“Trauma” is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience.
Many traumatic events happen in our world every day.
Even if you haven’t personally experienced trauma, it’s totally normal to feel it vicariously – sometimes just from watching the news.
Experiences like these impact us to our core.
When we have trouble processing trauma effectively, we can experience a lot of difficulty in our lives. The disturbances can last a lifetime.
Nervousness, irritability, or anger can appear, seemingly out of no-where. Relapses occur. Relationships suffer. Life gets hard.
Understanding how to cope with distressing experiences and the symptoms they can cause is something we ALL need, so we can help ourselves and help others effectively during these trying times.
First and foremost, know that everything you’re feeling is normal and probably to-be-expected.
Also, support is essential, and you deserve to put amazing support in place for yourself. Just because trauma is normal doesn’t mean you should handle it alone. Explore your options, and find the support that works for you.
Traumatic experiences can cause us to fear intensely for our physical safety and well-being – even when the threat is gone and we’re safe. We do not often recognize when we’re having a trauma response – maybe we’ve learned to minimize our experience or we’re unsure of how to explain it to others.
Even when we DO recognize what’s happening – it’s easy to feel totally out of control when these events occur.
I’d love to give you some power back today.
We can never control what life will hand us, but we CAN control our response with practice. So, in addition to the support you’ll seek, here are some steps you can try on your own to deal with trauma as it happens:
1. Become aware of what you’re feeling & self-soothe by intentionally feeling safe.
Bring awareness to your experience, accepting your natural responses to the trauma and embracing them fully.
Find gratitude for your physical responses to trauma. Recognize that any fearful, anxious, hyper-vigilant responses you’re experiencing are signs that your system is working to keep you safe.
As you acknowledge and embrace what you’re feeling, you’ll naturally start to feel calmer and safer.
Then, actively help yourself to feel safe, whatever it takes. I love repeating a simple mantra until the fear slows down… “I’m safe”. Take satisfying breaths. Cuddling up in a very cozy blanket usually helps me, too.
2. Create space for yourself to express yourself fully.
Describe your experience, let it surface… through crying, yelling, punching, or maybe going for a run.
Writing can also be really helpful to process your experience.
Trauma lives in your body, so until you let it move through you, any emotional pain you suppress will store in your body and create issues for you.
Allowing your body to process what its feeling creates inner confidence and strength that you can overcome anything. Nothing from the outside will make you feel completely safe until you have this inner confidence.
Try setting a time limit on your emotional expression to show yourself how much control you have over bringing yourself back after expressing the deep pain from your trauma.
Put support in place for yourself so you don’t need to do this alone.
3. Give back.
The potential for positive outcomes to result from negative events is always there.
Often, the positive outcome of experiencing trauma is a new or renewed passion to help others cope with the same kind of deeply disturbing events.
Once you’ve processed the challenging parts of your experience, you might find gratitude for what you’ve learned and who you’ve become. A desire to help others with similar experiences can often surface and pull you forward.
Take these steps for yourself, and put some qualified support in place, so that the symptoms of trauma don’t progress to cause serious life-long issues for you.
There’s a whole body of research on post-traumatic growth – reaching higher levels of functioning through the experience of adversity.
Just don’t forget to validate yourself for the challenging parts of the process. The world will thank you.
If you’re looking for more on this topic, you can also check out this video on coping with trauma.