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SO WHAT EXACTLY IS TRAUMA?
It is the response to a deeply disturbing and stressful event that overwhelms you so much that it becomes difficult to cope in all parts of your life. You start to feel helpless, your sense of self and who you are (your identity) diminish, and you develop limited ranges of emotions and experiences.
Have you experience or even witnessed any of these events:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Childhood neglect/abandonment
- Have a family member with mental illness that’s unstable
- Have a family member that engages in substance abuse
- A sudden separation from a loved one (death, divorce or separation)
Experiencing or witnessing any of these events especially in your childhood can have a serious impact on your life and even your health. Studies have shown that experiencing trauma can actually alter your brain structure and in turn, contribute to long-term physical and behavioral health problems. You may even develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to ease the pain of your trauma such as: overeating, using drugs and/or alcohol, engaging in risky sexual activities, or even self-sabotage your relationships.
HERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU MAY EXPERIENCE
- Emotional: Strong feelings that are linked to the trauma may cause you to feel as though you are starting to lose control again.
- Emotional dysregulation: you may start to experience difficulty in managing strong emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, and shame. If it becomes too painful, you may turn to self-medicating, self-injurious behavior (cutting, hitting oneself), or compulsive behaviors (hoarding, overeating, gambling, excessively shopping).
- Numbing: your emotions become detached/separated from your thoughts, behaviors, and memories. You feel numb, you feel little to no emotions.
Physical symptoms you may start to experience can include, nausea, dizziness, changes in sleep pattern, changes in appetite, headaches, heartburn, acid reflux, and stomach ache. Over time, medical conditions such as liver disease, liver cancer, autoimmune disease, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic lung/heart diseases can develop.
For many who have experienced trauma, psychological disorders are known to develop as well. Some disorders that may develop are PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorder and/or Substance Abuse Disorders.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO GET HELP FOR COPING WITH TRAUMA
Survivors of trauma are all around us. No matter the trauma the result is the same – you are trying to piece back together with a life that was shattered and broken. You want to be in a mindset where you feel safe again, so the shame, pain, guilt, and perceptions around trauma can gradually start to diminish. But this will take time, and additional support will be needed. This is why getting the right help is key because you will allow healing to occur where you will gradually start to feel safe again and be able to rebuild your true identity. Remember, it will take time and it is a process
WHEN TO SEEK HELP PROFESSIONALLY
After a Trauma event has taken place, the feelings of anxiety, shame, numbness, helplessness, and guilt will start to fade within a short timeframe. But if the emotional pain and stress is so intense and persistent that you are not able to function in your everyday life, then you may need help professionally.
RED FLAGS TO LOOK FOR:
- 6 weeks has past and you are still not feeling any better
- You have difficulty functioning at home, work, or school
- It is becoming increasingly difficult to relate and connect to others
- You are avoiding more and more things that remind you of the traumatic event
- You are experiencing extremely terrifying flashbacks, nightmares and/or memories
TIPS FOR OVERCOMING TRAUMA
1. Get Help – it is important that you seek help professionally if you are not able to function and cope. Therapeutic services has expanded over the years to where it can be done online if you are not yet comfortable to go in person. Most importantly, do not be afraid or ashamed to start. For a very long time, we have been brainwashed into thinking that we MUST do and overcome everything on our own, and if we seek help, it’s looked at as a sign of weakness. GET RID OF THIS BELIEF RIGHT NOW!! Seeking help is the first step in showing that you have STRENGTH and you want CHANGE, but give yourself time and go at your own pace:
2. Stress management – learn to better manage your stress as it will help with coping and feelings of being overwhelmed
- Attend a stress management class
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, reading a book, going to the spa.
3. Exercise – It can help decrease or treat mild depression. It can help decrease anxiety by easing tension and boosting mental energy. It will help to decrease stress by relaxing your muscles. It will help to improve your concentration, mood, and motivation. It will also help to build self-esteem and improves your resilience:
- Brisk walking
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Strength training
4. Reach out
- Talk with a trusted friend about what happened. Ask a trusted friend for support.
- You also don’t have to talk to others about what happened if you are not comfortable doing so, but reaching out to others will bring a level of comfort that will help you to feel connected.
- Do “normal” things that you will usually do with your friends and loved ones.
- Expand your social network. If you live alone or have a small social network, sometimes a change is good. Reach out and make new friends and try attending support groups or community events.
5. Try something new
- Treat yourself from time to time and take time to think.
- Work on new projects
- Develop new goals that you can work on
- Try out some new food recipes
7. Get enough sleep
- Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night
- Limit screen time an hour or 2 before bed so that your body and mind can relax
- Read a book or have some chamomile tea before bed
8. Go at YOUR OWN pace
- There is no timeline on how long it takes to overcome and heal from the trauma
- Remember it is a process don’t be too hard on yourself
- If yesterday was a good day, but today is not, that is okay. Take time to refocus and go through the tips again.
Always remember, YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE IN CONTROL, YOU ARE LOVED
If you are experiencing any trauma symptoms and are looking for help and information, the following organizations may help:
- National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD)
- Therapists of Color
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Alliance
- Psychology Today’s Online Directory
- Synergy Therapy
- You can also reach out to your medical doctor or insurance company for a referral
- American Psychological Association (2017). PTSD treatments.
- Center for Health Care Strategies Inc. (2017). Understanding the effects of trauma on health.
- Helpguide (2019). The mental health benefits of exercise
- Integrated Listening Systems (2020). What is Trauma?
- Nova Recovery Center (2017). The importance of recognizing trauma.
Lovely post 😊! I suffered from trauma from losing my mom when I was 14, I agree with all the tips you listed, especially the last 4. Those were beneficial for my recovery. I’m not 100% yet but I’m getting there.
Anissa I am so sorry! Death is not easy, but I am happy that you are in a better place right now. Take one day at a time as you continue on your path to recovery!
Really great post, I struggled with trauma for years before finally reaching out for help. I was so embarrassed and convinced myself I was fine but prolonging getting help only made things worse. I’m glad you’re writing about this!
Thanks for the feedback Nicci! Sometimes it hard to reach out because of the stigma society has placed on mental health. It is really sad how society can break a person’s mentality. So happy you had the courage to reach out for help. It shows your strength!
The WHO defines health as a complete state of mental and spiritual and not just the mere absence of disease. You are ✅, if one does not deal with internal emotions, it will spill over into their external relationships.
Thanks so much for your feedback Kevin! I couldn’t agree with you more, our internal emotions need to be arrested and regulated on a consistent basis, the minute we start to bottle up all of our unpleasant emotions the outcome end up having a negative even on our overall well being including our relationship with others.
Trauma is so hard my goodness, you live with it in your head forever. You try all ways to protect yourself while feeling safe.
Healing yourself can be a long process. Giving yourself time to cope with the situation and accept what is. Thank you for reminding us of the things we can do to help us heal.
Journaling is a good way to help process trauma while also going to sleep thoughts down and brain dump . It really helped with processing my childhood trauma