How to Deal with Trauma: 5 Ways
No matter what types of symptoms you’re experiencing, you should make sure you’re constructively dealing with trauma. Nothing can erase your experiences, but taking the right steps can help you manage your symptoms and rebuild your life.
“Coping with trauma, once learned and manageable, allows you to better identify triggers, defenses, and what may be disrupting your ability to live day to day, with less dysregulation and intensity while allowing you to live more fully in the present, rather than in the past, which could be holding you back.”
1. Acknowledge your feelings
An important part of dealing with unresolved trauma is simply learning to accept the emotions that you’re struggling with — yes, this is probably easier said than done. The reality is if you try to bottle up or ignore your feelings, it could leave you feeling more stressed in the long run. Whether you’re feeling angry, guilty, or shocked about what you’ve experienced, you should allow yourself to feel these things without judgment.
Healing from trauma takes time, and you won’t be able to recover overnight. It’s okay if you’re dealing with intense or volatile emotions. Don’t pressure yourself to go back to normal. Instead, be patient and give yourself plenty of time to heal. Listen to the signs you need a mental health day to yourself.
2. Make self-care a priority
When you’re coping with trauma, it’s easy to neglect your basic needs. A poor diet or lack of sleep could make traumatic stress symptoms more severe. If you take better care of yourself, you’ll have the strength you need to recover. Self-care is essential to maintaining a centered, healthy mind-body life.
For example, many people struggle with insomnia after a traumatic experience, but good sleep hygiene can make it easier for you to get the rest you need. That’s because there’s a strong correlation between sleep and mental health. Exercise can improve your mood and help you rest after a long day. The bottom line is if you’re trying to figure out how to cope with trauma, make sure you don’t overlook your own health.
3. Connect with family and friends
While it’s common to withdraw after a traumatic experience, your relationships with others can be a source of strength. Some studies even show that social support can reduce the amount of cortisol the body produces when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
While you shouldn’t hesitate to open up to your loved ones about traumatic stress if you feel comfortable doing so, any type of social interaction can be beneficial if you don’t discuss your trauma. In fact, spending time with people you care about might help you begin to feel more like yourself again.
4. Work to reduce the stress in your life
While stress is a part of everyone’s life, it can be difficult to deal with, especially while you’re trying to recover from something traumatic. Try to limit the amount of stress in your life as you go through the healing process. Make sure you’re managing the stress you experience in a healthy way.
The following relaxation techniques can help you calm down when you’re feeling overwhelmed:
Set aside time for activities you love as a way to unwind at the end of the day.
5. Professional treatment options for traumatic stress
If you don’t know how to deal with trauma on your own, or if your symptoms don’t seem to be improving with time, you may want to consider seeing a professional. There are several evidence-based treatments that can help you cope with trauma.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of therapy that’s designed to help people recognize and change unhealthy thought patterns, is an extremely effective treatment for traumatic stress. Because of this, CBT for PTSD is a very common treatment. Studies even show that CBT might reduce the risk of developing PTSD.
Other treatments and forms of trauma therapy, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and stress inoculation training (SIT) can also be very beneficial.
“Connecting with a professional can be key to increasing your daily functioning. A trauma specialist can be helpful, but may not be critical. Feeling supported, by a caring professional, can be as important as feeling validated, understood, and available for relief and healing.”