Self-Care while Healing from Emotional Trauma
Last week, we discussed what trauma is: our minds’ response to processing a disturbing event that happened to us. I want to discuss how anyone who suffered the effects of trauma can find meaningful healing. For some, the term “self-care” has become a reason for overindulgence. Sure, luxury bath bombs and an extra slice of Oreo cheesecake have their place. But before it was tied to superficial habits, self-care was linked to mental health!
What Is Self-Care In Real Life?
The World Health Organization (WHO) described self-care as, “the ability of individuals, families
and communities to:
● promote health
● prevent disease
● maintain health
● and to cope with illness and disability…
…with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” That’s a tall order! To make this happen for yourself self-care must become an ongoing practice. It’s an intentional practice of showing self-compassion. What self-care means, then, is to bring awareness in our thinking and being mindful of our judgmental thinking.
How To Heal From Trauma: Increasing Self Compassion
Let’s talk more about judgmental thinking. It’s a habit for many of us to magnify failure and minimize success. Do you beat yourself up for your mistakes? How often do you feel shame or embarrassment for how often your trauma is triggered? Are there thoughts in your mind that you should be over your trauma by now? Showing self-compassion is challenging negative thoughts and countering them with positive, realistic thinking strategies.
Here’s a quick example: You come home from work. You flick on your light switch. The light remains off. You check the bulb, you make sure it’s plugged into the outlet. Nothing. You remember, you forgot to pay your electric bill. The negative thinking kicks in. Suddenly you’re a failure because you missed the payment due date. “I suck at adulting!” you tell yourself harshly. Hold on, consider the scenario that led to that missed payment. Do you have other pressing responsibilities such as getting children to school on time, managing other household expenses, cooking for your family, or maybe simply just forgot? Whatever the case, you were distracted. Instead of name calling, make room for self-compassion and write out a plan to be sure you don’t miss the deadline next time.
Hold on, consider the scenario that led to that missed payment. Do you have other pressing responsibilities such as getting children to school on time, managing other household expenses, cooking for your family, or maybe simply just forgot? Whatever the case, you were distracted. Instead of name calling, make room for self-compassion and write out a plan to be sure you don’t miss the deadline next time.
How To Heal From Trauma: Addressing Shame
Don’t focus on what you should have done differently. In fact, stop “shoulding” on yourself altogether. This article from Psychology Today explains the benefits of avoiding the word “should” and gives us ways to cope with critical self-judgement and counter the “should” mindset. When we use “should” while in a critical mindset we run the risk of shaming ourselves. Shame and growth repel each other. Shame makes it very difficult to recover from trauma.
How To Heal From Trauma: Owning Your Choices Now
Author James Clear wrote in his book, Atomic Habits, that replacing one word in our vocabulary can reshape our brains on how we view a certain situation. An example of this would be:
1. I have to do the laundry.
2. I get to do the laundry.
Both statements are true. But replacing “have to” with “get to” turns a daunting task into a pleasant one. One to which you consent. This line of thinking can be applied to personal situations all throughout the day. This small step doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly love doing laundry and it’s the best part of your day. But it does create an opening in your mind for choice and personal will. Small changes like this are a part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT addresses the link between our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Addressing Guilt With A PTSD Therapist
We can also utilize these skills when discussing how to deal with trauma. For many, trauma survivors carry misplaced guilt. For example, you may mistakenly think you deserve what happened to you. Or since you didn’t (or couldn’t) speak up, you played a role in abuse. When we utilize self-compassion when processing traumatic events, we can look at situations more accurately.
For example, if you were a child – it wasn’t your job or within your skill set to speak up. But what if you knew it was wrong? What if people asked you if it was happening and you lied to cover-up? Still not your fault you were abused. It’s not your guilt and shame to carry. Understanding this in your head, heart and body is a huge undertaking. Our team of skilled PTSD therapists and counselors can help you. Learn more about our team of St. George UT therapists here!
Therapy For Trauma Recovery ⎸84770 | 84737 | 84780 | 84720
However, some may need more of a guided hand when processing traumatic events. Perhaps seeking trauma therapy with a PTSD therapist is what you need. Next week we will discuss ways to find the right therapist for emotional trauma that will lead you down the road of recovery.
If you’re in need of emergency mental care, please visit SAMHA’s national helpline here.