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Utilizing An Integrative Approach To Heal From The Effects Of Traumatic & Chronic Stress

Prioritizing Nutrition, Movement, Rest & Connection To Heal

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, traumatic stress affects approximately 8% of the general population in the United States? Additionally, chronic stress impacts an estimated 75% of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). This means that, at any given time, over 245 million individuals are likely to be experiencing any of the number of effects of traumatic and chronic stress.

understanding the feedback loop

While traumatic and chronic stress have distinct origins, their effects intersect profoundly, creating a feedback loop that can exacerbate both mental and physical health challenges. When the body is continually exposed to stress, whether from a traumatic event or ongoing stressors, it triggers a cascade of physiological responses, including the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Over time, these elevated stress hormone levels and other imbalances can disrupt various bodily systems, leading to inflammation, impaired immune function, and dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. Consequently, individuals may experience a heightened risk of developing chronic mental and physical health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Breaking free from the sometimes suffocating grip of traumatic and chronic stress requires a multi-faceted, integrative and root-cause approach centered on self-compassion and self-regulation. By tuning in and learning to listen to your body without judgment, and cultivating practices that promote relaxation and restoration, you can begin to shift from a state of sympathetic arousal (fight-or-flight) to a parasympathetic state (rest-and-digest).

utilizing the core 4 - nutrition, movement, rest & sleep - to heal

Nutrition, movement, rest, and connection (The Core 4) all play a pivotal role in alleviating the symptoms resulting from both traumatic and chronic stress. Here is how they each can work to promote healing:


World-renowned psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen says consuming foods that "don’t love you back" can signal to your body that it’s under attack. Because your body prioritizes keeping you safe, it deploys all necessary resources to fight off the invader. Consuming nutrient-dense, whole foods that do “love you back” won’t cause a stress response and can help your body relax and properly process what you've eaten, improving gut and brain health and supporting emotional well-being.

"Learn to love the foods that love you back." - dr. Daniel amen

Nutrient-rich foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and certain whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that combat inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, and support neurotransmitter function—key elements in mood regulation and stress management. Incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, further enhances brain health and reduces inflammation, promoting cognitive function and emotional stability.

In addition to dietary factors, it's vital to consider the impact of environmental pollutants and toxins on overall health. Exposure to pollutants in the air, water, and food supply as well as some personal care products can contribute to inflammation and oxidative stress, compromising brain function and exacerbating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Choosing organic, locally sourced produce and minimizing exposure to harmful chemicals found in some cosmetics and hygiene products can mitigate these risks and support overall well-being.

Moreover, the influence of mental inputs on nutritional health should not be overlooked. Stress, negative thought patterns, and emotional distress can impact dietary choices and digestion, affecting nutrient absorption and metabolism. Practicing mindfulness, stress management techniques, and cultivating a positive mindset can enhance nutritional outcomes and promote emotional healing.


The nature of movement is multifaceted. It encompasses not only structured exercise but also essential bodily functions such as bowel movements, blood flow, and lymphatic circulation. By recognizing the broader scope of movement and its impact on overall health, its benefits can be leveraged to enhance physical and mental well-being.

A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to increase the risk of anxiety and depression, as well as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more, according to Dr. Molly Maloof, an expert in health optimization and personalized medicine. Daily physical activity - even something as simple as walking and stretching - is one of the best ways to reduce stress, increase energy, and improve mood, self-confidence, and emotional stability.

"to me, if life boils down to one thing, it's movement. to live is to keep moving." - jerry Seinfeld

Physical activity such as yoga and rebounding as well other activities like massage, acupuncture and dry brushing stimulate blood flow, enhance circulation, and promote lymphatic drainage, facilitating the removal of toxins and waste products from the body, improving cognitive function and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.


Getting proper rest isn’t just about sleep. It encompasses a broader array of practices crucial for restoring equilibrium to the body and enhancing resilience to stress. Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith identifies seven distinct types of rest—physical, mental, emotional, sensory, creative, social, and spiritual—each serving a pivotal role in overall well-being. Prioritizing adequate sleep and relaxation, ensuring that you are breathing properly, and engaging in restful practices are paramount for maintaining balance and resilience in the face of stress.

"Rest is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Take the time off to replenish your energy and recharge your soul." - Dr. Lucas Shallua

Consider creating a soothing bedtime routine, engaging in simple breathing exercises throughout your day, beginning a journaling practice, or simply sitting in silence and allowing your mind to drift to help ensure your body gets the rest it both needs and deserves.


Traumatic and chronic stress often compel us to isolate and withdraw, severing the vital connections we need to thrive. As the well-known physician and trauma expert, Dr. Maté notes, traumatic stress "takes us out of connection with ourselves and the world," instigating a primal response to overwhelming experiences.

"connection is why we're here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives." - brene brown

Yet, paradoxically, it is through connection that we find the solace and strength we need to get through adversity. Some of the most profound healing occurs when we establish (or reestablish) connections—with a higher power, other humans, animals, and even the natural world. Cultivating meaningful relationships and fostering connections with others not only provides emotional support but also restores a sense of belonging and purpose.

With traumatic and chronic stress affecting such a significant portion of the population in sometimes debilitating ways, it is important to understand the significant impact a less-traditional, all-encompassing approach can have on diminishing the associated emotional difficulties. Taking on the belief that it all matters and incorporating strategies that foster relief is more crucial than ever. 

While optimizing all aspects of your life - what you consume and how you move, rest and connect - is essential to your healing, it is equally essential to give yourself the grace you need along the way. After all, growth is incremental. It’s multilateral. And it takes time. 

Please note that this blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional mental health or other medical advice. If you are experiencing mental health or other medical challenges, please seek support from a qualified mental health/medical professional. If you are experiencing a mental health/medical crisis, please contact your local emergency services or mental health crisis hotline. 

Another note: AI was used to help write this blog, but all the content is researched, reviewed and revised by the Beautiful Intentions team. AI has certainly made life easier, but it doesn't even come close to doing all the work. You can rest easy knowing that all posts are within our current scope of practice and knowledge. We’re getting out info on healing faster thanks to AI - more important to us than taking all the credit!


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