One of life’s harsher truths is that sometimes, bad things happen. We endure personal tragedies, like losing a loved one, battling an illness, or experiencing violence. We’re affected, directly or indirectly, by large-scale devastation, from natural disasters to a global pandemic, and most recently, the threat and upheaval caused by the invasion of Ukraine.
These high-stress events can trigger a specific emotional response known as trauma. Some traumatic events are isolated, or acute, while others are chronic, repeated experiences. And some people, because of their race, ethnicity, cultural identity, etc., experience historical trauma spanning across generations.
If you’re struggling with the effects of trauma right now, know you are not alone.
While there’s no quick fix for recovery, there are ways to move through it by supporting mental and emotional wellbeing. Here are some strategies.
1. Release Burdening Beliefs
Trauma disrupts our sense of safety and can cause us to develop beliefs that are rooted in pain and fear. For example, you may think, “I will never feel safe again,” “There is no one I can trust,” or “I am completely helpless.”
However, these types of beliefs inflict the pain we feel back onto ourselves. Especially when coping with traumatic events, we need to treat ourselves with self-compassion and recognize when the beliefs we hold are adding weight to our burden.
What beliefs are you carrying about the trauma you’ve experienced? How can you rewrite these beliefs so they better support your healing? For example, maybe “What happened is part of my story, but it does not define me.” Or, “Not everyone deserves my trust, but there are some people who still do.”
2. Control What You Can
One of the reasons trauma often feels so impactful is that it violates our sense of control over what happens to us. This can cause us to feel overwhelmed or helpless. Recognizing what still is within your control can help you take back your power.
Think through the resources you still have at your disposal. For example, develop an emergency action plan with your family, such as where to meet and how to get in touch if phones aren’t working. The act of planning, even in the midst of uncertainty, offers a sense of control and preparation.
3. Reach Out
When you are ready, consider reaching out to a trusted professional, such as your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or connecting with people in your life who make you feel good about yourself: Join a support group, share your story with someone, or simply meet up with a friend when you are feeling low. You are never alone, regardless of how isolating the experience of trauma may feel. There are always resources available to support you and your healing.