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.
Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event understands that the effects of trauma don’t disappear overnight. You might be prone to encounter flashbacks, periodic 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 you’ve taken as 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 life’s traumatic challenges. With that said, there are both healthy and unhealthy responses to the role that trauma has to play in our lives. We’ve elected to outline some of those healthy coping strategies below, to help provide a path forward whenever you find trauma’s effects take hold on your life.
Identify, and visit, a personal safe space
Sometimes, a safe space is a physical place where you can go without fear of judgement or external influence, where you can work on centering your emotions and calming yourself. Other times, your safe space is an imaginary place in your mind that you can visit at will, mentally relocating to a safe, non-damaging part of yourself. Whether your safe space is imaginary or real, it’s important that you have a place you can go to embrace the moment and deal appropriately with your thoughts and feelings.
If your safe space is a real place – perhaps in an isolated part of your house, an empty classroom, or a secluded location out in nature – it should be a place where you focus on enhancing your senses and tuning into what you’re experiencing in the moment. Concentrate on everything that you see, that you smell, that you hear, and relax your breathing so that 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 similar loss, processing through 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 that will allow you to openly process through 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 yourself most affected by the effects of traumatic events or experiences.
Self-care can be as complicated or as simple as you’d like it to be. Perhaps you’ve been dying to catch a specific movie, or curl up in bed with a favorite 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.
Processing your emotions with the right help
So often, we cope with trauma, or other negative emotions, simply by attempting to avoid them. This is a very natural response, but it doesn’t allow for 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 – often painful – effects, including grief and loss.
Effective coping with trauma means taking the time to address its 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.
Call (610) 644-6464, or reach out today for help appropriately deal with trauma from licensed, professional counselors at The Light Program. Earn relief from a variety of mental health challenges, from trauma to effects like grief, stress, anxiety or depression. We’ll help you find relief near you!