3 Cost Effective Treatments for Trauma Victims
By Melvin Hayden
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Whether or not a traumatic event involves death, you as a survivor must cope with the loss, at least temporarily, of your sense of safety. The natural reaction to this loss is grief. Like people who have lost a loved one, you need to go through a grieving process. The following tips can help you cope with the sense of grief, heal from the trauma and move on with your life.
Trauma recovery tip 1: Get moving
Trauma disrupts your body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. As well as burning off adrenaline and releasing endorphins, exercise and movement can help repair your nervous system.
Try to exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days. Or if it’s easier, three 10-minute spurts of exercise per day are just as good. Exercise that is rhythmic and engages both your arms and legs—such as walking, running, swimming, basketball, or even dancing—works best.
Add a mindfulness element. Instead of focusing on your thoughts or distracting yourself while you exercise, really focus on your body and how it feels as you move. Notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of wind on your skin. Rock climbing, boxing, weight training, or martial arts can make this easier—after all, you need to focus on your body movements during these activities to avoid injury.
Tip 2: Don’t Isolate
Following a trauma, you may want to withdraw from others, but isolation only makes things worse. Connecting to others face to face will help you heal, so try to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone. You don’t have to talk about the trauma. Connecting with others doesn’t have to involve talking about the trauma. In fact, for some people, that can just make things worse. Comfort comes from feeling engaged and accepted by others.
Ask for support. While you don’t have to talk about the trauma itself, it is important that you have someone to share your feelings with face to face, someone who will listen attentively without judging you. Turn to a trusted family member, friend, counselor, or clergyman. Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. Do “normal” activities with other people, activities that have nothing to do with the traumatic experience.
Reconnect with old friends. If you’ve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect.
Join a support group for trauma survivors. Connecting with others who are facing the same problems can help reduce your sense of isolation and hearing how others cope can help inspire you in your own recovery.
Volunteer. As well as helping others, volunteering can be a great way to challenge the sense of helplessness that often accompanies trauma. Remind yourself of your strengths and reclaim your sense of power by helping others.
Make new friends. If you live alone or far from family and friends, it’s important to reach out and make new friends. Take a class or join a club to meet people with similar interests, connect to an alumni association, or reach out to neighbors or work colleagues.
SELF- REGULATE YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
Tip 3: Self-Regulate your Nervous System
No matter how agitated, anxious, or out of control you feel, it’s important to know that you can change your arousal system and calm yourself. Not only will it help relieve the anxiety associated with trauma, but it will also engender a greater sense of control.
Mindful breathing. If you are feeling disoriented, confused, or upset, practicing mindful breathing is a quick way to calm yourself. Simply take 60 breaths, focusing your attention on each ‘out’ breath.
Sensory input. Does a specific sight, smell or taste quickly make you feel calm? Or maybe petting an animal or listening to music works to quickly soothe you? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment with different quick stress relief techniques to find what works best for you.
Staying grounded. To feel in the present and more grounded, sit on a chair. Feel your feet on the ground and your back against the chair. Look around you and pick six objects that have red or blue in them. Notice how your breathing gets deeper and calmer.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it. Acknowledge your feelings about the trauma as they arise and accept them. Help Guide’s Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can help.