There are many ways our mental health can be affected by life’s events. Unfortunately, we may not always have the best experiences and when we are faced with a traumatic event or occurrence, we may come away with some level of trauma. Trauma can come in many forms, and can happen to any person. If you have experienced a traumatic incident, you are not alone! These events can be life altering and may affect your day-to-day life. So, how do we learn to live or cope with this trauma? In this blog we discuss symptoms of trauma, when to seek help, and five ways to positively work through your trauma.
Trauma can be caused by a variety of occurrences. Such occurrences may include a personal event such as a death or sickness of a loved one, or a life altering event such a a natural disaster. Additionally, a trauma experience may not be just one significant event that takes place, but rather a series of traumatic experiences over time such as when one endures abuse in a relationship. Experiencing trauma is different for each person and the severity of the trauma can also range based on someone’s past life experiences and their risk and resiliency factors.
Why does trauma happen during an adverse event/experience?
When we experience a traumatic event, we lose control of the situation and what may be happening in our life. Because we are lacking control, we may feel helpless and this can alter our cognitive behaviour thus affecting our long-term mental health. You may not even realize you have been affected by the incident until months later, as signs and symptoms don’t always appear right away. Sometimes it is best to listen to those around us when they voice concerns, or if we are feeling different than our normal selves to recognize what has changed since the traumatic event.
What are the signs and symptoms of trauma?
You may be surprised to learn that not all symptoms of trauma are emotional, and you or a loved one may be experiencing physical symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms of trauma to watch for include:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Easily startled
- Panic attacks
- Body aches
Traumatic events can sometimes be difficult to identify because the same event may be more traumatic for some people than for others. We are all different and have experienced life in different ways. Some individuals may be more able to cope with an adverse event than others, but that doesn’t mean we are weaker for succumbing to trauma.
FIVE WAYS TO MANAGING TRAUMA
Once you have identified whether you or a loved one are experiencing trauma, there are multiple ways to learn to cope and deal with the symptoms. Here are five ways to help manage your trauma:
The first step in managing your trauma is coming to accept that you have experienced a life altering event and are suffering from the resulting mental trauma. It may be hard to move on if we do not accept that we are experiencing a decline in our mental health. Denial about what you may be experiencing is a major block in moving forward. Once you have accepted that you are experiencing trauma, you can begin your healing journey.
Participating in activities such as meditation and yoga may open your mind to exploring how you are experiencing the trauma and help you understand the strong emotions you have been feeling. Meditation builds our mindfulness, helps us to identify our triggers, and helps us to identify the healthy habits that make us feel better. We may learn that hearing about a major storm triggers memories from the natural disaster we experienced. We may also learn that spending time with our best friend at the beach may help remove the emotional distress we are feeling that day. Becoming more aware of our mental state is a powerful way to cope with anxiety and trauma.
Not only is acceptance and mindfulness important when it comes to recognizing our mental health, seeking support can be a major step in the right direction towards your healing. This may not always mean support from a paid professional, it could mean support from those closest to you, such as your friends and family. Perhaps there is someone close to you who also experienced the same life altering event, or has gone through a similar experience. It may be that talking about your feelings to someone close to you who understands what has taken place may help you start healing from your trauma. Depending on the level of trauma you experienced and how it is impacting your functioning, professional help may be needed above and beyond your own support system to help with processing the trauma and moving forward in a healthy, adaptive way.
Not only is practicing mental health exercises like mindfulness great for your healing journey, participating in physical fitness may also assist in coping with your trauma. Many individuals find yoga, cycling, jogging, swimming, or even walking a great way to clear the mind and release stress from their body. Maybe joining a fitness class and meeting new friends could help improve your mental health and help cope with your trauma.
In addition to the coping strategies mentioned above, seeking professional help may be your best path to healing. Counsellors and therapists provide a safe space for you to share your feelings and experiences without the fear of judgment. These professionals can also provide additional coping strategies to use outside of your sessions so you do not feel overwhelmed when you are working through your daily activities. If left untreated, your trauma may lead to serious side effects and, for some, to post-traumatic stress disorder. If you feel like you cannot cope on your own, there is help for you, and there is no shame in seeking professional help.
Working through trauma may not be an easy journey to start, but it is a path that is necessary to heal through your experience. With the five coping strategies listed above, you may learn more about yourself, learn to recognize your triggers, and find the best ways to relieve your symptoms. If you would like to discuss trauma and mental health further, or would like to talk to a professional, please contact us HERE.