When pondering traumatic experiences, many people may conjure images of physical pain and suffering. This is accurate — but incomplete. A major component of trauma is the severe emotional effect it can leave behind. You may heal from physical pain but still carry psychological scars.
Recovering from such a scenario requires the trauma to be processed and resolved. Until then, you will likely still feel many of the original emotions that you associate with the experience. This can include fear, guilt, shame, anger, helplessness, and more. Fortunately, with the support of an experienced mental health professional, recovering from emotional trauma is possible.
Types and Symptoms of Emotional Trauma
Almost everyone will endure some kind of emotional trauma in their life. These events may include:
- Domestic violence
- The death of a loved one (including miscarriage)
- Sexual assault or abuse
- Illness, injury, or disability
- The end of a relationship
- Job loss
- Being victimized by a crime
- Experiencing an accident or natural disaster
Each individual reacts differently to these situations, but common post-trauma symptoms are:
- Flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts
- Low self-esteem
- A sense of hopelessness
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Guilt and shame
- Self-medicating via unhealthy coping mechanisms
How to Begin Recovering From Emotional Trauma
Stay Connected With People You Trust
It may feel natural to avoid most people. You’ve been hurt and want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. However, what you really need is to feel less isolated. This can begin with basic interactions with neighbors and other folks.
You might even consider volunteering to help strangers. It’s a golden opportunity to connect with people without feeling pressured to talk about yourself. Most especially, however, seek out quality time with trusted friends and family members.
Practice Daily Self-Care
Being a trauma survivor is exhausting. You may feel like you’re in a perpetual state of high vigilance. To counter this reality, it is critical that you create and sustain a daily self-care regimen. Some elements consider including:
- Healthy eating choices: You might want to spread out your meals into small snacks to keep yourself fueled all day long.
- Regular sleep patterns: This is a foundational need. Do your best to get to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Daily physical activity: From walking to dancing to doing a gym workout — your mind and body need daily movement.
In addition, cultivate a toolbox of helpful relaxation techniques. A few suggestions:
- Breathing exercises
- Tai chi
- Listening to mellow music
- Always make time for your favorite activities
Learn How to Regulate Your Nervous System
Those who have experienced trauma can feel stuck in a “fight-or-flight” response. Breaking this cycle is an essential part of healing. Your therapist will help you with this, but there are also steps you can take on your own, e.g.:
- Practice mindfulness: Stay as present as possible. This helps you evade rumination over the past and dread the future. To get started, revisit that toolbox of relaxation techniques and stay connected to your breath.
- Burn it off: Physical activity can burn off some anxiety while increasing the number of feel-good chemicals in your body.
- Ground yourself: Get into the habit of being aware of where you are in space. Feel your feet on the ground. Engage in aromatherapy and truly experience the scents. Cuddle with a pet. Alternate between hot and cold water in your shower and let yourself feel the changes.