Got trauma? No worries, everyone does. Whether it’s from a battlefield in Iraq, an unstable childhood, or an abusive event, we’ve all got trauma. It’s a fact of life. The question is, how do we go about healing from emotional trauma and living wholeheartedly without letting the trauma define us? That’s what we’ll be talking about here. First, let’s start with what trauma is and what it does to us.
What is Trauma?
The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” But it can be caused by so much more than that- breakups, injuries, and deaths are also traumatic events, even being bullied, or extremely embarrassing moments can be traumatic. Anything that causes a severe emotional response, and affects your psyche thereafter, is basically a trauma.
Just like physical trauma is generally a wound or injury that leaves a scar, emotional trauma is a mental injury that leaves an internal scar. Common short-term responses to trauma are shock and denial, while long term responses can range from flashbacks, nightmares, isolation, insomnia, emotional outbursts, depression, and even fatigue and nausea. These are all normal responses to trauma, the only problem is if these responses persist without dealing with the underlying trauma, they can wreak havoc on your everyday life and make it impossible to move on, which is why it's important to learn about healing from emotional trauma and living wholeheartedly.
What Happens When You Go Through Trauma?
When we say trauma causes internal scars, we’re not joking. Trauma can actually change your brain. Trauma affects three parts of your brain, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex, and all three of these can be changed by trauma. In fact, studies have shown that post-traumatic stress disorder can even change the size of your brain!
When you experience a trauma, you go into fight, flight, or freeze mode, which is caused by an overproduction of cortisol, a stress hormone. This excess cortisol actually rewires your brain’s circuitry, which results in emotional and psychological distress. Every time you relive your trauma, or are “triggered” you experience this overproduction of cortisol. The excess cortisol causes you to be in a state of high alert, i.e. extreme sensitivity, jumpiness, hyperawareness, and trembling.
5 Tips for Healing From Emotional Trauma and Living Wholeheartedly:
1. Accept and Be Willing to Heal
The first step to any healing or recovery process is acceptance. As we mentioned, denial is a common symptom of emotional trauma as a coping mechanism, because if you don’t think you’ve been traumatized, then it’s no big deal right? Wrong. You will still experience the debilitating responses to trauma, whether you’re in denial about it or not, so you might as well accept it and begin to heal.
It’s ok to have gone through trauma, and guess what? We all have or will at some point in our lives! It’s almost impossible to go through life without experiencing trauma, so don’t worry, it’s not any sort of reflection on you as a person! Nobody would ever shame you for having cancer, why would you be ashamed for being traumatized?
And trauma is even more common than cancer, and just as much not your fault. Don’t give into your ego telling you that something is wrong with you for having trauma, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, it’s normal! And the responses you may experience as a result of trauma are just that- responses, symptoms, neither the responses nor the trauma define you. Your trauma is not who you are.
It may seem like a daunting process to heal your trauma before you’ve started, but a great motivator is the hope and priceless reward of feeling better and getting your life back. Trauma can also lead to serious future health problems if not dealt with and processed properly, and who wants that? Love yourself enough to go through the healing process because you deserve the happiness at the end of that path. Trauma is your truth, and that’s ok! It hasn’t taken anything away from you, you are a whole person.
Regaining your sense of safety in the world is very important to healing from emotional trauma and living wholeheartedly. This step may look different for everyone, depending on what makes you feel safe and what your idea of stability is. But, the most common thing that makes people feel safe is a support system, which can include friends, family, therapists and professional help, even your pet.
It’s key to allow those closest to you to support you and be there for you while you heal. Another thing that makes most people feel grounded and stable is nature, and taking the time to connect with nature. You can check both of these boxes by bonding with your pet, and that’s probably why pets are so therapeutic- they’re nature!
Nature has a very balanced and high frequency vibration that really serves to calm the mind and warm the heart. The purity, simplicity, and divinity of nature are very grounding and great for meditation and mind clearing. Our communities and society can be very overwhelming by presenting triggers and even just general stress into your life. It’s always helpful to step away from it and take some time to tap into the therapeutic properties of nature.
And even when you can’t get out of the city, remember that you yourself are nature, tap into the divine within you through meditation and you can experience the same soothing and grounding feeling. Allow yourself to reset with calm surroundings and loving, supporting people (and pets). See the beauty in the nature and people around you and begin to trust the universe again, because overall, it’s got your back!
3. Mourn and Purge
Probably the most therapeutic tip, let it out! Healing from trauma doesn’t mean brushing it under the rug and trying not to think about it. To truly heal from emotional trauma, it’s important to face it, and let yourself experience all of the emotions it brings up for you. Purge yourself of the negativity, and only leave what’s productive and positive. Cry out your sadness, scream out any shame, punch out your anger at a boxing class, and face and accept your fear.
Purify yourself by letting out all the emotional responses that you have pent up. Sometimes many of the long-term responses you have to trauma are actually a result of holding in your emotions more so than the trauma itself. Exercise and physical activities are an incredibly therapeutic way to heal from trauma for this very reason. They’re a great outlet for letting out emotions and channeling negative ones into something positive. How fun is it to kick a ball imagining it’s someone’s head that’s pissed you off? The best!
Now, the goal isn’t necessarily to relive the trauma, but it most certainly is also not to escape the uncomfortable emotions that it brings up. The goal is a healthy middle ground that allows you to heal and process the trauma, to bleed it out so to speak. Aside from cleansing the pent up emotions the trauma has caused, it’s also important to mourn what you may have lost as a result of the trauma, whether it’s a certain quality of life, an actual person in the case of death, even just peace of mind and sleep.
Mourn it, feel it, and let it out once and for all so you can move forward from it. And take your time, mourning and grieving are long processes to get through and that’s also normal. Have patience and be kind to yourself.
4. Process and Empower
After you’ve allowed yourself to let out your pent up emotions surrounding the trauma, it’s time to look at the trauma itself from a balanced and logical place to pick it apart and strip it down to something you aren’t attached to anymore. For this tip it’s very important to have a therapist that you trust and feel comfortable with in order to help you analyze the trauma and the how’s, why’s, and what now’s of it.
A professional can help you put the trauma into context and process it in a healthy and constructive manner, allowing you to then empower yourself by detaching from it. The goal here is to see the trauma as something that doesn’t control you and your emotions anymore, to realize that you are bigger and stronger than the trauma. To be able to confidently declare that your trauma is just something that happened to you, it is not a part of you and it does not define you.
Other activities that can help with this tip are meditation and reflection, as well as creative activities. These things help you step back and look at what happened and what it means for you, and even how to move forward from it. Creative outlets and activities are also good for Tip 3.
This step is all about taking the power back from your trauma by moving on from it, and realizing that your trauma is something outside and separate from you, a moment in time, it’s not part of you or who you are. You can leave your trauma in the past and move on to brighter days because it’s not attached to you anymore!
5. Reconnect, Balance, and Live Healthy
This last tip is all about how to maintain a healthy and wholehearted lifestyle after the bulk of the trauma healing process is done. While it’s important to do this throughout the process, an important factor in moving on and not being pulled back into the darkness of past trauma is having a stable, balanced, and structured lifestyle that includes healthy habits, a healthy support system and social life, and a healthy work-life balance.
When all the major areas of your life are doing well and in check, you enjoy a sense of stability and safety that make it easier to deal with things like triggers. Trauma often causes intense feelings of danger and instability, which is why a balanced and stable lifestyle and environment is so important when it comes to trauma healing. When you lead a healthy lifestyle—eating well, exercising, taking care of your body—your mind is clear and your emotions are more stable to handle reminders of past trauma and future trauma, even.
When you have a strong foundation, it’s hard for the storms in life to knock you down. When you’re living a physically and psychologically unhealthy life, you’re living life on the edge, and any little thing can push you over into chaos and spiral into depression. When you’re living a balanced and healthy life where your mind, body, emotions, finances, and relationships are all stable, you can handle and weather just about any storm.
Staying in touch with nature and maintaining a meditation practice are great ways to keep your mind and emotions healthy, while exercising and eating well are great for the body. Meditation helps quiet down your thoughts and calm the chatter of your mind, so that you can connect with your true self and experience wisdom, acceptance, and appreciation for life.
Emotional trauma gets stored in your body, and the body also benefits from meditation practice and the calm feeling of being in a thoughtless, meditative state. Exercising and activities such as yoga not only release endorphins, which make you feel safe and stable, but yoga aids in releasing the trauma stored in your body.
It’s also always important to continue therapy sessions and to maintain your strong support system to talk to whenever you are struggling with trauma or anything else. Cuz remember, trauma is normal, it’s ok to talk about it, it’s ok to face it, process it, and most of all heal from it. You don’t have to brush it under the rug and endure the agonizing side effects of it alone.
Many isolate themselves right after experiencing trauma and for years afterwards, and one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself in trauma processing is to reconnect with your loved ones and your community and allow them to be there for you and help you. It’s just as important to maintain this connection after having moved on from the trauma, as relationships are one of the most important pillars of happiness and balanced living.
“If you are to free your heart, you must embrace your painful feelings, have faith that your thoughts will arise and cease of their accord. They will pass if you can face them head on, with kind eyes. Your thoughts and feelings will dissolve if you don’t try to hold on to them or push them away. Thinking will dissipate. Trust in this universal law of change.”
–Nirmala RanigaWant to learn more about healing from emotional trauma and living wholeheartedly? Subscribe to our email list and receive more useful tips and great information on this and many more exciting topics, along with free guided meditations, and magical giveaways from Charmed by Lillianna!