How To Work on Moving Past your Trauma
Before we begin explaining ways to move past trauma experiences, I think it is important to first go through and better understand what trauma is, and the various events that it can present from.
For those who do not know what trauma is, it is the result of an extraordinarily stressful event that usually involves a threat to life or safety. After experiencing a traumatic event, it can leave the individual feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust others. It may also leave you feeling overwhelmed and cause you to begin to isolate yourself from others.
Trauma can come from a one time event, or it can be from recurring events that continually cause significant distress. When researching trauma and ways to heal, it was an eye-opening experience to learn about the statistics. We are talking approximately 70% of American adults report at least one traumatic event, and two-thirds of children experience trauma before the age of 16. Of that, 20% will go on to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Something not talked about nearly enough is military trauma. About 1 in 4 veterans have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
If trauma is not properly dealt with and managed it can then go on and become one of the leading factors in the development in various behavioral and substance use disorders. Trauma comes in many forms, most individuals associate trauma with emotional, physical, or even sexual abuse. However, trauma can also be caused from loss (death) of a loved one, divorce or the end of a long term relationship (your own, or parents), being a victim of bullying, military, war, combat, experiencing domestic violence, child neglect, natural disasters, accidents (i.e., car accident), etc..
Trauma can affect mental health in various ways, it can contribute, as mentioned earlier, to the development of PTSD, abuse of substances, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), or suicide.
It is important to seek out and find a therapist that can provide you with the proper care and treatment needed to begin working through and healing from your trauma. When I work with clients, I find it is important to consistently provide education on trauma and the various forms it can take. There is no right or wrong way to think, feel, or react when it comes to trauma. It is important for my clients to understand that their individual responses are normal reactions to an traumatic event.
Symptoms individuals may experience due to their experience with a traumatic event can range from denial, anger, mood swings, isolation, feeling disconnected from any and all emotions, insomnia or hypersomnia, difficulty concentrating on the simplest of tasks, restlessness, and feeling on edge. You may also experience nightmares, flashbacks, and finding yourself to be easily triggered.
Now, for the answer to the most common question, “How can we begin to heal from trauma?” When it comes to healing and moving past your trauma, we first have to understand that in order to move past it, we have to first unpack and go through all the heavy stuff. This is necessary for many people in order to be able to get to a place where an individual can begin to move forward and lead a happier life without their past traumas holding them back. Not everyone will fit perfectly into one category. For some, they may need more intensive treatment (i.e., group therapy) while others may only need individual outpatient therapy, while another individual may need medication in addition to therapy to help support to help them. *disclaimer* always consult a psychiatrist or other medical professional should you want to explore the possibility of adding any form of psychotropic medication.
When working with clients I make sure my clients are actively working on these select areas while we process and unpack their trauma.
TIP #1 Experiencing a traumatic event can cause disruption to the body's natural equilibrium. So to repair the body, we have to get ourselves moving. This can be as small as exercise/walking for 30 minutes daily. Exercise that is rhythmic that engages both arms and legs is best as this requires your focus and attention on moving your body in certain directions. These types of exercises include but are not limited to, rock climbing, boxing, martial arts, and weight training.
TIP #2 It is important to NOT isolate. Withdrawing and isolating from others will make symptoms worse in the long run. Remember, surrounding yourself with support from loved ones does not require you to always talk about the trauma; being surrounded by others is the comfort that may be needed to not feel alone. Remember you are in charge of who you feel comfortable talking to when it comes to processing and sharing the experience. It is important to find someone who will listen attentively and without judgment. This is where seeking a therapist can be helpful. Not isolating can also look like joining a support group for trauma survivors. This often will help reduce a sense of isolation and feeling alone, where you will be met with others who understand the emotions and feelings that you may be experiencing and help to normalize the process.
TIP #3 Regulate your nervous system. While in therapy your counselor will work on teaching you how to utilize and implement helpful tools such as grounding techniques or mindfulness skills. This can look like diaphragmatic breathing, sensory input/identification, journaling, yoga, guided meditations, and importantly allowing yourself to feel the feelings as they present themselves. Making sure you are getting an appropriate amount of sleep, and eating a well balanced diet is important while working through trauma, as well as making time for hobbies or other activities that bring you joy (e.g., coloring, reading, knitting).
TIP #4 Learn how to identify your triggers. A trigger is a stimulus that elicits a reaction. Some examples of triggers can look like hearing certain sounds, sights, particular smells, or tastes related to the trauma. Hearing loud voices or yelling, being in the vicinity of loud noises, witnessing someone having an argument are other examples. While working diligently with your therapist, you will learn about your own trauma triggers in more detail, what may set them off, as well as ways to manage when you do feel triggered. By having a better understanding this will help you learn how to create healthy and appropriate boundaries and a healthier relationship with those triggers.
If you are interested in counseling for trauma, call OakHeart at 630-570-0050 or 779-201-6440 or email us at Contact.OH@OakHeartCenter.com. We have counselors, psychologists, and social workers available to help you at one of our locations in North Aurora, IL, Sycamore, IL, and/or via Telehealth Online Therapy Services serving Kane County, DeKalb County, Dupage County, and beyond.