Traumatic events are not something you can simply “get over.” If you have lived in an unsafe environment or a war zone, have been the victim of violence or abuse, or have been hurt or neglected by people you trusted, you can find yourself living with emotions that go beyond your natural ability to cope, and are left feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and vulnerable, long after the traumatic events have occurred.
The good news is that healing is possible. It can be a slow process, but over time you can experience peace and self-love in the present moment. Here are some things to keep in mind as you heal and cope.
1. Be Kind to Yourself
In a very real sense, negative feelings like the numb disconnect, panicked anxiety, or depression you are experiencing aren’t “disorders” at all, but a perfectly rational response to abnormal situations. You have had to face very hard situations, situations of betrayed trust, lost innocence, and something scary against which you should have been protected.
Seeking to make sense of everything, it may be tempting to look for “mistakes,” you made or feel guilt or shame. The truth is, what happened is not your fault. Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings come up, and make room to be as gentle with yourself as you can. Repeating mantras to yourself like “I am OK,” or “May I begin to love myself,” can help you cope with the present, and take your attention off a barrage of feelings about a hard past.
2. Connect With Others
There is a lot of work that you can do to be at peace and aware of the present moment within yourself. However, ultimately, recovery from trauma is not something you can do in isolation.
Connecting with others is one of the most important things you can do to work through your story. Find people you can trust and who make you feel safe and comfortable, and tell your story. Talk about what happened to you, what you are feeling and having to go through, and ways you are coping.
Another person’s perspective can help you understand the truth of your goodness, encourage you that you are going to make it, give advice, or simply listen supportively to remind you that you are not alone. The more you share your feelings, the stronger your sense of relief, coping, and healing.
3. Seek Help
Talking to supportive friends and loved ones can be a valuable resource, in helping you feel empowered, connected, and valuable in your present moment. However, often, the roots of trauma go far beyond a “rational” level that can be talked through or reasoned with. When triggered, trauma is not just remembered, but totally re-experienced, as if the core of your being is thrown back into the traumatic event.
In these moments, a trained therapist can help you develop coping mechanisms that deal with these root issues and help experience healing in every part of your being. There are a variety of different approaches to psychotherapy, and personality types that may be more or less helpful, so search around for someone who seems to work well with you.
4. Focus on the Present
Sometimes it may feel hard to keep going. You might feel so overwhelmed by feelings that it may sometimes feel hard to go about your normal daily routine. In these times when you feel overwhelmed, realize that healing is going to be a long process. The best you can do is focus on doing small things in the present moment. Focus on doing the best you can in a particular moment, doing what you need to do to cope with self-awareness and self-love.
5. Search for Empowering Experiences
A big part of recovery from trauma can be adding to your story in a way that adds control to it. This can be re-envisioning a situation so that things turn out better, protecting your inner child, revisiting the place of the trauma to remind yourself you are no longer in that place, and working to help others. Taking action and making a difference is all about restoring a sense of control and pointing out that you are not powerless.
Trauma is a hard thing to go through, but it’s not something that has to last forever. Just taking small steps toward healing, mindfulness, and self-compassion can be a very important way to come out stronger.