From family conflict to personal tragedy, the death of a loved one to the loss of a pet, trauma will affect us all. These events leave lasting impacts on mental and physical health and are often accompanied by feelings of grief and loss.
The impact of trauma
Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event understands that the effects of trauma don’t disappear overnight. You might be prone to encountering flashbacks or intrusive memories of the traumatic event or series of events. You also might have nightmares, involuntary anxiety and/or depression as a result of everything you’ve experienced. Many of these effects are manifestations of self-protective measures your mind has taken as a defense against the trauma itself.
Ultimately, the effects of trauma vary widely based on a variety of factors, including your age at the time of the trauma, as well as the frequency of the traumatic events themselves and the extent to which you’ve already sought help to mitigate your thoughts and feelings.
There’s no strict template when it comes to coping with the effects that trauma can impose on one’s life; rather, each individual tends to cope differently. With that said, there are both healthy and unhealthy ways in which one may try to recover from trauma. Healthy methods of coping can not only help you heal from the past but move forward confidently into the future.
Identify and visit a personal safe space
Sometimes, a safe space is a physical place where you can go without fear of judgment or external influence, to work on centering your emotions and calming yourself. Other times, your safe space is a place in your mind that you can visit at will, mentally relocating to a safe, non-damaging part of yourself.
If your safe space is a physical space — perhaps in an isolated part of your house, an empty classroom or a secluded location out in nature — it should be somewhere where you can focus on enhancing your senses and tune into the present moment. Concentrate on everything that you see, that you smell, that you hear and relax your breathing so you can make sure you are mindful of your heart beating and the world moving around you.
Surround yourself with supportive friends and family members
This step is such an important one when it comes to processing the effects that trauma can have on life. Suffering from the impacts of trauma might not be voluntary, but suffering in silence is always a choice. Don’t try to handle your emotional response to trauma on your own. Especially if other individuals have suffered a similar loss, processing your reactions together can promote a sense of collective healing and togetherness.
Make sure that you carefully choose the individuals you affiliate with during the grieving process. Socialization is important while you deal with trauma, even if it’s only to get outside of your own head; recognize the presence of others and enjoy a shared atmosphere.
Prioritize finding a non-judgmental group of peers who allow you to openly process your emotions, perhaps alongside other individuals who can share how they’ve dealt, or are currently dealing, with similar traumatic effects.
Take time to care for yourself
Self-care gives you more than the opportunity to relax and rewind: it also helps you learn about the ways that you best recover from trauma. Take the time to care for yourself, especially during the moments when you can feel most affected by the effects of traumatic events or experiences.
Self-care can be as complicated or as simple as you’d like. Perhaps you’ve been dying to catch a specific movie or curl up in bed with a new book. Whether you take the time to grab lunch at your favorite restaurant, or simply take a walk outside to clear your head, caring for yourself ultimately means prioritizing your own mental and behavioral health over the other pressing items in your day.
Process your emotions with the right help
So often we cope with trauma or other negative emotions by attempting to avoid them. This is a very natural response, but it doesn’t allow us to properly work through what we’re feeling. Instead, negative thoughts build upon themselves, collecting until they manifest in oftentimes self-destructive behaviors.
If you’re constantly avoiding the impacts of trauma rather than dealing with them appropriately, you might actually find that you remain rooted in the tragedy itself. Properly coping with trauma means opening yourself up to the — sometimes painful — effects, including grief and loss.
Effective coping with trauma means taking the time to address these effects. And though we’ve outlined some effective strategies above, this often means seeking the help of a trained healthcare professional. We understand that this can be an intimidating choice, which is why we offer hope, change and healing through a confidential outpatient mental health setting for adults and teens.
Contact The Light Program
For support and guidance in dealing with trauma, consider The Light Program. To learn more about our services and get in touch with a counselor, call 610-644-6464 or fill out a form online today.