The Importance of Self-Care After Trauma

Trauma is a person’s emotional, psychological, or physical response to a distressing event. On the journey to healing and recovering from such an event, it’s important to remember to practice self-care after trauma. This is not commonly the first method survivors think of when they are overcoming a traumatic experience. However, it is a critical part of healing.

The Beginning of Overcoming a Traumatic Experience

The first step when beginning trauma therapy is to learn what trauma is and how it can present itself. Survivors of trauma experience a variety of symptoms in response to, and after, a traumatic event. Some emotional symptoms some who have experienced trauma can experience are:

 

  • Flashbacks
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Hopelessness

 

Physical symptoms can also result from trauma and include:

 

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
Self-care after trauma is an important part of healing.

At some point in time, most people experience a unique combination of these symptoms. It’s important to remember there is no correct or incorrect way to react to a traumatic event. Often when people witness or experience trauma in their lives, they are unsure of how to respond or if they should even be experiencing the feelings and reactions they are having. The simple answer to these concerns is there is no single appropriate response to experiencing trauma. Everyone experiences and recovers from trauma differently. When overcoming a traumatic experience, it is important to acknowledge that everyone accepts their own feelings, reactions, and personal needs following a traumatic event in their own way. Individuals must allow themselves to do whatever they need to do to recover from trauma.

Practicing Self-Care After Trauma

Self-care looks different for everyone. Listening to your body and what you need is critical.  Our bodies are often very in tune with what we need and lets us know so we can begin to recover. While there is no specific remedy to overcoming trauma, there are a few things you can try.

Get More Rest

A healthy amount of sleep is good for anyone but can be especially helpful to those in trauma therapy. Listen to your body, and if it tells you to rest, get some sleep. However, it’s critical to monitor how much you’re sleeping, and look out for any signs that depression treatment may be helpful. Getting regular and sufficient sleep is important to help you cope with trauma. Many survivors who have experienced trauma struggle with a regular sleep schedule, so it’s important to consult your doctor if you are struggling with sleep.

Find Someone to Talk To

Finding someone to talk to is a great step in trauma therapy.

A very common method of self-care after trauma is simply talking it out. If this is your personality type, finding people who will listen and let you talk about how you’re feeling is very important. Group therapy is a wonderful option for survivors of trauma who prefer to talk about their feelings. It can be helpful to talk to others who have had experiences similar to yours or a therapist who specializes in trauma and PTSD treatment.  If you’re not comfortable in a group, having just one person to listen and support you is just as beneficial.

Journal About It

Sometimes you’re simply not ready to talk about it. However, it isn’t healthy to bottle up your emotions either. A great alternative is to begin journaling and get your feelings out on paper. This is a helpful first step in overcoming a traumatic experience.

Use Exercise As a Tool

Often, exercise can be a great way to help care for yourself following trauma. It is important to incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, whether it’s going for walks, running, or going to the gym. In addition to exercise and sleep, using relaxation techniques, controlled breathing, and meditation can also be very helpful.

Find Engaging Hobbies

Finding or developing new hobbies is a great self-care tool. This could include, but is not limited to:

 

    • Writing
    • Art
    • Gardening
    • Sewing
    • Knitting
    • Photography

 

This is a condensed list, as there are many hobbies that can be categorized as perfect for self-care after trauma.

Finding a hobby is a way of overcoming a traumatic experience.

Identifying Triggers is Critical to Trauma Therapy

In addition to practicing self-care after trauma, it can also be helpful to identify triggers you may have related to your traumatic experience. By identifying these triggers and having coping strategies in place, you are more likely to increase your sense of safety. Identifying places and people that make you feel safe can be helpful and avoiding places that make you feel unsafe can make you feel better as well. Be prepared with grounding exercises if you do get triggered.  Grounding will help you focus on your body, your five senses, and keep you in the present moment while helping you avoiding reliving the trauma. These techniques are designed to focus on your five senses and can make you feel safe.

  1. Sound – Blasting your favorite song, calling a loved one, or even reading out loud are wonderful grounding techniques.
  2. Touch  – Grounding yourself with touch could include taking a hot or cold shower, cuddling a pet, or popping bubble wrap.
  3. Smell – This can be a comforting grounding technique by lighting a scented candle, sniffing peppermint, or using essential oils with positive associations.
  4. Taste – Eating a mint, biting into a lemon, or letting a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth can ground you.
  5. Sight – Focusing on specific objects like counting the pieces of furniture around you, watching your favorite movie, or reading are great ways to ground yourself.

When you begin identifying triggers and implementing grounding techniques, overcoming a traumatic experience will start to feel manageable and possible.

What is NOT Considered Self-Care After Trauma?

Things to avoid when dealing with PTSD include using alcohol and drugs that some people use to help cope with the traumatic experience. It can numb you to your feelings or make you feel better temporarily, but often it will lead to negative effects such as addiction, sleep problems, or health issues.

Overcoming a Traumatic Experience is Different For Everyone

Everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event has a unique psychological, emotional, and physical response. It is important to accept the responsibility of each individual and yourself. Finding positive self-care and coping strategies are very important aspects of trauma therapy and healing overall. Remember, there is no right or wrong response, self-care after trauma is what each individual needs to help them.

AUTHOR: Dr. Julia Hood

Julia Hood completed her Bachelor's degree in Psychology at Westminster College and her Master's and Doctorate degrees in Educational Psychology from the University of Utah. After completing her Doctorate, she worked as a psychologist in Granite School District. She joined Valley Behavioral Health in 2014 as the Director of the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning. In 2017, she expanded her role as the Senior Director of Clinical Services. She further expanded her role in May 2018 as the Chief Clinical Officer and will work in this role to ensure the highest quality of clinical care for our clients and support the clinical teams across the company.

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