Feel Safe: Coping with Trauma in a Traumatized World

“Trauma” is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience.

Many traumatic events have happened in our world recently. Even if you haven’t personally experienced a 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. Nervousness or anger can appear seemingly out of no-where. Relapses occur. Relationships suffer. Life gets hard.

Understanding how to cope with distressing experiences and symptoms is something we ALL need, so we can help ourselves and help others effectively.

Most importantly, know that everything you’re feeling at this time is probably normal and expected. Still, you deserve amazing support. Just because trauma is normal, doesn’t mean you should handle it alone. Explore your options, and find the support that works for you.

On a deep level, traumatic experiences cause us to fear for our physical safety and well-being – even when we’re safe. We do not often recognize when we’re having a trauma response, trying to minimize our experience or unsure of how to explain. 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 hands us, but we CAN control our response with practice. So, in addition to the support you’ll seek, here’s a process to help you deal with trauma as it happens so that the symptoms of it don’t progress to cause serious issues in your life.

1. Become aware & prioritize feeling safe. Bring awareness to your experience, accepting your natural responses and embracing them fully. Recognize that any fearful, anxious, hyper-vigilant responses you’re having are signs that your system is working to keep you safe. As you recognize, acknowledge, understand, and embrace what you’re feeling, you’ll naturally start to feel 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”.

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 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 this process creates an 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. Set 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.

3. Give back. The potential for positive outcomes to result from negative events is always there. Usually, the positive outcome from 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, a gratitude for what you’ve learned and a desire to help others with similar experiences can often surface and pull you forward.

Give yourself a happy ending. 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 too, OK? The world will thank you.

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