The process of getting over trauma in one’s life can be long and challenging. But trauma can also inspire us to take stock of our own value. By recognizing how we have discounted ourselves and avoided tending to our needs, we may find the strength and courage it takes to change our lives for the better. If you or someone you know is recovering from a traumatic event or series of events, here are a few ideas to help kick start your program of self-care after trauma.
Trauma often leaves behind the echoes of the people or events that led to our trauma. From the voice of a tormenter to the sensation of survivor’s guilt, the past can continue to fill our minds with negative thoughts about ourselves. One way to practice self-care after trauma is to replace these thoughts with positive ones.
Try creating a series of positive affirmations. Tell yourself you’re smart. Or beautiful. Or worthy. Tell yourself to believe in the things you know to be true—even if your harsh inner critic disagrees with you. Prepare your rebuttal. It may feel awkward at first, but it’s proven effective. This type of reprogramming is also taught through a cognitive behavioral therapy program if it proves to be too difficult to begin on your own.
Use Your Body
The body can preserve memories of trauma just as well as the mind. And many of the reactions to trauma—depression, withdrawal from activities, lack of enthusiasm for hobbies—can create physical difficulties on top of our mental ones. But if the mind and body can work together to bring you down, they can just as easily work together and lift you up.
Physical exercise a great way to start taking care of yourself after trauma for several reasons. First, the excess emotion created by trauma needs somewhere to go. Channeling it into a walk or a run creates positive energy from that negative source. Exercise also releases endorphins and other powerful natural mood enhancers, filling your mind with a sense of well-being and while helping you cope with pain and stress. Plus, exercise can help you reconnect with activities and people you love while keeping your mind occupied with something productive.
Free Your Mind
Mindfulness and meditation are also an effective method of self-care after trauma. Mindfulness, an idea derived from Buddhist practices, instructs a person to pay particular attention to what is happening around them without attaching an emotional reaction to it. For example, a person may acknowledge that certain activities bring back painful memories, but choose to observe this like an outsider rather than pursue an emotional response like crying or panicking.
Other mindfulness techniques instruct a person to breathe deeply and regularly while doing nothing but observing our breath. Although it doesn’t sound productive, it can teach us how to stay calm under pressure and better cope with feelings of anxiety.
Meditation is another ancient practice that can be used for self-care after trauma. By sitting calmly and quietly and focusing on a positive idea or feeling, perhaps repeating specific phrases silently, we encourage a sense of well-being in ourselves while discouraging negative emotions like stress and anger.
The arts help us cope with our trauma in a unique way. Painting, writing, making music—whatever it may be, the process of creating something allows us to address our issues and release tension using both our mind and body. Plus, it can turn negative emotions into positive energy and enable the artist to feel mastery over their trauma. And in the end, there’s a work of art that can be shared, if desired, as part of the healing process.
Ask for Help
Trauma wants to keep you isolated. It’s easier to take advantage of your fears and insecurities that way. Naturally, it wants you to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Don’t you believe it.
One of the most powerful things you can do when taking care of yourself after trauma is to reach out. Call friends, family, counselors, teachers: anyone you trust can offer you a helping hand. One kind remark or even the sound of a friendly voice might be enough to keep you from a downward spiral.
Beginning Self-Care After Trauma Today
Seeking professional help through a trauma therapy treatment center is also necessary for complete recovery. By consulting an expert, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance to live a fulfilling life free from the lingering effects of trauma.