What is trauma-sensitive mind-body awareness?

This is a phenomenon that not only I have experienced in the past, but many of my clients do as well. Many books are written on the subject, the most notable I’ve read being The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk and When the Body Says No by Gabor Mate.


Being trauma-sensitive and aware of this in your body frequently shows up in physical discomfort with no apparent medical cause. The authors of the above book will also extend this notion to diseases such as cancer, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia as well as autoimmune disorders.

Symptoms of trauma-sensitivity

Some common symptoms of trauma-sensitivity include:

Cognitive changes

Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks of an event(s), confusion, difficulty with memory and concentration, and mood swings

Altered behavioural patterns

Avoiding people and places that remind you of the experience, and withdrawing from family, friends, and activities you once enjoyed.

Psychological concerns

Anxiety and panic attacks, fear, anger, irritability, obsessions and compulsions, shock and disbelief, emotional numbing and detachment, depression, shame, and guilt (especially if the person dealing with the trauma survived while others didn’t)

Physical problems

Difficulty falling or staying asleep, becoming easily startled, hypervigilance and edginess, rapid heartbeat, unexplained aches and pains, sexual dysfunction, altered eating patterns, muscle tension, and extreme exhaustion.

This list isn’t exhaustive, and every person’s response will differ. Over time, the effects of trauma, if not resolved, can create life-limiting reactions to everyday experiences.

Heightened awareness

An over-sensitive mind-body awareness is when you experience a heightened awareness of your sensory processes. This interconnectedness between the mind and body occurs with all of us but at different levels.

Imagine a graphic equaliser with slide controls. Every individual’s setting will differ slightly – or a lot as the case may be. Those with trauma-sensitive mind-body awareness will be hypersensitive to their surroundings and their internal experience.

These are the awarenesses that might be heightened:

Visual information

Lights and colours are too bright or ‘blinding’ or the opposite – a desire for bright stimulating lights and colours. Common ones are supermarket lighting causing physical and emotional discomfort, artificial harsh strip lighting causing headaches or abreaction or the need for visual overload such as watching brightly coloured stimulating videos.

Auditory information

Sounds are too loud, too invasive, or not loud and invasive enough. Being triggered by a type of sound that is harmless to most others, such as sirens or a genre of music or needing to listen to powerful sounds such as heavy metal music to self-regulate.

Kinaesthetic information

Touch and physical feeling awareness may be heightened, a sensitivity to clothing for example or needing to wear compressing, tight clothing for sensory feedback to self-soothe.

Olfactory information

A heightened awareness of smells, especially everyday smells triggers an uncomfortable response that goes beyond a dislike for a certain smell. For example, the smell of smoke that is physically far distant from you causes an asthmatic reaction.

Gustatory information

This is linked to the taste and texture of predominantly foods. It is common in those with a diagnosis of autism. An overwhelming like or dislike for certain tastes or textures. We all can resonate with an alcoholic drink that we have drunk to excess and the mere smell of it reminds us of the event and quite often causes nausea just by thinking about it.

Proprioception information

Proprioception information is the sense that lets us perceive the location, movement, and action of parts of the body. It encompasses a complex of sensations, including perception of joint position and movement, muscle force, and effort. Without its presence, you would not be able to move without consciously thinking about it first.

Needing space or needing closeness. Needing space can result in getting angry in crowds or needing closeness can result in needing to be in physical contact for reassurance. The joy from trampolining is a combination of proprioception, vestibular and kinaesthetic feedback.

Vestibular information

Provides the sense of balance and information about body position that allows rapid compensatory movements in response to both self-induced and externally generated forces. Imbalances are usually linked to a physical cause such as a blow to the head or an infection but also in conditions such as mal de debarquement syndrome which is sea legs on dry land. A disturbance in the way our brains process balance information.

Interoception information

Is an internal sensory system in which the physical and emotional states of the person are consciously or unconsciously noticed, recognised and responded to. We are all familiar with our stomach rumbling – but can you hear every sound and crack that your neck makes as you move it? Those with an acute sense of their internal physical and emotional state will have a heightened awareness such as feeling the temperature and movement of the liquid of an injection or the steady rhythm of their pulse or heartbeat.

Trauma-sensitive mind-body awareness

The key elements of trauma-sensitive mind-body awareness that will allow you to equalise any trauma-based oversensitivity include:

  1. Mindfulness and body awareness: Practices such as mindfulness meditation, body scans, and gentle movement exercises are used to help individuals develop a greater sense of awareness and connection with their bodies. This can help them recognise and respond to physical sensations, emotions, and trauma-related triggers.
  2. Somatic experiencing: This therapeutic approach focuses on releasing and processing traumatic experiences that may be stored in the body as physical sensations or tension. It involves guiding individuals to notice and regulate their physiological responses to trauma-related memories or triggers.
  3. Grounding techniques: These techniques are designed to help individuals anchor themselves in the present moment and regain a sense of safety and control over their bodies and emotions. Examples include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindful movement.
  4. Emotion regulation: Trauma-sensitive mind-body awareness emphasises the importance of developing healthy coping strategies to manage overwhelming emotions and physiological arousal associated with traumatic experiences.
  5. Integrative approach: This approach often incorporates various modalities such as yoga, tai chi, cross-meridian such as Brain Gym or other mind-body practices to promote overall well-being and facilitate the integration of physical, emotional, and cognitive aspects of healing.

The goal of trauma-sensitive mind-body awareness is to empower individuals who have experienced trauma to develop a greater sense of self-awareness, emotional regulation, and a compassionate relationship with their bodies. By balancing the mind-body connection, this approach aims to support the healing process and cultivate resilience.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN
Written by Nikki Emerton
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

I’m Nikki, a recovered perfectionist, still an over-achiever, and a slightly introverted lover of running, the outdoors, wild swimming & good food!
I am passionate about empowering you to be the best version of yourself, allowing you to unlock your potential by levelling up your skills and creating opportunities & growth through therapy & training.

Show comments

Find a coach dealing with Wellness coaching

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals