Traumatic events are shocking, scary, or dangerous experiences that can affect someone emotionally and physically. Examples of traumatic events include natural disasters, accidents, violence, abuse, loss, or illness. This can cause a range of reactions, such as fear, sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, or shame.
Some people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a mental health condition that involves persistent and distressing symptoms after a traumatic event. Trauma can have a negative impact on your well-being, relationships, and quality of life.
However, it is possible to heal from it and recover your emotional balance. The healing process is not a linear or easy process, but it can be rewarding and transformative. It requires time, patience, courage, and support.
In this article, we will share five healthy coping strategies that can help you heal from trauma and find emotional healing.
1. Seek Professional Help
One of the most important steps in healing from trauma is to seek professional help from a qualified mental health provider. A therapist can help you understand your trauma, process your emotions, challenge your negative thoughts, and learn coping skills.
Therapy can also provide a safe and supportive space where you can express yourself and feel validated. There are different types of therapy that can help with trauma, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), or trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT).
The type of therapy that works best for you may depend on your preferences, needs, and goals. You can ask your therapist about the different options and what to expect from each one.
To find a therapist, you can ask your doctor for a referral, contact your insurance company, search online directories, or ask for recommendations from friends or family. You can also look for therapists who specialize in trauma or have experience working with people who have similar backgrounds or identities as you.
Make sure you feel comfortable and trust your therapist, and don’t hesitate to ask questions or give feedback.
2. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is the practice of taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional needs. It can help you cope with stress, reduce symptoms, and improve your well-being. Self-care can also help you reconnect with yourself and your values, and foster a sense of empowerment and control. Self-care can include different activities, such as:
|Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated||Nourishing your body with nutritious foods and drinking enough water to support physical and mental well-being.|
|Getting enough sleep and rest||Ensuring you get adequate sleep and relaxation to recharge your energy and promote emotional resilience.|
|Exercising regularly and staying active||Engaging in physical activities that boost endorphins, reduce stress, and improve overall physical health.|
|Avoiding alcohol, drugs, and caffeine||Minimizing the use of substances that can negatively impact your mental and emotional stability.|
|Practicing relaxation techniques||Incorporating methods like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or massage to reduce stress and promote calmness.|
|Engaging in hobbies and interests||Pursuing activities you’re passionate about to bring joy, creativity, and a sense of fulfillment into your life.|
|Spending time in nature and enjoying the sunlight||Connecting with the outdoors and sunlight for a mood lift, vitamin D, and a break from daily routines.|
|Setting boundaries and saying no||Establish limits to protect your time, energy, and mental health by refusing activities that drain you.|
|Asking for help when you need it and delegating tasks||Recognizing when you require assistance and delegating tasks to reduce overwhelm and stress.|
|Treating yourself with kindness and compassion||Cultivating self-compassion and self-love to foster a positive self-image and emotional well-being.|
3. Connect With Others
Trauma can make you feel isolated, lonely, or disconnected from others. You may feel like no one understands what you are going through, or you may fear being judged, rejected, or hurt. However, social support is vital for healing from trauma and finding emotional healing.
Connecting with others can help you feel less alone, more supported, and more hopeful. This includes:
- Reaching out to friends, family, or loved ones who are trustworthy, respectful, and supportive
- Joining a support group or a community of people who have experienced similar trauma or challenges
- Volunteering for a cause that you care about or helping others in need
- Adopting a pet or spending time with animals
- Seeking spiritual or religious guidance or joining a faith-based community
Connecting with others does not mean that you have to share everything about your trauma or your feelings. You can choose what, when, and how much to share, and respect your own boundaries and privacy.
You can also respect the boundaries and privacy of others, and avoid comparing your trauma or your healing process with theirs. The goal is to find people who can listen, empathize, and encourage you, and who can also share positive and meaningful experiences with you.
4. Express Yourself
Trauma can cause you to suppress, avoid, or numb your emotions, or to experience them in overwhelming or confusing ways. Expressing your emotions can help you release them, understand them, and cope with them.
Expressing yourself can also help you find your voice, reclaim your identity, and heal your wounds7. Expressing yourself can take different forms, such as:
- Writing in a journal or a blog
- Drawing, painting, or making art
- Singing, playing, or listening to music
- Dancing, acting, or performing
- Reading, watching, or creating stories
- Speaking, recording, or podcasting
You don’t have to be an expert or a professional to express yourself. You can use any medium or format that suits you and that allows you to be creative and authentic. You can also choose whether to keep your expression private or to share it with others.
The point is to find a way to communicate what you feel, think, and experience, and to make sense of your trauma and your healing.
5. Find Meaning
Trauma can shatter your sense of meaning, purpose, and hope. You may question why the trauma happened, what it means for your life, and how you can move forward. Finding meaning can help you restore your sense of coherence, direction, and value.
Finding meaning can also help you grow from your trauma and find emotional healing. Finding meaning can involve different processes, such as:
- Making sense of the trauma and its impact on your life
- Identifying the lessons, insights, or strengths that you gained from the trauma
- Finding a positive or constructive way to cope with the trauma or its consequences
- Developing a new perspective, worldview, or philosophy of life
- Pursuing a new goal, passion, or mission that gives you fulfillment and joy
- Contributing to a greater cause, value, or belief that transcends your trauma
Finding meaning is not about denying, minimizing, or justifying the trauma or its effects. It is not about finding a reason or a blame for the trauma.
It is about finding a way to live with the trauma and to make the best of your life despite the trauma. Finding meaning is a personal and subjective process that can take time and effort. You can use different tools, such as therapy, writing, meditation, or spirituality, to help you find meaning in your trauma and your healing.
How long does it typically take to start feeling ‘normal’ again after experiencing a traumatic event?
The time it takes to start feeling ‘normal’ again after a traumatic event varies greatly from person to person. Factors like the nature of the trauma, individual resilience, support systems, and access to therapeutic resources all play a role.
For some, it may take weeks or months, while for others, it could be years. It’s important to remember that healing is a personal journey and there’s no set timeline for recovery.
Can traumatic experiences have any long-term positive effects?
While traumatic experiences are undoubtedly challenging, some individuals experience what is known as post-traumatic growth. This refers to positive psychological changes as a result of struggling with highly challenging life circumstances.
It can lead to a greater appreciation for life, deeper relationships, increased personal strength, changed priorities, and a richer existential and spiritual life.
Is it common to feel guilty about surviving a traumatic event where others did not?
Yes, survivor’s guilt is a common reaction to traumatic events, especially in situations where others were harmed or did not survive. Individuals may question why they survived while others did not and may feel guilty for being alive or for actions they took or did not take during the event.
Processing these feelings with a mental health professional can be very helpful.
How can I differentiate between normal stress reactions and signs that I might be developing PTSD?
Normal stress reactions typically subside as time passes after the traumatic event. These can include temporary difficulties in sleeping, mild anxiety, or flashbacks. However, if these symptoms persist or worsen over time, significantly impairing daily functioning, it might be indicative of PTSD.
Symptoms like severe anxiety, intrusive memories, avoidance behaviors, and mood changes that last for more than a month after the event are key signs of PTSD.
Are there specific strategies to help children cope with trauma?
Children may require different strategies to cope with trauma. It’s important to maintain a sense of normalcy and routine while providing a safe and supportive environment. Encouraging open communication, creative play, and expression of feelings are beneficial.
Professional help from a child psychologist or counselor experienced in trauma can also be crucial in helping children process and recover.
The Bottom Line
Trauma can be a devastating and life-changing experience, but it does not have to define you or your future. You can heal from it and find emotional healing by using healthy coping strategies, such as seeking professional help, practicing self-care, connecting with others, expressing yourself, and finding meaning.
These strategies can help you process your trauma, manage your emotions, and improve your well-being. They can also help you discover new aspects of yourself, your relationships, and your life. Healing from trauma is possible, and you are not alone in your journey.