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15 Tips for Healing Psychological Trauma

February 3, 2024
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If you’re facing the effects of trauma in your life, it can feel overwhelming and scary. You may wonder if you’ll ever recover from your experiences and aren’t sure where to go from here.

The impact of trauma can be vast. It can reach into the very core of your being and influence your thoughts, emotions, and relationships. It can change the way you see yourself and the world around you. However, amidst the profound challenges, it is crucial to recognize that healing psychological trauma is possible no matter where you’re at in your journey. Let’s explore information to help you understand trauma, as well as practical tips and insights to empower you and support your self-awareness and recovery.

What Causes Trauma?

Emotional trauma occurs when a person’s sense of safety and trust is disrupted in response to a distressing or threatening event(s). Each person’s experience and response to a traumatic event is unique to them. You and another person may endure the same event, but be affected in different ways. For some individuals, trauma can negatively impact their sense of self, relationships, daily life, and overall health. While others may not be as deeply affected.

The distressing events can be a single instance or ongoing occurrences. They may include, but are not limited to:

Children may also endure additional traumatic experiences including:

Signs of Emotional Trauma

Trauma can impact your whole being, leading to emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms that affect different aspects of your life. The symptoms you experience are unique to you and may change over time.

Emotional and Psychological Signs of Trauma

The mental and emotional impact of trauma can vary widely from person to person. Symptoms may include:

Physical Signs of Trauma

Individuals who have endured trauma may encounter diverse physical symptoms arising from the body's reaction to prolonged stress. Emotional trauma can cause your body to stay in a heightened state of arousal, even when you’re out of harm's way. This can result in physical symptoms including:

Behavioral Signs of Trauma

Various patterns of behaviors may develop as a result of the individual trying to cope and navigate the repercussions of trauma. These behavioral symptoms may include:

2 People Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair talking about Healing From Psychological Trauma

15 Tips for Healing From Psychological Trauma

Regardless of how trauma has impacted your life, healing is possible. Many people endure traumatic events and can recover with support. Just as there isn’t a right or wrong way to respond to trauma, there is not one way to heal. Below you’ll find recommendations for things you can do to support your recovery. However, remember that healing isn’t linear. It’s a process that requires figuring out what you need and what works best for you. No matter where you are in your journey, you can take steps to reclaim your well-being and sense of safety.

1. Seek Support from a Trauma Therapist

Reaching out for help is a pivotal first step in your recovery process. A trauma therapist specializes in addressing trauma's impact on your life. They provide guidance and support tailored to your unique experiences and challenges.

Trauma therapy may include treatment options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR therapy), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or other evidence-based modalities used to treat PTSD and trauma.

2. Avoid Isolating

When dealing with trauma, there's often a tendency to withdraw from loved ones and others. As much as possible, try to remain connected to the people in your life who care about you and accept their help. One option is to attend a support group. This will give you a safe space to hear from others who are facing similar challenges and learning ways to support their healing.

3. Prioritize Your Health

Attend to your physical, emotional, and mental well-being by engaging in activities that bring comfort, relaxation, and joy. Prioritize getting enough sleep and consuming a nutrient-dense diet. Sleep deprivation and poor nutrition can worsen mental health symptoms and complicate healing. A recent study found that improving one’s quality of sleep leads to improvements in mental health. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and maintain a consistent sleep schedule to support your body's natural regulation of the nervous system. When possible limit stimulants like caffeine and sugar, and stay hydrated.

4. Learn More About Trauma in Adults

Educate yourself about the nature of trauma. Learn about its impact on the mind and body, as well as signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This knowledge empowers you to recognize triggers, understand your reactions, and actively participate in your healing process.

5. Acknowledge and Validate Your Feelings

Permit yourself to have a wide range of emotions. Understand that your emotional responses are valid and there are no “good” or “bad” feelings. Label the emotion you’re experiencing. Then allow yourself to simply sit with that feeling. Practice taking deep breaths while you notice the emotion and how it feels in your body without judgment. Awareness of your body and emotions is a powerful tool in trauma recovery.

People Supporting Each Other for Healing Psychological Trauma

6. Build a Support System

Create a strong support system. Surround yourself with people who understand trauma and support your healing. This may include friends, family, and support groups. Sharing your experiences with those you trust fosters connection. It also can provide emotional validation and reduce feelings of isolation.

7. Set Realistic Goals

Trauma can impact your ability to focus and function during the day, so set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Break down large tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Practice being gentle and compassionate with yourself by allowing for mistakes and going at a slower pace.

8. Avoid Substances

Our society often paints alcohol and drugs as a way to unwind, relax, or forget about your pain. Substance use may begin as a way to connect with others socially or destress from the day. However, when it’s used to cope with the hurt and effects of trauma, it can quickly become detrimental. The relief is temporary, as the substances exacerbate your mental health symptoms in the long run.

9. Embrace Healthy Coping Skills

Identify and cultivate positive coping strategies. This may involve creative outlets, physical activities, or relaxation techniques. Experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you. This may take some trial and error.

Try incorporating mindfulness and grounding techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or body scans. These can help you remain present, reduce anxiety, and manage overwhelming emotions.

10. Foster Healthy Relationships

Meaningful connection with others can help you rebuild your sense of safety and trust that was disrupted by the trauma. Invest in positive relationships in your life with people who support your recovery and respect your boundaries.

11. Journal

Express your thoughts and emotions through journaling. Writing can help you process experiences, track progress, and gain insights. It's also a way to foster your self-awareness, recognize patterns, and identify your triggers. There isn’t a right or wrong way to journal. To start, you might use it as a daily log of your emotions, moods, and what happened during the day.

12. Practice Self-Compassion

Aim to be gentle and kind with yourself. Acknowledge that healing is a process, and setbacks are a natural part of that journey. Give yourself with the same kindness and patience that you would offer a friend. Allow yourself to take breaks and rest. Avoid blaming yourself for the trauma you have endured and how you’ve responded to it. Try to reduce self-judgment and remember that progress may come in waves.

13. Explore Holistic and Creative Approaches

Consider exploring holistic approaches to healing, such as yoga, meditation, or art therapy. Try listening to or playing music, writing poetry, painting, or drawing. Creative activities can help you destress, as well as process and release stored emotions.

14. Practice Listening to Your Body

Take a few moments each day to be still and notice what is happening in your body. Do you notice any tension, heat, pain, or other physical sensations? What is your body trying to tell you? Ask yourself what your body needs to be cared for today. Is it an early bedtime, meditation, time with a friend, or a walk outside? Trauma may have disrupted your connection with yourself. Listening to your body can help you rebuild that connection.

15. Celebrate Progress

Recognize and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Cheer yourself on for attending therapy or having quiet time. Intentionally acknowledging your achievements, resilience, and strength, supports your overall recovery.

Need Help Healing Psychological Trauma?

Taking steps to heal from trauma is a courageous decision. Existential Psychiatry is here to empower you in that process. Dr. David Zacharias has provided compassionate care to suffering patients for over 20 years. He’ll collaborate with you throughout your work together to ensure that your needs and goals are met. Reach out today for a free consultation.

Written by Existential Psychiatry Staff