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Healing From Trauma – Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Body Behind

Healing From Trauma – Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Body Behind

By Michelle Steinke-Baumgard

It’s time we STOP believing that all trauma healing work happens in our minds, we must reconnect the body, and it’s rightful place on our healing journey. ~Michelle Steinke-Baumgard, One Fit Widow

When I got a phone call that would forever shape my world, I instinctively turned to fitness to handle my stress, trauma, and grief. I was called to move my body; actually, I was more than called, I was PULLED, HARD, and I quickly made the connection to my emotional well-being and my level of activity. The days I worked out were more tolerable, a little less stressful, and afforded me just little more peace.

With my phone call came a shock, PTSD, and horrific heartache that couldn’t be “fixed,” I just had to learn how to survive and raise my children without their father and my best friend.

When I walked into the darkness of grief, I was surrounded by well-meaning friends and family who immediately counseled me to go into therapy. At the time, and given the circumstances, it seemed like a logical choice, after all, I had just lived through something pretty horrific, so I made my first appointment with a counselor. I remember walking into her office, feeling numb, and completely detached from reality.

She looked at me and said, “So what is it that you came to talk with me about today?” I remember thinking to myself, “What a stupid question, my husband just died in a fiery plane crash, what do you think I came to talk with you about today?”

I managed to tolerate the hour, but I never returned to that same therapist. I just wasn’t ready to “talk” about and “process” my grief in that way. It wasn’t her fault, we all do what is right for us in our timeframe, and that was not meant to be my course of action in the beginning.

What I WAS ready to do was move my body every chance I got. Movement is what I did, and it turned into my life-line at a critical time in my journey. For months I ran, I lifted, I cried HARD tears through a deep sweat, and I found some measure of peace.

Listen, I am the very first to tell you to see a good therapist. We ALL need it to some degree, and to this day, I still see someone to help me understand and process life. However, I wasn’t ready just days after I said goodbye to my late husband. I knew deep down inside what experts are starting to uncover today that our bodies need to help us deal and process grief, stress, and trauma, otherwise we hold it and carry it deep in our bodies, and THAT can make us very, very sick.

When you live with trauma, stress, grief, and any pain, you are not just experiencing it mentally in the upper part of your body, you are experiencing it as an entire being, yet so often we try and leave our bodies behind in the process. Recent research by Therapists Peter Levine, the father of Somatic Experiencing and author of, “Waking the Tiger.” Psychiatrist, Bessel van der Kolk, author of “The Body Keeps The Score,” and Dr. David Berceli, the creator of “Trauma Releasing Exercises,” shows the undeniable connection to our bodies imprint of trauma. This imprint can have severe and lasting effects on our body’s critical systems. Chronic pain and even serious illness can be connected to trauma never released within our bodies. Our central nervous system, joints, fascia, and muscular systems can store trauma and leave us in debilitating pain.

When I wrote my best-selling book, “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Working Out Grief,“ in 2017, I was fully aware of the importance of movement for our mental and physical health after a loss. I had seen it personally change my life for the better. Still, even I was unaware of just how critical exercise, yoga, TRE, and even WALKING was for the processing of trauma and the deep connection to overall health. As I’ve continued to learn and grow in this field of study, I am more determined than ever to get the grieving population moving as a tool in every toolbox for ultimate health and well-being. Until body-centered therapy is as widely prescribed as anti-depressants and talk therapy, I will keep beating the drum and raising awareness for the importance of a full BODY approach to healing.

Here are some full-body therapy tips you can take towards your healing from Michelle @OneFitWidow:

  • Walking

Get up and move, especially outside. There is power in moving your body and connecting with nature. Just a simple 10-minute walk can be the start of your new approach towards wellness.

  • Yoga

This ancient modality can be a powerful way to learn the connection to your body, it’s breath, and checking in with your mental and physical well-being. Yoga is gentle, and its purpose is to give you the gift of awareness. This awareness can help you heal in more ways than you could ever imagine. Walk with My1FitLife Coach, Alba through a simple breathing exercise and basic first yoga pose for health. Alba coaches our Quest Wellness Clients weekly to integrate yoga into their everyday lifestyle. My1FitLife Yoga Introduction

  • Running

I always say that running is a metaphor for life. You put one foot in front of the other, and it moves you forward. Running allows for powerful endorphins to be released throughout the body and brings a fire to your life that is undeniable.

  • TRE – Tension/Trauma Releasing Exercises

Certified providers teach this incredible practice created by Dr. David Berceli. It is a series of simple yet, innovative exercises that help relieve tensions, stress, and grief from the central nervous system by allowing the body to “tremor” just like animals do instinctually in the wild. You can find out more about TRE on the website Trauma Prevention. Michelle from One Fit Widow is a certified TRE provider and will be offering individual and small group sessions of TRE via the internet on Zoom. If you are interested in working with Michelle, you can email to request more information.

  • Swimming

We know that swimming is hugely therapeutic. It all goes back to our body, and it’s the connection to being in the womb. Not only do you get all chemical benefits of exercise without additional pressure on your joints, but you also get the calm of the water surrounding you.

  • Meditation

My favorite analogy for meditation is if you imagine that you are floating in the ocean during a violent storm, you dive down deep into the water. You notice the calm and peace that surrounds you. That is what meditation does for your mind and your body; it allows you to connect to the quiet parts of your brain and calm the central nervous system and return you to parasympathetic (the opposite of fight or flight). Taking even five minutes each day for deep breathing and meditation can be life-altering in all the right ways. We believe in meditation so profoundly that we’ve made it a critical component of our new and improved Quest program. Find out more about Quest Wellness.

  • Hiking and Nature

What happens when you combine the power of movement with the insane healing capabilities of nature? You get magic!! Hiking and being outside in the fresh air, surrounded by nature, the grounding effects of the earth and natural sunshine is soul cleansing and deeply therapeutic. This is one reason we include a hike in nearly every event and adventure we do. We know that when people get outside their comfort zone, reach and do something challenging, life opens up for them in all the right ways. It also makes the challenges at home seem less daunting. Nature has a way of making us, and our problems seem smaller.

Honestly, there are countless ways we can help our bodies heal through movement; I go into more examples in my book, Healthy Healing.

What we do know without a shadow of a doubt is that we can no longer afford to leave our bodies behind in the healing process. We know we store patterns of muscular tension deep in our systems, and to regain true peace and wellness, we have to include not only our minds but our bodies as well.

Start today by incorporating small amounts of movement into your current lifestyle.

Journal your feelings just before you move your body and about 30 minutes after.

I’m guessing you will start to see a pattern of improved mood, less overwhelm, anxiety, and even, in some cases, depression. The beautiful thing about movement is you can add it to whatever you already do to treat your trauma. Exercise, yoga, TRE are fantastic additions to talk therapy, EMDR, anti-depressants, and really anything your doctor or therapist has already prescribed. I’d challenge you to speak to your doctor or therapist about adding in movement as you work together towards your best healing.

One thing I like to remind clients and readers alike is that we are all solely responsible for our healing. Nobody is coming to save the day, and we must take ownership of our lives and our path forward. Life is short; we need to do whatever we can to help our minds and our bodies process our grief and trauma in a way that is healthy and beneficial for the days we have left. Yes, there is much work to be done, but the good news is you are worth it, and so is your future. Do the work and improve all of your tomorrows.

Said with love and so much hope for your future,


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Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is an author for HarperCollins, speaker, fitness coach, mother, adventurer, and remarried widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009, she turned to exercise and outdoor adventure as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle knew in her soul that it had become her life purpose to educate the masses on grief, wellness, and the connection to mind and body. Michelle found fitness and somatic healing so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate VP job to become a coach. Since then, Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine and Shape Magazine and has contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. Michelle has coached thousands of people to better health and a more empowering walk through grief. Michelle’s mission is to help people live a full, healthy, and intentional life beyond life’s most challenging moments. In addition to her virtual training business and adventure company, Michelle recently launched her own nonprofit, Live the List. Her nonprofit focuses on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future.

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