Welcome to the first Men & Trauma press release!
At Men & Trauma, we dedicate ourselves to the response and facilitation of those that may be working through a traumatic event, no matter how recently or long ago the event may have taken place.
But we also take time each week to talk about how each individual is feeling, and to discuss ideas and theories relating to trauma and the current state of our nation and planet. It is in these sessions that we have found ourselves often discussing a common theme: cortisol poisoning.
First, some background:
Cortisol is a steroid hormone most commonly associated with stress and is produced by the two adrenal glands that sit on top of each kidney. The activation of cortisol optimises our management of stressful situations by enhancing our response to that situation. This could mean more effective decision making, a peak athletic performance, or a more efficient response time in an emergency.
In the right doses, cortisol is an effective hormone that helps us navigate through life’s challenges with greater effectiveness. However, in a situation of ongoing stress, that dosage can tip into a volume that can then become harmful to our body, affecting our decision making, behaviour, stress levels and general health. This is known as cortisol poisoning.
A traumatic event can also commonly trigger an increased cortisol response, simply by virtue of trauma being extremely stressful.
But what constitutes trauma? If we were to take the complex elements that craft a trauma response and reduce them down to a simple definition, it would be a combination of the following two elements:
- a situation that we deem ourselves to be powerless or helpless in and;
- a situation that we perceive to be a threat to our life.
Perhaps you can see where we’re going with this...
Historian and University of Auckland Professor Paul Moon made the following comments to The Post, when asked if we are back to business as usual following the removal of the last remaining Covid restrictions:
“Absolutely not,” adding that not only are we still a very long way from “normal”; we’ll never be returning.
“What people forget is the trauma, not just of the past three years but of the time leading up to the pandemic and those first announcements.
“We were told at the beginning that [many] of us might die, and we had every reason to believe that. When Jacinda Ardern announced that first lockdown we said goodbyes to family, friends and colleagues thinking we may never see them again.
“It was an unprecedented event that caused an unprecedented reaction – the trauma of that doesn’t just go away.”
In the time that’s lapsed since Covid was perceived to ‘finish’, it appears clear to this group that we are navigating constant fatiguing emotions and exhausting physical states. There’s a sense of visceral anger, incurable exhaustion and bizarre decision making that feels evident on a global scale. Given the clear evidence of the impact we’re seeing on work, health, relationships, politics and sociology, as well as the behaviours that we are bearing witness to with each passing week, and taking into consideration the ongoing stressful experience that has been felt by everyone to varying degrees over the past three years, a case for global cortisol poisoning feels
reasonably easy to make. Richard Jeffrey, the Men & Trauma director made the following comment:
“It feels clear, given the evidence, that we are a far stretch from pre-covid behaviours, and that there is a strong likelihood that cortisol poisoning is playing a role in the behaviour that we are seeing. People are hurting, and from what we now know about trauma, it can take years to heal from events that impact us in the way that Covid has.”
Obviously there’s no easy solution because the situation is extremely complex, and we suspect the cycle of behaviour that we are seeing may be something that we are stuck in for some time - we’re each just navigating our way through a globally traumatic experience as best we can, and ‘as best we can’ can take on any number of shapes in the shadow of such enormousness.
So remember, be kind to yourself and step forward lightly. With everything that’s going on out there it’s easy to get lost in the noise, but let’s not confuse boredom with peacefulness - taking a breath and switching off for a moment from what’s happening is okay, because it’s a lot.
Be kind to yourself - it really can go a long way.
Catch you at the next release,
Men & Trauma.