What is trauma?
Trauma is any deeply distressing event or experience where the individual feels helpless, they fear for their lives or are overcome by a deep sense of fear. There are a wide range of events that could lead to trauma; from common life events like divorce to near-death experiences like rape, and wartime experiences that could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Trauma can be caused by a one time event like a car wreck, rape or assault, and can also be caused by ongoing stressors like domestic violence, long term illnesses or bullying. Other examples of trauma-inducing events include issues such as immigration, moving, surgery or the loss of a loved one.
What are some signs of trauma?
There are many signs of trauma. When we are forced to withstand more than we were made to, our bodies keep score. Some common signs of trauma are anxiety and distress, withdrawal from social interactions, feeling generally hopeless, disconnected and sad. Additionally, there could be symptoms like insomnia, panic attacks with a racing heartbeat, consistent fatigue and difficulty concentrating. To top it all off, individuals experiencing traumatic events often feel conflicted with shame and guilt, blaming themselves for the incident in question.
All of these are common symptoms that victims of trauma experience and can be treated if and when one realizes they need help and seeks out counseling.
What should one do if they're suffering trauma?
In order to address trauma, it is important to seek guidance from a mental health professional to help get to the root cause of the trauma, and set specific goals to find and use the best methods to combat the symptoms. Together, the patient and counselor would work towards these specific goals that address the patient’s unique concerns. In addition to counseling, victims of trauma can incorporate any of the following practices into their daily routine to better combat their trauma:
Focus on your physical body. Exercising regularly and incorporating movement into your day while eating more whole and nutritious foods is known to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep and self-esteem. Exercising and physical activity produce endorphins (chemicals in your brain that act as natural painkillers) and reduce stress. Just five minutes of aerobic exercise everyday is proven to produce positive mental and physical results. Going for a 15 minute walk every day? Getting up and dancing to your favorite song? Taking Zumba class at your local gym? All of these count towards improving not only your physical body, but also your mind!
Focus on building and investing in community. It is important and can be extremely healing to talk to other people that have encountered similar experiences to yours. Talking to people who are or have been in your boat can help you feel acknowledged and heard and show you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your feelings, and that others can relate.
Another great way to reduce your symptoms of trauma is to volunteer within your community, or a community you feel strongly about, to gain more insight and perspective for your own life while also feeling accomplished and good in your giving to others. By focusing on giving to others, your sense of gratitude will grow while you foster gratitude in others. Gratitude and kindness foster more gratitude and kindness, they are limitless in their growth.
Focus on wholistic wellness. Spirituality, mindfulness and meditation are not just cool buzzwords. These practices help you feel a sense of belonging, peace and connection to the grand scheme of life and bigger picture of humanity. They remind you that you are one small part of a big world and infinite universe, that we are all part of the human race together. Being mindful means tuning into your intuition and inner voice in order to gain perspective and grow your personal awareness and emotional intelligence so that you may then help foster this in others. Understanding your self-limiting beliefs and fears so that you may overcome them and in doing so, teach others to do the same. Essentially, being spiritual and mindful is a way to pay it forward.
What are resources and tools available to those who have suffered trauma?
Trauma Therapy and Counseling - seek out guidance from mental health experts to learn how to combat and treat your traumas so that you can live a healthier, fuller life
Spiritual Guidance- look for outlets that allow you to reflect inward while also growing your sense of belonging and community. This may look like going to church once a week; taking 5 minutes each morning or night to sit quietly and focus on your breathing (AKA meditation); writing in a journal in each night expressing your wins or gratitude for that day (AKA gratitude journal); taking a yoga class (AKA moving meditation).
Community Engagement- volunteer in your community or neighborhood; look for other communities that interest you to become a part of.