It’s estimated that 70% of adults have experienced a traumatic event in their life. That adds up to 267 million people in the United States alone. Today, I’m writing about the “do’s and don’ts” for working through a traumatic experience that you may have had, from my personal perspective. I want to preface this by saying that regardless of what traumatic experience(s) that you’re trying to overcome, this isn’t something that just happens overnight or by reading one blog post.
In my experience, I’ve found that some helpful tips for overcoming your trauma are…
Find support specific to your lived traumatic experience(s).
For example, if you’re a survivor of domestic violence, you can find groups, hotlines, and resources specific to domestic violence that can help you cope. Your friends and family can be great natural supports as well if you feel comfortable talking with them about the trauma you’ve experienced.
Talk about what happened with someone you trust.
To be able to process traumatic experiences, it can be helpful to talk about it with trusted individuals in your life. It is normal to try and avoid thinking about or talking about something that was very painful for us to live through, but avoiding talking about trauma can ultimately have a very negative impact on your mental and even physical health. Even though talking about it may be difficult, it’s one of the healthiest and best ways to begin processing and move towards overcoming traumatic experiences.
Do your best to maintain healthy routines and structure
Try to stick to the healthy routines/structure you’ve developed prior to experiencing the traumatic event(s). This can help you to avoid feeling as though the traumatic experience is asserting control over your daily life. For example, if you always take your dog on a hike on Monday afternoons, try to keep that routine if you can. It can help us to reassure ourselves that traumatic experiences do not define who we are or what we’re capable of.
So now that we’ve gone over some helpful things to do while processing and overcoming traumatic experience(s), I’m going to list a few things that may be harmful to do when processing and overcoming traumatic experiences.
Don’t bottle up your feelings.
As I mentioned above, avoiding thinking or talking about traumatic experiences can be very isolating and end up making us feel significantly more helpless and hopeless about overcoming what happened to us. Talking it out with a close friend or family member can really help with recovering from a traumatic experience. If you don’t have any natural supports in your life that you feel comfortable reaching out to, I would encourage you to look into therapy, counseling, or other support groups that exist where you might feel comfortable talking through what you’ve experienced.
Don’t rush the healing process.
I’m speaking from experience when I say if you try to take on too much at one time things can become very overwhelming very quickly. Coming out of a difficult place and trying to do too many things at once can be harmful for our mental and physical health because if we aren’t able to meet our own unrealistic expectations of ourselves we may end up feeling like we’re failing and then start feeling even worse about ourselves and thus more overwhelmed.
Avoid coping through the misuse of substances.
Using drugs (that are not prescribed to you by a medical professional) or alcohol during this tough time period can be very harmful. Although it may seem like drugs or alcohol are making things feel better they are really just temporarily making you feel “numb.” In my experience, misusing substances as a coping mechanism harms the healing process way more than it helps it. In order to grow through traumatic experiences, we have to allow ourselves to truly go through everything that comes with processing these experiences.
Most of all, I want to remind everyone reading this that no matter how difficult your traumatic experiences are to cope with right now, what happened to you is not your fault and it does not define who you are or who you will become. You matter, you are enough, and you are more than the things that have happened to you.
Thank you for reading,
Aidan - Youth Peer Support Specialist