Traumatologist Offers Insight on Addressing Everyday Stresses
The phrase “living in the moment” often is used to describe the importance of being aware of the present instead of focusing on the regrets of the past or the uncertainties of the future.
Yet for many, it’s the issues of the present moment — the lingering pandemic, social unrest, political polarization, rising violence — that are the source for feelings of overwhelming anxiety and stress. In those instances, sometimes taking “living in the moment” down to almost a minimalistic meditative level of what’s occurring around your being can be helpful, suggested Andrea Bassett.
“The daily things that you can do to reduce anxiety and reduce stress are things like grounding,” she said. “For instance, I’m sitting at a table. If I just focus in on what’s happening only right here, I hear the air conditioning turning on. And I just listen to that for a while. I feel the table, the texture of the table under my hands; and I just go through and start being super observant to what’s going on right here. Then I start checking with my feelings. I’m feeling relaxed right now. I feel safe right now. What that does is takes your brain and brings it into this very moment. And in this moment, I am safe, I am comfortable. It just helps your heart rate to slow down, it helps your breathing to calm down, and it gives your brain a chance to process and breathe.”
The Vermontville resident is a life coach and mental health specialist focusing on trauma. In September, she started Cora Journey LLC while she pursues her doctorate in traumatology. The business helps people find mental health resources and connects them with coaches, counselors and mental health professionals.
“Cora Journey started last fall when I started seeing a need,” Bassett said. “People would come to me saying, ‘I’m really struggling with this. I don’t know what help I need. I don’t even know what works, what doesn’t work.’ And I was like, well, I have all these skills and I have this database of knowledge. Let me help you. Let’s go together on your healing journey.”
Bassett’s husband came up with the name — “cora” meaning “heart” in a variety of languages. She started solely working with nonprofits but opened her client base to the general public in April.
“Trauma is my area of expertise, and trauma is defined as a life-threatening event that you’ve either experienced or witnessed or that happened to somebody who’s close to you,” she explained. “A traumatic event is something that injures your self-integrity, so sexual assault is considered a traumatic event. I also work with people who are in crisis, which is different than a trauma. A crisis can be anything that just puts you over your ability to cope. … So I help people regain control over their lives in those situations.”
Now in particular, people are dealing with big issues taking place in the world around them as well as addressing residual issues since the heights of the pandemic. Bassett said it’s important to create habits that give your mind room to rest.
“I recommend taking a daily break, even if that’s just a 25-minute lunch break where you don’t work and maybe just watch something on your phone,” she said. “I also recommend weekly doing something fun, making sure you’re scheduling that into your week. If that’s going out with a friend, if that’s going for a walk on the weekend — just something that brings fun into your life. Then monthly, if you can, try to get away for the day. Get out of your context. If that’s driving to the west side of Michigan and going to the beach just for the day, do something that gets you out of your current context.”
Bassett acknowledged that people’s passions can run high on certain topics and sometimes circumstances don’t allow you to exit the situation.
“Let’s say I’m at work and there’s stuff that’s in my face and I don’t have a chance to implement any stress-reducing techniques. What I can tell myself is I’m going to put this issue, this thing that is bothering me, in an imaginary box. And I’m just going to set it on a shelf and get to it later when I can deal with it,” she said.
“But in the moment when you are dealing with a very hot opinion — especially when you are seeing these very strong opinions on social media that can be incredibly personal and incredibly hurtful — you have to remember that those strong opinions are based on that person’s personal experience, so immediately that brings compassion and almost empathy into the situation.”
It’s not simple, Bassett said, but it can be at least a step toward a sense of understanding, which can lead to a calmer and more common ground of conversation.
“The other point is listening: being able to sit down with somebody face to face who has an opposite opinion or opposite core belief and being able to listen to them without it being against what you believe,” she said. “Stepping back and saying, ‘They’re not attacking me personally.’ Maybe they said something that actually was attacking me personally. But if you take yourself back and consider they’re saying this out of their personal experience … now I’m going view the situation differently because I have a new piece of information.”
Like exercise, it’s a daily practice to put yourself in a good mental space; however, Bassett noted that even the most balanced individual is going to have ups and downs and experience crisis and trauma — and it’s OK and normal, even healthy, to feel and react in those times.
Yet if something becomes too overwhelming, it’s equally important to recognize that reaching out to a specialist to help guide you through some of the mental obstacles is also normal and healthy, she added.
“I love my job,” Bassett said. “Every time I finish with a partner or a client, I walk away feeling alive. The most rewarding part is seeing people realize that what they are going through is normal and they can heal — giving them hope that, based on research and current practices, your situation is fixable. The way your brain is reacting right now isn’t how you’re going to be forever, and there is so much hope in your situation. Seeing people come to that realization and feel like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ is absolutely rewarding and amazing.”