Trauma can be sneaky. Sometimes we experience events that we don’t realize were traumatic until much later in our lives, and other times we can experience traumatic events without any long-term effects. Everyone experiences loss and goes through difficult and stressful periods in their lives, but only some people develop trauma responses and lasting emotional wounds. It’s important to recognize these wounds for what they are and learn to move past them, so we can live our best lives. Read on to learn more about what causes trauma and how you can heal emotional wounds and move forward.
What Causes Trauma and Emotional Wounds?
Trauma usually stems directly from a person experiencing an event or series of events like a serious injury, an accident, a natural disaster, witnessing an extreme act of violence (i.e. murder, war), or being a victim of abuse. This event affects the person deeply, both physically and psychologically, and is usually followed by certain symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, disturbing memories or flashbacks of the event, denial that the event took place, guilt, shame, depression, or withdrawal from friends and loved ones. These symptoms can take weeks or months to resolve, and sometimes longer.
While many people have an idea of what trauma is in their minds, few realize that trauma can also stem from other distressing incidents like the sudden death of a loved one, the breakup of a serious relationship, losing a job unexpectedly, or being deeply humiliated or disappointed. These sorts of incidents can also cause long-lasting emotional wounds.
Trauma is more likely to affect someone seriously if they’re already under a lot of stress in their lives, or are prone to mental illness like depression or anxiety, but even someone with serious emotional strength can be impacted. It’s important to be able to recognize events that may trigger trauma and learn what the symptoms look like, so they can be treated promptly.
How Do These Traumas Affect Us?
When bad things happen in our lives, it can take a while to recover and get to a point where we feel safe again. It’s important to remember that a trauma response is normal after experiencing a distressing event. It can make us feel unsafe in places where we once felt safe or when we are with people we once felt safe with. Never shame yourself for the feelings you’re having. Because everyone responds differently to trauma, there is no right or wrong way to respond.
In the days or weeks after experiencing trauma, you may not notice anything different. Sometimes it can take a bit of time for symptoms to show up, or sometimes you may not notice how they’re affecting you. Trauma interrupts your body’s natural balance and can cause uncontrollable nervous system responses, resulting in anxiety and rushes of adrenaline even when you’re not in danger. When you ignore these symptoms of trauma and don’t give yourself the proper time to heal emotional wounds, it can get worse over time, and can even lower your immune response, making it harder for your body to fight off illness.
What Can We Do To Heal From Trauma and Emotional Wounds?
Though trauma and the resulting emotional wounds can be distressing, there are a number of steps that you can take to work through the pain and develop healthy coping mechanisms so that you can move past the traumatic experience. Here’s what you can do to start your healing:
- Be aware of your trauma and learn how it affects you. You experienced something distressing and your body is feeling a normal, natural response. Don’t ignore the trauma and the effect that it’s having on you. Instead, be aware of it and learn what your symptoms are. Remind yourself that you aren’t wrong for feeling these things.
- Learn your triggers. Sometimes, certain people, places, or objects may trigger a traumatic memory to surface. Learn what triggers your anxiety. You may want to choose to avoid your triggers for a time, but being aware of them can help you prepare.
- Practice mindfulness. Throughout the day, if negative feelings surface, focus on the way you feel in the moment. Pay attention to your body, your breath, and your senses. Take deep breaths, and realize that, no matter how anxious you may feel, you are in charge of your body and can regain your calm.
- Get moving. Exercise that engages your entire body like running, swimming, biking, or even dancing is one of the best things for trauma. These exercises release endorphins and can bring balance back to your body.
- Reach out for support. Don’t isolate yourself or avoid your friends and family. When you’re alone, you are more likely to ruminate on negative thoughts or feelings. You don’t have to talk about the trauma you experienced, but you can still share your feelings with someone you trust. Connection is an important part of healing emotional wounds. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends and family, join a support group for trauma survivors. You’ll be able to connect with people who understand what you are going through and who may be able to offer you advice about how to cope.
- Allow yourself to feel. Don’t suppress your feelings. At the same time, avoid lingering on them for too long. Feel them as they come, recognize them, and then let them pass.
- Stay away from drugs. It can be tempting to turn to alcohol or drugs for relief from your emotional pain, but this is never a good idea. Drugs and alcohol will numb your feelings for a time, but they will never fix the actual root of the issue.
- Care for your health. Eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly is good advice for anyone, but ignoring your body’s needs can exacerbate the symptoms of trauma.
- Seek professional help. If your symptoms don’t go away even after making a serious effort to heal emotional wounds, seeking help from a counselor, therapist, or psychologist can help. It’s important to get help if the symptoms of your trauma are getting in the way of your life.
You shouldn’t have to put your life on pause after going through a hard time. Working to heal your emotional wounds can help you move on from your trauma and get back on the right track towards a healthy and happy life.