If you have ever experienced a highly stressful event or traumatic situation, you may be experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, helplessness, fear, or hopelessness. Having a self care plan is an essential piece of trauma recovery. The following tools can be helpful to add to your self-care toolkit.
- Finding a support network. This may include finding a group specializing in trauma or enlisting friends and family to gather around you. Having people that can be there when you need to share your feelings or are having a hard time can be essential in not feeling alone.
- Avoid avoiding it. Often people attempt to brush off trauma and ignore it. The problem with this is this doesn’t make the trauma or the results of the trauma go away. Often avoiding can lead to greater anxiety and more trauma symptoms.
- Exercise. Often trauma survivors struggle with feeling safe in their bodies. One study suggested that yoga for PTSD was more effective than any medication that’s ever been studied. While all exercise is good, exercises that focus on regulating one’s nervous system can be highly effective.
- Listen to your body. Again, often trauma survivors are at war with their bodies. Trauma recovery is about shifting this. Being able to eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired are essential pieces of any self care plan. Incorporating enjoyable or fun activities is also important. Balance is the key here.
- Identifying sensations and being curious. Approaching our bodies with curiosity rather than with fear and judgment can allow us to befriend parts of ourselves that we have avoided in the past. This can allow us to work on building a greater tolerance for sensations so they become less frightening.
- Avoiding Alcohol and Drugs. While substances can feel tempting, numbing and avoiding is not helpful in recovery. Substances may help someone avoid their emotions temporarily but it never helps in the long term. Unfortunately substance use is often comorbid with PTSD. Some people go on to develop long-term substance dependence issues.
- Meditation. Similar to yoga, meditation can be an essential tool in learning to regulate ones emotions and calming ones nervous system. Having a meditation routine can assist survivors in feeling safer in their bodies and feeling less reactive.
- Working with a therapist. Trauma can have immense effects on survivors and working with a therapist can help people to understand more about what has happened to them. One of the scariest things about trauma can be feeling out of control of your body and having no idea how to get control back. Working with a therapist who specializes in trauma and PTSD can provide you with the support to work towards trauma recovery.
Feeling Safe in Your Body Again
The goal of trauma recovery is around learning to feel safe and live in your body again. Bessel van der kolk states that the core issue of trauma, unlike other psychological disorders, is reality. When one’s very state of being and one’s reality has become dangerous, there is no amount of insight that will calm it. The goal is to become aware of sensations and acknowledge their existence. Only then can we begin reconnecting with ourselves and incorporating all parts of us. When someone lives in a body where there’s a constant sense of danger, they will do anything to escape it. This often includes drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, or self harm. The good news is as human beings we have the ability to regulate our own physiology through activities such as breathing, moving, and touching. These are much more effective coping strategies long term than pouring alcohol on our symptoms or attempting to starve them away.
If you are struggling with coping after trauma and would like to know more about Shannon’s services, please reach out today for a free consultation.
Bio: Shannon McHenry is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a specialty focus in childhood trauma, rape and battering, and PTSD. She is a trauma therapist in Los Angeles and works with clients in her offices in Los Feliz and Torrance. Combining clinical experience with a passion to support women in repairing their relationships with themselves and others, she has supported many to create a long-lasting recovery from destructive behaviors. Call Shannon today to book your first appointment.