A person who experienced trauma may be scarred for life, but the goal is to move on and get going. May it be physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse, a trauma survivor needs help. Trauma survivors may battle Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression, which can keep them from functioning normally every day.
For all trauma survivors out there, here’s our message here at Kentucky Counseling Center: help is available. We are available to help you get past the crisis you experienced. In this post, we encourage help to trauma survivors by sharing these tips on healing from a traumatic event.
Healing From a Traumatic Event
Emotional reactions or responses to the distress caused by an upsetting event may last for several days, for some, for months. The feelings may gradually fade as you move on from the crisis. But there may be times in the future that the painful memories may 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 do to heal from a harrowing event.
Tip #1: Go Out and Get Moving
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 the 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 flashbacks in your mind.
Tip # 2: Don’t Isolate Yourself
A person who experienced trauma may tend to isolate themselves, but this will only make things worse. Being alone in your thoughts, there’s a possibility that you relive the events and be stressed out. 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 would 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. In a support group, trauma survivors will be talking about their experiences, and you can share yours too. Being a part of a group can help have a sense of belongingness and hear inspiring stories from others.
Other things you can do: Expand your network by making new friends, you can: enroll in a hobbyist class, join a gym, or volunteer to help trauma survivors.
Tip #3: Take Control
In times where you experience traumatic stress, feel restless, anxious, or recall what you’ve been through, take control. Here are some things you can try:
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’re experiencing traumatic stress or get anxious, try the sensory output technique. Use your senses to calm down, for example, a lavender scent, 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. This may take few minutes, and its purpose is to relieve psychological or emotional stress. Other than guided meditation for relaxation, there are also guides for better sleep, exercising, or yoga.
Tip #4: Take Care of Your Physical and Mental Health
In life, you must find that sense of balance. How do you exactly 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 an 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 foods: Yes, food can affect your mood. Have you ever noticed when you eat junk foods, you feel crappy? But when you eat healthy foods, you feel healthy and happy. Eat foods that can make you happy and get your mind off what you’ve been through. Eat foods like quinoa, salmon, mushrooms, dark chocolate, probiotics, green leafy vegetables, and fruits. Eat frequent small servings of well-balanced foods throughout the day to boost your energy and minimize mood swings.
Stress-reducing techniques: Practice stress-reducing techniques throughout the day and the rest of your life. Try meditation, yoga, smiling all the time, take a break, pamper yourself, spend time with nature, bonding time 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 hopes to happen, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go back to your everyday life.
When to Seek Help for Traumatic Events
Recovering from trauma is different for everyone. For others, it may take time. For some, they hide the pain. For some, they may need help. If months have passed, and you still have the daunting symptoms caused by the trauma, you should seek professional treatment.
Seek Help if You:
- 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 experiencing relationship problems because of the trauma
- Experience symptoms of PTSD like flashbacks, nightmares, or terrifying memories
- Avoids 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 all this, seeking a trauma specialist or counselor is the best solution.
What Kind of Therapy Is Right for Survivors of Trauma?
To heal from emotional or mental trauma, you need first to resolve your unpleasant feelings or memories. 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. What are the types of therapy recommended for trauma survivors? These are:
Instead of focusing on your thoughts or memories of the traumatic event, your therapist may use Somatic Experiencing to 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.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
TF-CBT is a form of therapy effective for trauma patients to address psychological and emotional responses about the trauma. During this therapy, a person learns how to process thoughts and feelings about the trauma and learn skills how to cope with life’s daily stressors.
If You Have a Loved One Who Experienced Trauma
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, instead offer help.
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 ones 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, meet with friends, socializing, or pursuing a hobby with your loved one.
Seek Help From a Mental Health Professional
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. Let this experience make you a better and stronger person with KCC.