A person who experienced trauma may be scarred for life, but the goal is to move on and get on with life as much as possible. Whether their trauma is physical, emotional, mental, or sexual in nature, a trauma survivor needs help. Trauma survivors often battle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, which can keep them from functioning normally every day.
Emotional reactions or responses to the distress caused by an upsetting event may last for several days, even for months for some people. The feelings may gradually fade as you move on from the crisis. But there may be times in the future when the painful memories come back, especially when there are triggers.
To move on from the traumatic incident and live life to the fullest, here are some tips you can follow to heal from a harrowing event:
Experiencing any form of trauma can disrupt the body’s equilibrium. As mentioned earlier, PTSD is a common occurrence for trauma survivors. The main symptom of PTSD is hyperarousal, where the body is in high alert mode just thinking about the trauma.
Hyperarousal can cause sleeping problems, restlessness, constant anxiety, or angry outbursts. If you’re in a hyperarousal state, try to go out and get moving. Doing any form of physical activity or exercising can help you burn adrenaline and release endorphins to restore balance in the nervous system.
Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. You can jog, walk, swim, play sports, or dance. Furthermore, engaging in physical activity and going outdoors can clear your mind from the traumatic events that are played repeatedly in your mind.
A person who experienced trauma may tend to isolate themself, but this will only make things worse. You may relive the events and be stressed out if you are left alone to deal with your thoughts.
Connect to people you trust or a mental health care professional that can help you heal. Avoid spending time alone by trying these tips:
Reach out to a family member or a trusted person. The coping process will be faster if you have a support system to help you heal. You don’t have to talk about the traumatic experience as this may only cause you stress. Simply hanging out or doing a fun activity together can keep your mind off what happened.
Join support groups. Many support groups help trauma survivors cope with what happened. Trauma survivors talk about their experiences in a support group, and you can share yours, too. Being a part of a group can help you have a sense of belongingness. You will also hear inspiring stories from others if you participate in the meetings.
Expand your network by making new friends. You can enroll in a hobbyist class, join a gym, or volunteer to help trauma survivors to meet new people.
When you feel restless or anxious, experience traumatic stress, or recall what you’ve been through, take charge by trying the following:
Mindful Breathing. If you feel restless, confused, or upset, practice mindful breathing. It is a quick way to calm your senses and an effective mindfulness meditation practice.
Find a quiet spot in your house, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your breathing. You can inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
Sensory Input. If you experience traumatic stress or get anxious, try the sensory output technique. Use your senses to calm down, such as smelling lavender, eating chocolate, or listening to calming music. Sensory input techniques may be different for everyone, so find the best stress-relieving technique for you.
Guided Meditation. If you’re upset or in a hyperarousal state, get your phone and listen to guided meditations online. You can search for a free guided meditation on YouTube or podcasts with guided audio to induce a state of relaxation.
Starting your meditation may take a few minutes, and its purpose is to relieve psychological or emotional stress. Aside from guided meditation for relaxation, there are guides for better sleep, exercise, or yoga.
In life, you must find that sense of balance. You do this by taking care of your psychological and physical health. These two will always affect each other. For example, not getting enough sleep can contribute to your mental health decline and vice versa. Here are some things to remember to take care of your physical and mental health:
Get enough sleep. After a traumatic experience, you may find yourself tossing and turning at night. But not being able to get enough sleep can worsen the situation. Also, oversleeping is not good for you.
Try to have undisturbed sleep of 7–9 hours a night. Can’t sleep? Before going to bed, you can drink warm milk, avoid using your mobile phone, read a book, write in your journal, take a warm shower, or listen to a guided meditation.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. When you resort to alcohol or drugs in times of distress, you’re not taking control of your life. You’re letting these substances take control of you. Never resort to alcohol and drugs, as this can worsen the situation. Only resort to healthy coping mechanisms.
Eat healthy food. Yes, food can affect your mood. Have you ever noticed feeling crappy after eating junk food? But when you eat healthy food, you feel healthy and happy.
Eat foods that can make you happy to make it easier to get your mind off what you’ve been through. Foods like quinoa, salmon, mushrooms, dark chocolate, probiotic-rich food (kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut), green leafy vegetables, and fruits can help you feel more positive. Eat frequent small servings of well-balanced foods throughout the day to boost your energy and minimize mood swings.
Practice stress-reducing techniques. Practice stress-reducing techniques throughout the day and the rest of your life. Try meditation, yoga, smiling all the time, taking a break, pampering yourself, praying, spending time in nature, and bonding with your family or children.
The trauma happened already; no matter what you do, you can’t change the past. All you can do is move on, get past it, and live the happy life you deserve. What happened to you is an experience no one wanted to happen, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go back to your everyday life.
Recovering from trauma is different for everyone. For some, it may take time. Others just want to hide the pain. But many need help. If months have passed and you still have the disturbing symptoms caused by the trauma, you should seek professional treatment.
- Find it difficult to function well at work or school (for children)
- Experience symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, or depression
- Find it hard to socialize, disconnect with family members, or experience relationship problems because of the trauma
- Experience symptoms of PTSD like flashbacks, nightmares, or terrifying memories
- Avoid something or someone that reminds you of the trauma
- Resort to drinking or using substances to make you feel better
A person who experienced trauma may find it painful to relive the trauma, and this can be potentially re-traumatizing. But for every problem, there is a solution. To avoid this, seeking a trauma specialist or counselor is the best solution.
You must first resolve your unpleasant feelings or memories to heal from emotional or mental trauma. Suppressing what you feel or bottling up your emotions won’t do you any good.
Letting it all out by talking to a therapist or counselor can help you regulate your emotions, feel safe, and learn how to cope with the event. The types of therapy recommended for trauma survivors are:
Instead of focusing on your thoughts or memories of the traumatic event, your therapist may use somatic experiencing to help you focus on your body’s sensations. During the session, you may be subtly introduced to images or things that remind you of the trauma.
Your therapist observes your body’s responses (e.g., a shift in posture, shaking, shallow breathing, sweating). This treatment aims to restore the balance and integrity of your body and teach you how to regulate your emotions.
TF-CBT is a form of therapy effective for trauma patients to address psychological and emotional responses to the trauma. During therapy, a person learns how to process thoughts and feelings about the trauma and acquire skills on how to cope with life’s daily stressors.
If you have a loved one or family member who experienced trauma, remember that you are a crucial part of their recovery. Be patient and more understanding of the situation because everyone heals differently. Please don’t take their reactions or symptoms as their personal attack on you and offer help instead.
During their recovery, help them with getting their life on track. This may include helping them with the chores, driving them to therapy, or simply being around. Your loved one may not be vocal when asking for help, but your presence helps them feel a sense of security and support.
If your loved one does not want to talk about the experience, don’t force them to. Just be there in case they need someone to talk to. Encourage exercise, meeting with friends, socializing, or pursuing a hobby with your loved one.
The best help for trauma survivors is therapy or counseling services. Schedule an appointment for online mental health counseling at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC). Overcoming trauma doesn’t need to be a harrowing experience. KCC will help you become a better and stronger person despite all the traumatic events you went through.