Trauma is the emotional response someone has to a deeply distressing event. While trauma is a normal reaction to an awful event, the effects can be so severe that they interfere with an individual’s ability to live their regular life. Most traumatic events last a relatively short time span, but they can fester for a lifetime unless recovery options are utilised.
Trauma symptoms classically last from a few days to a few months, progressively diminishing as you process the upsetting event. It may be the case that even when you’re feeling better, you may be anxious from time to time by painful memories, thoughts or emotions, particularly in response to triggers such as; reminders of the trauma (a specific date, smells, comments).
What are the symptoms of trauma?
Often, shock and denial are typical reactions to a traumatic event. Over time, these emotional responses may fade, but a survivor may also experience reactions that are long-term. They are different for everyone but they can include some of the following:
- Persistent feelings of sadness and despair
- Physical symptoms, such as nausea and headaches
- Intense feelings of guilt
- An altered sense of shame
- Feelings of isolation and hopelessness
- Unpredictable emotions (dysregulation)
These symptoms are often traumatic in themselves. Reliving the trauma is incredibly disturbing, blaming yourself is massively distressing and feeling alone in the world is heart-breaking.
In this article I want to outline some of the basic ways in which you can look after yourself, then in the following article I want to discuss some of the treatment options out there. As there are many to assist recovery.
Tips for supporting yourself
Tip 1: Self care
Selfcare is often one of the most difficult things to do following a traumatic experience or when you are triggered. It is almost always the first things to go. Start with the basics; get out of bed, have a shower and brush your teeth. If these things are difficult for you, but you do them anyway. Know that I am proud of you, you are amazing and doing just great. If you feel that these things are too difficult for you right now. That is Ok. Give yourself time and be gentle on your soul. You will be able to in time.
Tip 2: Self compassion.
It is vital in this difficult time to be kind to yourself. Firstly; recognise that you did survive the trauma, you are a survivor and for that alone shows your strength. Understand that a flashback is a memory, they are not really happening, it’s a recall. Recovery is not linear and there may be peaks and troughs. Be patient with yourself and mindful of time. Remember; recovery is an individual experience and will be and look different for everyone.
Tip 3: Don’t isolate
Following a trauma, you may want to withdraw from others, but isolation only makes things worse. This doesn’t mean you have to talk about the trauma, rather engaging and connecting. Spending time with people may help you heal, so make an effort to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone.
Tip 4: Ask for support.
Yet again this doesn’t mean you have to talk to someone and the trauma. While you don’t have to talk about the trauma itself, it is important that you have someone to share your feelings with face to face, or perhaps you need a hand with your job or chores. Let people know you need an extra hand, they don’t need to know why; a small excuse (feeling under the weather, an injury). Just allow yourself some time to get that extra bit of care so you can focus on feeling a bit stronger.
Tip 5: Some self-compassion.
Tell yourself that you are safe. It may help to tell yourself that the trauma is over and you are safe now. It can be hard to think in this way during a flashback, so it could help to write down or record some useful phrases at a time when you’re feeling better.
Know that everyone is different and recovery may be slow, but it is possible to heal. We know that the brain changes in response to a traumatic experience, however, by working with a mental health professional, while looking after your self-care, you can leave your trauma behind and learn to feel safe again. In the next piece I write I will talk through the different ways to access that support you need.
Pic1: Amoralia.mx – Pics2/3: Angiecouple