Experiencing a traumatic event can turn your life upside down in ways you didn’t expect. Some people walk away relatively unscathed while others struggle to pull themselves out of the muck. You’re not less than someone else for handling your hurt differently or being unable to process it. The important part is that you’re here now, looking to reclaim your sense of self, contentment and happiness.
As with any recovery, reclaiming your life can be a long process, but it’s rewarding and necessary for healing. Becoming locked in a traumatized mindset takes a toll on both your mental and physical health, causing other issues over time.
Prevent these adverse side effects or stop them from progressing by taking small steps every day toward a place of healing. Here are eight ways to do that:
1. Ground Yourself in Nature
Numerous studies have proven the effect of greenery on the mind and body. It lowers blood pressure, promotes relaxation, supplies vitamin D and eases the weight of depression. Start a routine where you immerse yourself in nature for a set amount of time each day. It doesn’t have to be hours if your schedule doesn’t permit, but a few minutes is more than enough to relax your body and soothe that familiar fight-or-flight sensation.
2. Set Simple but Effective Goals
People can often feel like they’ve lost control of their lives after any trauma. Regain it by setting small goals that’ll help you reach your greater objective — recovery. Balance only as much as you can, and remember that small goals matter too.
For example, someone with PTSD after a major car accident may be afraid to drive for a long time afterward. They could work toward diminishing their fear by sitting in the front seat of their car for a few minutes a couple days a week. No need to turn the engine on or handle the steering wheel — they’d simply reacquaint themselves with being in the front seat. Doing this routine can slowly but surely give them the confidence to drive again.
3. Join a Workplace Support Team
Your peers can be a big help in supporting you and lending listening ears. Depression is a typical result of trauma, and it often leads people to isolate themselves whether they want to or not. You may feel alone or like no one understands you, but there’s someone out there wanting to hear your story. How many details you decide to share is your choice, but talking with others can be therapeutic.
These workplace teams are often made up of people who’ve experienced similar events and seek to help others through their healing journey. If your office has one, try it and see if it works for you.
4. Practice Yoga or Meditation
Many people who suffer from trauma, whether physical or mental, struggle with staying inside of their bodies. They experience disassociation as a way of protecting themselves from the outside world. Dissociation affects the memory, identity and self-awareness, making you detached from reality.
Yoga and meditation ground you in the present moment and help you observe your surroundings. Both of these have been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms such as intrusive memories and emotional hyperarousal. Reacquaint yourself with your body and emotions so you can begin the path to healing.
5. Let Yourself Grieve
Trauma often robs individuals of their lives by caging them in their minds and bodies. You may often ponder about the missed opportunities that linger in your past because trauma stopped you from living fully. It can be hard to accept those things, but acknowledging and releasing them allows you to heal proactively.
Moving forward can be a challenge when you can’t let go of the what-ifs, which is why you have to allow yourself to mourn these things. See your past for what it is and learn from it — but don’t repeat it. You know how to navigate the world better than you did before, so use it to your advantage.
6. Sign Up for Trauma Therapy
Talk to a professional if you’re having a difficult time working out your emotions alone. Engaging in meaningful discussion with someone else can provide a lot of insight you may have overlooked. Plus, medical professionals give you coping tools and work with you on an in-depth level.
You may have heard of CBT or DBT techniques before, which are highly successful therapy methods many therapists employ. Research both types of therapy and decide what’ll work for you, and talk to your therapist about it to develop a treatment plan.
7. Name the Pain
Give a name to what you’ve experienced. Acknowledging its existence allows you to confront it head-on rather than ignoring it. It’s okay if you’re still afraid of it — bravery doesn’t come in a day. But living your truth instead of pushing it away gives you control over it you didn’t have before. Get the whole story out in the open, whether you talk to a trusted person or write it down.
8. Channel Your Emotions
Trauma can bring anger, sadness, fear and a range of other emotions you wouldn’t expect. Many people deal with these feelings by immersing themselves in unhealthy behaviors. These coping methods can feel good in the present but cause anguish later on.
Whenever you feel an episode coming on, take note of the trigger and then do an activity to channel the energy elsewhere. Throw paint on a canvas when you’re angry or write in a journal when sad. Your coping methods don’t have to be conventional, either. Some people try cycling, rock climbing or pet training. Choose something that lets you effectively release your emotions.
Create an Improved Life
Use these suggestions to reclaim your life and live happily again. Take it slow and avoid comparing your recovery to others — the timeline is different for everyone. As long as you try your best, you’ll make improvements.
Kate Harveston is a journalist from Pennsylvania. She enjoys hiking, yoga and writing about health and wellness. If you enjoy her work, you can visit her blog, So Well, So Woman.
Image courtesy of Dan Meyers.