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10:24 PM / Thursday December 1, 2022

5 May 2017

Eliza Dukes’ Stress Management Strategies helps trafficking victims’ with PTSD exhale again

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May 5, 2017 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Eliza Dukes, owner of Stress Management Strategies.

By Arlene Edmonds

Correspondent

The best way to cope with daily or long term anxiety is to breathe. This is the mantra of Eliza Dukes, owner of Stress Management Strategies.

“It is important for each other us to identify our stress triggers,” Dukes said. “We should all plan a few minutes of breathing in our day just to relax. Then we should all plan a vacation or time off when we can stretch, breathe, and rejuvenate. We need moments to relax our mind and release the stress. A focus on deep breathing, even for a few seconds, can redirect our focus.”

One can find Dukes giving breathing lessons on a Royal Caribbean cruise, chairing a “Mental Overload Symposium” at a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Union session, or helping the New Castle Boys & Girls Club youngsters deal with technology stress. This has garnered her the nickname “Breathing Lady and Serenity Queen.”

Among Duke’s clientele are victims of human trafficking. She’s a Philadelphia Court-approved stress management provider who is trained to deal with patients with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and with the other emotional and sexual issues often found in those who have become involved with what is known as “the life.”

Dukes combines her experience as an attorney, the custodial parent of a relative, an HIV/AIDS counselor, and a botanist in her work with Stress Management Strategies. Since 1994, she has been developing deep breathing techniques to help former trafficking victims relax, prepare for court, and visualize a new life.

“When someone has been traumatized, they have a limited view of what is now possible, [and] it is difficult for them to realize that they can move beyond the stress,” said Dukes, who has a graduate certificate from St. Joseph’s University in Stress Management and Mental Health First Aid. “So, the first thing that needs to be done is to identify the stress triggers. After traumas, many develop anxiety because there are things that bring on the anxiety. That’s why we find that so many with stress have developed diabetes, high blood pressure, or asthma. There are certain hot buttons that bring back the stressful memories, and these have to be managed and processed.”

Testifying in court is stressful for many, according to Dukes. Since she has navigated the court system both as a paralegal and attorney, Dukes said that she understands  the type of stress triggers that are involved. Some of her clients come to her just to learn how to prepare themselves for litigation or other stressful circumstances where professionalism and a clear head is required.

Many trafficking, domestic abuse or crime victims have insomnia, according to Dukes. This sleep deficit results in the inability to concentrate. It then leads to additional stressors of not completing assignments or daily tasks and the subsequent stress from this lack of accomplishment. So, learning how to breathe often helps with getting to sleep or the ability to transition from one task to the next.

Dukes said that many who appear in court under stress often forget important pieces of information or cannot articulate clearly what they need to say. “In these situations, it’s important to teach them, step by step, how to release, relax and slow down,” Dukes stated.

Many trafficking and domestic abuse victims suffer from “Stockholm Syndrome,” Dukes said. The syndrome causes victims to trust those who rescued them from adverse situations like homelessness, hunger, or violence. It also causes those who are kidnapped or held hostage to develop tender feelings towards their captor.

Dukes pointed out that often these victims believe they are in love with their abuser. Rather than viewing the trafficker as a pimp, they may think of him as their lover or provider. The same is the case of a married woman who is afraid to leave her abusive husband out of fear that she is losing her protector.

“The final step is getting over the intimidation that was part of the relationship,” Dukes said.

“This is normal because it is all part of the denial of what they were going through. Once they realize what happened, they are very angry, the next step is becoming ready to go on with their lives, and then they can heal. It’s a long process that takes about six months to become emotionally (stable) and another six to 12 months or more to begin to mature and heal.”

The healing process is similar for those in the aftermath of other types of stress. Dukes, who hosts a WPEB television show on Comcast in Delaware, said her symposiums address four major stressors — situational, time, anticipatory and encounter.

“It’s all about mindset,” Dukes said. “We have blockers that keep us stressed. That’s why when you stop and breathe, it settles you. This may seem like a simple remedy, but it’s important. When you breathe, your body relaxes and then you can think clearly. You just have to know how to breathe fully — something most people do not really know how to do.”

“After that, movement will also help,” she continued. “I tend to encourage movement that is easy to do. I do not do yoga poses that are uncomfortable for many of us. Some are intimidated by more advanced movements. What I aim for is becoming peaceful. Peace, serenity, and tranquility, along with maybe just five minutes of journaling can help process stress, make you come back alive, and heighten energy.”

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