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Transform Your Life: 6 Steps to Trauma Recovery Success

March 21, 2024

Our collaborative post looks at trauma, therapy and the necessary steps to recovery.

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes, traumatic events come our way.

Out of respect and sensitivity, we won’t begin this article by listing the various methods trauma can be experienced, but of course, anyone with enough life experience will understand them.

For this reason, it’s important to be mindful and careful about trauma, its presence in our lives, and what to do if we suffer it.

Recovering from Trauma

Thankfully, there is absolutely zero need to bottle it all up and keep things to yourself.

With active discussion about personal mental health care and well-being, the stigma associated with the prolonged effects of trauma or other struggles is dissolving.

Even mental health experts would admit that charting the entire path of recovery and care is an ongoing journey, not a concluded science.

As we’ve seen, governmental health departments are now experimenting with therapeutics using controlled substances, to see if recovery timelines can be improved.

That begs a question – is there one way to move through and heal from trauma?

Of course, most people would say that there’s no perfect and singular approach. But what does that leave us with?

In this post, we’ll discuss a few directions you might travel in this approach.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help them find constructive ways of managing their emotions.

American Psychological Association

Understanding this is key. A traumatic event is not necessarily trauma itself but can cause trauma as a prolonged emotional reaction.

It’s important to note that trauma is not necessarily logical or reasonable in scope; it’s more of a bodily and subconscious reaction that causes a range of difficulties and can cause conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

We begin the post with this to make it clear that trauma isn’t something you can necessarily “shake off” or just “get over”.

It’s a very real condition with very real definitions. If you experience it, then you deserve care and treatment and should be kind and gentle with yourself.

For some people, this is step one: admitting the issue and moving on with grace.

Recognising Symptoms

Of course, tangentially, understanding that you have trauma is one thing, but seeing the symptoms propagate in your life every day can be hard to accept.

It might be that we feel our emotions frayed despite a very small difficulty in life, and we wonder if we’re just being soft or weak – no, that’s likely a symptom of your trauma.

Working with a mental health professional can help you identify, categorize, and learn coping mechanisms to overcome those issues.

For example, techniques like cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can be more than worth your time.

These therapies can teach you to overcome flawed thought patterns and the habits associated with them by breaking down and granting you differing approaches where they exist. 

So, for example, if you feel intense anxiety or panic coming on, you can take a break, breathe, count to ten, or go outside for a breath of fresh air.

This may help you with some of these symptoms while you develop other measures to overcome them.

In some cases, you may even be given medication to help with difficulties.

For example, propranolol is a drug sometimes prescribed for certain symptoms associated with panic attacks.

Seeking Support

Never go through trauma alone.

Not only is this completely unnecessary, but it’s a surefire method of hindering your recovery.

Moreover, it suggests that trauma is something you just have to live with as opposed to something you can overcome, which is possible.

Trauma can grow, but it can heal.

Seeking support is the next step.

That might involve visiting a mental health professional or a doctor and a referral for further assistance where necessary.

For example, the trauma of losing a child to a miscarriage may be treated by a particular specialist, while the trauma of bereavement may lead to a charity referral.

Perhaps you need help with the manifestation of trauma. An example is the service provided by the specialists at VA rehab for military personnel or emergency service responders.

But support isn’t solely medical.

Talking with your boss about your symptoms, difficulties, and harm can help you negotiate a better working situation.

Taking time off for bereavement is often an essential element of the working contract, for example.

Take all of the provisions you can, and don’t be afraid to ask for them. Even a candid and loving conversation with a friend can renew you. Make sure to do that.

Trauma Won’t Heal Overnight

A physical injury will take time to heal no matter how many restorative treatments you’re given, and that’s the same with mental difficulties or issues like trauma.

Remember that trauma is as much a bodily reaction as it is a psychological one.

In the famous book “The Body Keeps The Score,” written by Bessel van der Kolk, one quote speaks to this.

Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.

This process involves being careful about your trauma, developing a sympathetic approach to your physical reactions, and working through those symptoms.

Physically soothing habits such as learning yoga, stretching, going for nature walks, and relaxing in meditation can be wonderful for helping unfurl these tight and difficult feelings.

Remembering that, and also understanding that this isn’t an overnight process, can be essential.

By doing this, you’ll be sure to feel a sense of autonomy and understanding over your own symptoms instead of being solely ruled by them.

Building Resilience

It’s important to note that you can restore your sense of confidence and self-regard over time, even if trauma has since weighed you down.

Understandably, most people develop frayed nerves and somewhat lessened self-esteem after encountering trauma.

For this reason, taking small steps to rebuild your confidence is a key part of healing.

Note that this looks different for everyone.

First, avoid comparing yourself to others.

Just because another person may be showing real courage with very intense activities, perhaps through climbing a mountain or participating in extreme sports, doesn’t make your experience any less important.

For example, one person simply leaving the house and heading to pick up groceries alone may draw on more courage than someone climbing Mount Everest.

It’s all about perspective, and you deserve to celebrate those smaller victories.

A small win here can translate into a small win there, and before you know it, you’ll have taken part in a range of little activities designed to build you up in the best way.

Invest in a Hobby

So far, we’ve spoken about what to think about trauma, how to respond to it, and some paths to healing that might bear fruit.

But the truth is that you don’t have to sit around and mull trauma and its response for days at a time.

That would make life very dull, and you have a life to live outside of your trauma.

Sometimes, getting involved in a hobby, craft, or practice that uplifts you can be part of your recovery journey without you even matching the two in your mind.

For example, investing time in your garden during Spring can be a wonderful way to get exercise, express physical stress, nurture new life, and improve the appearance of your surroundings.

Such efforts also give you a pause and a break from always thinking about your past or worrying about the future.

Learning to simply exist in the now with a practice you love is more than enough.

Understand You’re a Work in Progress

The truth is that while many of us understand mental challenges on a conceptual level, we’re sometimes unequipped to deal with their symptoms.

But what use is recovery if you lambast yourself for every single expression of the illness or challenge you’re going through?

We wouldn’t disregard a cancer survivor for having physical reactions to chemotherapy, so we shouldn’t feel dismayed by the difficulties we experience through trauma.

Just be gentle to yourself, understand you’re a work in progress (as everyone is), apologize to those you may have affected, ask for further assistance, and learn from that challenge.

This can help you avoid identifying with your trauma as if it were you, when it really isn’t, but rather a challenge you’re grappling with.

We hope you can consider these helpful perspectives as you recover from trauma. It may not happen overnight, but these measures can contribute to your success in doing so.

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, don’t hesitate to contact a health practitioner or contact us directly.

Image Credits: Canva

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