ourselves and each other to maintain resilience for the long haul. Hypervigilance puts a tremendous strain on the nervous system and drains our vital force, which can become depleted and lead to illness. As was aptly put by Lena Stevens of the Power Path:
We don’t even know how exhausted we are. There has been so much work in the dreamtime collectively as our conscious personalities and bodies are “asleep”, that we don’t feel rested. We have been psychologically and psychically hypervigilant, holding a very big container for positive change and evolution and we are afraid to put it down. It is time to take a break and let what has been put into motion play itself out. The path is clear ahead of us and it is all about the personal healing we need to do on ourselves.
In addition to ramping up our self care basics (eat nourishing food, get plenty of rest, connect with beloveds) this is a good time to turn to plant medicines which offer nervous system support as a balm for the soul; remedios for susto.
Hawthorne is an herbal ally that offers balm for the heart and nerves during trying times. An ally in the softening of grief and shock, Hawthorne supports one to be in their heart center. It is considered a trophorestorative, meaning that it restores through nourishment, building up healthy tone and function. Astrologer and herbalist Jaysen Paulson formulated a honey-based Hawthorne elixir simply described as 'heart medicine to aid in our actions for the next four years.' Community educator and herbalist Angel Putney created a Strong Heart glycerite with Hawthorne, Rose, Lindon, Wood Betony and Sacred Basil as an offering for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and to "support strong fierce hearts." I am grateful that these two tapped into the heart medicine that is needed at this time, and I will be carrying a limited supply of their formulas at my clinic, which can also be ordered directly from the herbalists while supplies last.
Aromatherapy is another way to support the nervous system, since fragrance enters the limbic system directly through the olfactory nerve and has an immediate effect to calm the nerves. Bergamot, Rose and Sandalwood lower stress hormones, reduce anxiety and help improve insomnia. Citrus oils, lemon and orange, have been shown to uplift mood and boost serotonin, alleviating depression and shoring up hope. These oils can be diffused, used as a room spray, put in your bath, or placed on a hanky to keep with you throughout the day.
One thing is for certain - self care will be more critical than ever during the days ahead to maintain fortitude and stay grounded. For more structured guidance and a self-care survival toolkit, sign up for my 6-week 2017 Radical Self Care program beginning January 5th.