What Is Trauma
Every day, people around the world experience trauma. Whether it be a car crash, sexual assault, death of a child, a natural disaster, childhood neglect, discrimination, or war. These experiences often leave individuals feeling isolated, helpless, and with an inability to cope.
Suffering is subjective and therefore experienced on different levels. However, that does not mean that one person’s situation is more important than another’s. The one common goal among all trauma survivors is to be emotionally healed.
However, obstacles such as feelings of shame and fear or not knowing where to start hinder us on our healing journey. Well, I am here to tell you that it is possible to work past these deterrents, heal, and live without being overwhelmed by memories of the past! Your past experiences can become part of your story without letting them have control over you.
The Effects of Trauma
Traumatic experiences can leave us with emotional, psychological, and physical damage. Emotional effects may be feelings of sadness, anger, denial, fear, or shame. These emotions may lead to issues such as nightmares, insomnia, difficulty with relationships, and emotional outbursts.
Physical effects may include nausea, dizziness, sleep issues, changes in appetite, headaches, or stomach problems.
Psychological effects include PTSD, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems.
Where To Start
Healing is a process that first begins with fully recognizing that you did not have control over what happened and then making a firm decision to let go of that emotional weight. One of the most important parts of your healing journey is to find a person and place that feels safe and comfortable to help you with the shock of your experience. This could be with friends, family, or a professional.
It is natural for humans to shy away from pain, but in order to start our healing process we need to gravitate toward those experiences that have caused us so much heartache. While talking about your experiences is a vital part of the healing process, it is important to note that you do not have to relive every detail to mend. That will be a decision made between you and your safe person.
Tools For Healing
When a person makes the decision to start the healing process, it can sometimes become frustrating when trying to find the right person for help. It may be that you can’t decide which family member or friend would be the most helpful. Or after searching for a professional you find someone you think is the perfect fit only to find out that they have a waitlist, or they don’t accept your insurance.
Fortunately, there are some tools you can try to bridge the gap. For example, exercising, connecting with others, volunteering, or learning to self-regulate your nervous system are ways to calm your nerves and feel a sense of peace.
Exercising for thirty minutes a day is a great way to distract you from negative thoughts. Particularly exercises that include all four limbs so that you can mindfully focus on the movements of each body part. Rock climbing, weight training, or yoga are good examples of exercises that will get your whole body moving.
Connecting with others by accepting a lunch invitation or starting a new hobby can give new perspectives and thoughts to focus on.
Volunteering is a great way to find a sense of fulfillment as you help others less fortunate.
Learning to self-regulate your nervous system is a great way to calm your body. You can do this by taking 60 breaths and focusing your attention on each out-breath. Another way to do this is through sensory input. For example, find a smell you love, pet an animal, or listen to music that soothes you. What works will be different for each individual so keep trying until you find what works for you.
There are some who just aren’t ready to talk with someone one on one. A great option for those is to do an online course. This can be started right away in your own comfortable space. It is an option that more and more people are finding useful and feeling comfortable with.
Looking To the Future
It is ok to allow yourself to feel the feelings that arise due to your trauma. You can feel them and then accept them, but that does not mean you have to let them overtake you.
Your traumatic experience does not have to be the end of your story. There is a light at the end of that tunnel that leads to a healthy and fulfilling life. Reyna I. Aburto said “Your struggles do not define you, but they can refine you.”