While people may experience trauma due to various reasons such as a tragic event, painful childhood experiences, or a global health event (like COVID-19), trauma can take an emotional and physical toll on those experiencing it no matter the cause. For those suffering from stress resulting from trauma, life can be incredibly difficult, as intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and intense emotions can be debilitating, even making it difficult to function.
If you are suffering as a result of trauma, it is important that you take the proper steps to cope and constructively deal with the emotions you’re feeling. While it can be tempting to avoid the memories or situations that trigger traumatic stress, suppressing your trauma will only work for so long. Dealing with your trauma constructively, and learning to manage your symptoms, is the best way to move forward from traumatic experiences in your past.
Yet, how can you move on when trauma can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and even hopeless? Keep reading for a look at five strategies to help you deal with traumatic stress and rebuild your life after a traumatic experience.
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If you’re dealing with traumatic stress, it is normal to want to avoid experiencing your feelings and emotions, as thoughts and memories related to your trauma can feel overwhelming. However, bottling up your emotions and suppressing them is not the answer, as this can do more harm in the long run. The fact is that your feelings exist whether you acknowledge them or not, and if you suppress your emotions, the stress you experience may linger longer than if you face your feelings head-on.
While it is easier said than done, learning to face your feelings and accept them is critical if you want to heal and move forward from trauma. Whether you are feeling angry, guilty, scared, or sad about what you experienced, allow yourself to feel these things without judgment. If you allow yourself to feel and process your emotions, you will eventually be able to learn to cope with what you experienced. Give yourself space to heal, and remember that it may take time to process all of the emotions you are experiencing.
In order to move forward from trauma, it is critical that you lean on a support system. While it is common for people to withdraw after a traumatic experience and isolate themselves, this is one of the worst things that you can do. Those close to you can help provide you with strength during this difficult time, and studies have even shown that social support reduces the amount of cortisol the body produces when you’re feeling anxious. Maintaining relationships and spending time with loved ones can then be crucial to your recovery.
While you should not be afraid to open up to your loved ones about your trauma if you are ready to talk, do not feel pressured to do so. Social interaction of any kind can be beneficial by providing comfort and by helping you feel connected to those around you. Talking about “normal” things other than the traumatic experience can also help you to feel like yourself again.
When coping with trauma, it is easy to forget basic self-care. You may find that instead of eating, taking a shower, or going to work, all you feel motivated to do is lay in bed. While this is a common experience, it can be detrimental to your recovery and could even make your symptoms worse. Poor diet and a lack of routine can actually make your symptoms more severe, which is why prioritizing self-care should be an essential component of your recovery. Making sure that you eat regularly, exercise, and get plenty of sleep each night will ensure that your mind and body have the tools they need to recover from the trauma you experienced. If possible, you should also try to get back into your regular day-to-day schedule as soon as you feel up to it. Getting back to school/work can help bring a sense of normalcy back to your life that can prove instrumental to your recovery.
While stress is a normal part of everyday life, too much stress can be detrimental to your health and can hinder your recovery from a traumatic experience. As you work towards healing and overcoming your trauma, try to support your recovery by limiting the amount of stress in your life. While you may not be able to remove certain stressors (like work) from your life, you can put extra focus on stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and other forms of relaxation. Make sure that you also set aside time during the week to focus on your hobbies and other activities that can help you decompress. Setting time aside each day to relax and reduce stress can help you heal quicker.
While many people are able to overcome trauma on their own with enough time, you are not alone if you are overwhelmed by traumatic stress and are not sure how to deal with it by yourself. If your symptoms don’t seem to be improving with time, or they even seem to be getting worse, then you may want to consider seeking professional help. Therapy can help you come up with strategies to cope with your trauma by teaching you to recognize and change unhealthy thought patterns.
If you are struggling to recover from a traumatic event or experience on your own, consider contacting us to find out how we can support you during this difficult time. From therapy to medication-assisted treatment, our team of experienced mental health care professionals can help get you on the road to recovery as you work to overcome trauma from your past.