Self-help

Healing From Trauma: 10 Strategies to Recover

Trauma impacts millions globally, with over 200 million Americans affected. Left unaddressed, it can worsen mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Understanding trauma types, symptoms, and healing strategies is vital. Learn how to cope with Grow!

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on May 01, 2024

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Trauma is a prevalent issue affecting millions worldwide, and can be devastating, with long-lasting ramifications if left unaddressed. According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, more than 200 million Americans have experienced trauma at least once in their lifetime. If unattended, trauma can worsen, affecting your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

However, you can overcome trauma with the right strategies and techniques. This article explores the different types of trauma, their symptoms, and what you can do to heal.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma occurs when an individual emotionally responds to events like crime, accidents, natural disasters, or any trauma-related incidents. These reactions may be immediate — shock and denial — or long-term, where the victim may have flashbacks, unpredictable emotions, nausea, or headaches, among other symptoms. 

In addition, repeated flashbacks and subjection to traumatizing events may trigger the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Trauma victims may develop PTSD due to avoidance behavior. Avoiding potential triggers and traumatic places or refraining from thinking about a traumatic event increases the likelihood of developing PTSD.

Further, PTSD may occur as a result of increased adrenaline levels. When you experience a traumatic event, your body releases stress hormones — for instance, adrenaline — which contribute to adverse reactions. While these reactions help to suppress the senses, increased and continuous production may lead to the development of PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder vs. Post-Traumatic Growth: What’s the Difference?

PTSD is a common consequence of a traumatic event; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 6% of Americans will have PTSD during their lifetime. Others may develop a positive psychological change known as post-traumatic growth (PTG).

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that affects people who experience traumatic events. Victims may develop intense emotional feelings that may last even after the incident.

On the other hand, PTG is about growth after traumatic events. Victims may develop a new understanding of who they are and how to associate with others.

Types of Trauma

Trauma may occur unexpectedly or may slowly evolve. In any case, trauma is identifiable by how it affects your performance in your daily activities. It may manifest differently, depending on the experience or the event that caused it.

The two common types of trauma include the following:

Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma is the product of event(s) that makes you feel unsafe and helpless. Emotional traumas may include childhood trauma, sexual harm, domestic violence, and unprecedented disasters. People suffering from emotional traumas may experience challenging emotions like anxiety and fear.

According to Dr. Davisha Scudder, a psychologist at Grow Therapy, “Emotional trauma can result from any traumatic experience that causes overwhelming stress that exceeds the ability to manage and integrate emotions involved.” 

Additionally, emotional trauma may lead to long-term effects, mainly if left untreated. Delayed attention to emotional trauma may lead to:

Physical Trauma

Physical trauma occurs when your body is seriously injured. This type of trauma can be categorized into either blunt force trauma or penetrating trauma.

Blunt force trauma occurs when a force or an object strikes your body, causing fractured bones, severe cuts, or concussions. On the other hand, penetrating trauma is when an object penetrates your body, causing an open wound. Typical reactions to physical trauma include the following: 

Stages of Trauma

Knowing how trauma evolves can help prepare for the future and control your response to similar circumstances. The following are the five stages of trauma:

Denial

When you or a loved one encounter a traumatic event, it may affect how you view the world. Also, trauma may make you seclude friends and loved ones from your life. 

Denial serves as a defense mechanism to help you cope with the pain of the traumatic event. In addition, it provides an opportunity to absorb and adjust to the new reality. This stage is usually characterized by the following:

Facing denial requires you to acknowledge what has happened and the consequences of the experience, ideally through the guidance of a specialized mental health professional. 

Anger

Accepting your experience’s realities may result in anger towards the person or event that traumatized you. It can also be a coping strategy as it can help deal with pain, grief, or sadness, allowing you to overpower their effects.

Anger may manifest in various ways, including:

Various self-care and professional measures can help you deal with anger during trauma. For instance, seeking support through therapy can help understand its cause and how to cope and manage it. In addition, emotional regulation strategies — creating space, taking time out, and practicing mindfulness — can help overcome anger.

Bargaining

At this stage, the emotions stemming from your trauma become more apparent, and you want to control the situation through bargaining. This may involve the hope for things to be different. People with religious backgrounds may pray or negotiate with a higher power for the trauma to be reversed.

Depression

Thinking of what you went through, the pain it caused, and what you have lost may result in depression. Reflecting on your present situation may lead to intense sadness and despair. As a result, you may feel: 

Although this type of depression may initially not be a sign of mental illness, it might adversely affect your well-being. Therefore, you should reach out for professional help to overcome this stage.

Acceptance

You have acknowledged the trauma at this stage, learned how to live with it, and adjusted your life accordingly.

While acceptance is a positive step to moving forward, a ‘new normal’ may emerge. You may reach out to friends and family, but it’s normal to feel you sometimes want to withdraw. Additionally, acceptance may result in sadness, anger, and grief, but it’s possible to manage them.

Granted, to reach acceptance, seek support from loved ones, friends, or professional therapists. 

Trauma Symptoms

While trauma symptoms may be mild or severe and differ by person, there are common symptoms you can look out for. Understanding these symptoms can help ease the process of overcoming trauma.

Common physical telltales of trauma include:

Emotional symptoms of trauma include the following:

How You Can Start to Heal from Trauma

The goal of any person suffering from trauma is to recover fully. Although it may not be a one-week affair, healing from traumatic experiences is possible. Trauma recovery is a process both victims and therapists work on in several stages.

Phases of Trauma Recovery

Trauma victims may undergo the following three stages in their recovery process:

Security and Stability

Traumatized persons may feel insecure or at odds with their bodies and loved ones. To help heal, they may focus on the present, establish coping skills, and work to develop a sense of security after the traumatizing experience.

Understanding what needs to be stabilized and how to do it plays a vital role in recovery. For instance, the victim may practice mindfulness, self-care, or meditation to create a sense of security and stabilization. Reducing the chances of victimization can also help develop safety and stability.

Remembrance and Grieving

This phase involves processing your trauma and acknowledging what you have lost. However, this doesn’t include reliving the trauma, but describing it in a secure environment. It also involves talking about and grieving the pain caused by trauma.

Reconnecting and Integrating

This phase involves restructuring and incorporating traumatic memories with the learned coping skills. A counselor or a therapist helps to bring back hope and find a purpose in a victim’s life. Also, trauma survivors begin to reconnect with their loved ones, progress, and set life goals.

Get help healing from trauma

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Strategies for Trauma Recovery

Here are a few strategies that can help you or a loved one cope with trauma: 

1. Get Closer to Family and Friends

When experiencing trauma, it’s common to want to withdraw from your loved ones and friends. However, disconnecting and staying away from them may worsen your situation, leading to sadness and depression. Therefore, try to spend time with your family and friends and share whatever bothers you.

2. Take Time Out

It’s normal to feel worn out when addressing trauma. You may feel you don’t have the energy to accomplish your daily tasks. At that point, taking breaks from your routine and spending some time out to rest can help quicken your recovery.

3. Join a Support Group

Seeking and accepting support is essential to your recovery; it allows you to express your thoughts and feelings. Also, sharing with others in your situation can help you learn new coping skills.

So, identify a support group, a trusted family member, a colleague, or a professional therapist and speak your issue out.

4. Observe Your Physical Health

As you may want to spend your resources on psychological wellness, you should equally devote them to your physical well-being. Your physical fitness greatly influences how you feel mentally.

So, observe a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and exercise. Stretching gently, deep breathing, and walking are ideal for improving moods and preventing anxiety.

5. Avoid Self-Criticism and Judgment

You are not responsible for the experiences that you have encountered. Thus, don’t blame yourself or sink into shame because of what happened to you. Instead, be optimistic about the situation and focus on moving forward.

While it’s natural to get angry or feel depressed, criticizing and judging yourself will only make things more complicated. Therefore, if you encounter these feelings, voice them with others and allow them to help.

6. Stay Away From Substance Abuse

When you are traumatized, it’s normal to look for things that may make you happy quickly. As a result, you may find yourself turning to substances. While it may feel like a short-term method of forgetting your situation, substance abuse may adversely affect your health.

If trauma persists, you may continue using drugs and alcohol, resulting in addictions.

7. Meditate and Practice Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are critical tools for your healing process. While they may be difficult initially, these practices can help clear your mind and relax. Additionally, they help bring your thoughts and mind to the present, which is needed for healing.

8. Be Creative and Have Fun

Engaging in fun and creative activities plays a vital role in trauma healing. Therefore, identify something you love doing — reading, listening to music, visiting new places — and prioritize these things. This way, you can express disturbing thoughts, boosting your recovery process.

9. Resume to Your Daily Activities

Trauma may alter your daily activities. Therefore, to get over the stress caused by trauma, it’s essential to resume your regular life as soon as possible. It can make you gain control of your life, improving the healing process.

10. Write Down Your Experiences

Writing down your experiences can help you get over the trauma. It allows you to identify your trauma triggers, express your thoughts and feelings, and reflect on daily events.

Find a Therapist Today

Trauma can be a devastating experience that may severely affect your mental health and overall well-being. However, understanding the different types of trauma, signs and symptoms, and coping strategies plays a vital role in recovery. In addition, trauma-focused therapy can help develop skills that will lessen related effects.

So, if you or a loved one are struggling with traumatic experiences, consider getting a professional therapist. They can help you understand your situation and teach practical coping skills.

At Grow Therapy, we can help you get the best therapist for your needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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