Experiencing trauma can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Whether it is a result of a single traumatic event or prolonged exposure to distressing circumstances, trauma can leave lasting scars. However, it is important to remember that healing and recovery are possible. This article will explore various strategies and techniques to help individuals cope with trauma and embark on healing.
Acknowledge and Validate Your Experience
The first step towards coping with trauma is acknowledging and validating your experience. Recognize that what you went through was real and that your emotions and reactions are valid. Allow yourself to feel the pain, anger, sadness, or other emotions associated with the trauma. Suppressing or denying these emotions may prolong the healing process.
Reaching out for support is crucial when coping with trauma. Surround yourself with a reliable support system like friends, family, or a therapist. Talking about your feelings and experiences can provide relief and help you gain perspective. Professional therapists trained in trauma-focused therapy can guide you through the healing process, providing valuable insights and coping mechanisms.
Engaging in self-care activities is essential for nurturing your mental and emotional well-being. Incorporate activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and peace. It could be reading a book, practicing mindfulness or meditation, engaging in creative outlets, or participating in physical exercise. Taking care of your physical health, such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and avoiding excessive use of substances, can also support your overall recovery.
Develop Coping Mechanisms
Developing healthy coping mechanisms is crucial for managing trauma-related distress. Identify a coping policy that works for you, such as deep breathing exercises, journaling, or engaging in hobbies. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help regulate your emotions and reduce anxiety. Find healthy ways to express your emotions through art, music, or physical activities like dancing or running.
Create a Routine
Establishing a daily routine can provide stability and control in the aftermath of trauma. Structure your day with regular sleep patterns, meal times, and engaging activities. A routine can help reduce feelings of chaos and uncertainty, giving you a sense of purpose and direction.
Educate Yourself about Trauma
Learning about trauma and its effects can be empowering. Understand the common symptoms and reactions associated with trauma, such as flashbacks, nightmares, or hypervigilance. Educating yourself about trauma can help normalize your experiences and alleviate self-blame or shame. Many books, articles, and online resources provide valuable information on trauma and recovery.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Engaging in relaxation techniques can help soothe your nervous system and reduce anxiety. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or meditation can promote a sense of calmness and relaxation. Consistent practice of these techniques can assist in managing stress and facilitating emotional healing.
Set Realistic Goals
When coping with trauma, setting realistic goals for your recovery is essential. Healing takes time, and progress may be gradual. Set achievable goals that align with your healing journey. Start with small, manageable steps and gradually work towards more significant milestones. Setting realistic goals provides a sense of purpose and progress, boosting your confidence and motivation.
Challenge Negative Thoughts and Beliefs
Trauma can lead to negative self-perceptions and beliefs about the world. Challenging these thoughts and restoring them with more realistic and positive ones is important. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, such as identifying and reframing negative thoughts, can effectively reshape your mindset and promote healthier thinking patterns.
Engage in Meaningful Connections
Building positive and meaningful connections with others can aid in the healing process. Join support groups or community organizations where you can connect with individuals who have had similar experiences. Sharing stories, empathizing with others, and providing support can stimulate a sense of belonging and validation.
Consider Professional Help
If your trauma symptoms persist or worsen, seeking professional help is crucial. Therapists trained in trauma-concentrated therapies, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can provide specialized treatment tailored to your needs. Medication may also be considered if recommended by a mental health professional.
Engage in Positive Relationships
Nurturing positive and supportive relationships is essential for healing from trauma. Surround yourself with individuals who provide emotional support, understanding, and encouragement. Building and maintaining healthy connections can counteract isolation and help you regain trust in others.
Coping with trauma is a deeply personal and individual journey. While these strategies can be helpful, it is important to remember that everyone’s healing process is unique. Be compassionate with yourself, practice self-care, and seek professional support when needed. Remember, healing from trauma is possible, and with time, effort, and the right resources, you can move toward a brighter and more resilient future.
NourishDoc: Hello, everyone. Well, the last couple of years have been tough for each of us, but today, we wanted to discuss trauma; we wanted to open this topic up how do you transform yourself if someone has gone through trauma? To talk about this topic, we have Doctor Ruiz. Doctor Ruiz is a trained naturopathic physician, but she’s focusing on mental health and helping many people transform themselves or overcome trauma. Thank you so much, Dr. Ruiz, for joining me.
Dr. Vanessa: Thank you for coming to me here. I’m excited, and I am excited to talk about this topic.
What Are The Steps Taken When Someone Has Gone Through Trauma?
NourishDoc: So, what is the first step for someone who has gone through trauma? In the sense that you don’t even know where to get started. So, in this ten-minute session today, we want to give people hope and some simple framework that they can at least follow.
Dr. Vanessa: Yeah, so the first thing is always safety. Safety first, making sure that they’re safe, making sure that they’re also getting the immediate care that they need. So, medically speaking, they’ve been seen by a doctor. Also, they must have been seen by a healthcare provider, like a mental health provider, so that they can start to put in the appropriate resources for them; the thing that we want to avoid is that it becomes a post-traumatic and chronic type of stress.
So, initially, when my client comes to me, and she’s experienced some trauma, it’s like all hands on deck, getting make sure that we’re putting the right people in so that she can get that initial support and the next thing is stabilization. Now, people often experience so much with what we call sympathetic overwhelm, and it’s the body in fight or flight. Sometimes, it may look like they’re not sleeping, like their heart’s racing, their sweating, and that’s still from the nervous system not fully integrating that trauma.
So, in the first month, sometimes, there might be medications that need to be put on board, there might be medications that can help turn down the fight-or-flight response, there might be medications that they need to help them sleep, there might be natural anxiolytics that we can use to try to bring down that anxiety and also, we can also turn to nutrition which can also help to trigger into a more relaxed recover state. So safety in the body is really important, especially in the first month.
Role Of Safety & Nutrition in Traumatic Conditions
NourishDoc: Okay. So now you talk about the safety and nutrition parts; does all this happen within the first month, or do you wait for people to stabilize first?
Dr. Vanessa: So, that’s part of the stabilization process. So, if they’ve acutely like they’ve really just experienced it, they need to get safe and get lies within that first month and have all the resources on board for that.
NourishDoc: Okay, so talk to us about the type of nutrition you will recommend on a very high level. What will you take out, what will you do to replenish, and when discussing safety, is it like counseling that we are doing? What is the overall framework, right?
Dr. Vanessa: Yes, I said the safety in the body first. A lot of it is just helping them calm down the sympathetic state. So, there are certain natural supplements that we can do with that; for example, magnesium helps to turn on rest and helps the body to recover, and there are also things like Ashwagandha, which can be helpful for sleep.
It can also help to turn down again, a lot of the cortisol which can be released after a traumatic event and then after that, once they’ve been stabilized and their bodies safe, right? Because if someone is feeling their heart rate if they’re sweating. It’s really hard to do counseling on that person or hard for them to do any trauma work because their body is just not stabilized yet.
So, we always address the body first. Then, once you see that they do not have this strong, sympathetic fight-or-flight response, we can start to do a little more trauma work or integration. However, they have to be grounded and stable in their body first. After that, we have to develop the skill of safety in their mind, essentially being able to soothe themselves if they have that overwhelming sympathetic response.
So, some of the things I teach is mindfulness; other things are just a quick, simple, grounding technique called the five, four, three, two, one, which is looking and scanning your environment for five things that you can see, four things that you can hear, three things that you can physically touch two things that you might be able to smell and one thing that you can taste.
Essentially, you’re building grounding into that present moment instead of having the mind go to the past or maybe to the future. I also do many somatic things because the brain can get overwhelmed very quickly for somebody who’s experienced trauma, so things that get them back into their body. So, for example, just even like tapping, that pressure of hugging yourself and doing a gentle tapping, that gets people back into their body, back into the present situation, and so, first, safety, try to stabilize them, that may even require some medications if necessary, and then safety in the body, so one of the things I also teach my clients initially, is that their blood sugar is usually going haywire if they’ve experienced trauma.
So, those ups and downs in their body can reignite some of the trauma responses. So, stabilizing their blood sugar with protein and ensuring they have good micronutrients can help shift their body into recovery. So, safety in mind, mindfulness, some of the tapping techniques that we do, and also yoga, yoga, and breath work, I’ve found to be important too, to help regulate that nervous system.
Do People Need To Follow The Therapies for Trauma Forever?
NourishDoc: Okay, now the thing is someone who’s gone through trauma, it could be emotional trauma, childhood trauma, or someone who’s gone to war and then this multiple types of traumas, and that’s not what we are discussing right now. So, what do I want to get through it? Does that become like a lifestyle for them?
In other words, like the things that you talked about Ashwagandha, some talking of supplements changing the nutrition, doing the mindfulness, then the yoga asanas, and then some of the other things you talk about tapping, right? So these five things, do they have to use that after they’ve recovered continuously, or do they stop it and then the trauma would come?
Dr. Vanessa: So it in a lot of, so in PTSD, which is essentially a, it’s a, associated with an event, and there’s complex trauma which you were talking about which is essentially like childhood abuse, that one’s a little bit more complicated to address because there are developmental issues that can occur, there might not be a healthy ego, so we have to build that kind of up.
With PTSD, both of them will require certain lifestyle changes like mindfulness primarily because the brain can go again faster through the future, and then with nutrition; often, it can take months for the nervous system to start to balance out. So, it becomes more of a lifestyle and a habit primarily because healing the nervous system can take some time.
NourishDoc: Sure. Well, this is a quick 10-minute session that we wanted to bring and give hope to people who have been traumatized and feel that they have to be on medication now. One thing I want to touch on is that you said that sometimes the first step is safety, even if they have to be given medication. In your experience, do they have to be on medication for the rest of their lives, or if they start incorporating these lifestyle modifications, can they get off the meds or not?
Dr. Vanessa: So, if they start incorporating these lifestyle changes and some of the supplementations, yeah, they can get off of medications, it does involve a lot of the counseling and kind of integration of the trauma so that it’s not having them get retriggered. So, that’s an important aspect as well.
NourishDoc: This is all we wanted to bring today, this evening. Thank you so much, Doctor Ruiz, for joining me and giving hope to all the people who may have gone through some trauma. I know all of us have had some trauma with COVID, so it’s not that you are alone; the whole world is with you, you might have had a little bit more trauma than someone else, and there is hope that’s what we’re bringing in. Anything else you like to and before I wrap up the session today?
Dr. Vanessa: No, I think we’ve covered a lot, but it’s about safety first, and I want to emphasize that we have to get the body safe before we start to do mindfulness and all those other things because the body needs to be regulated first.
NourishDoc: Absolutely. Thank you so much, have a great evening, everyone, and keep supporting us.