Trauma is a globally prevalent problem that comes as a result of an emotionally disturbing incident or life event. This leaves a negative effect in the individual’s functioning and overall well-being. This can occur at any age, and may range from personal experiences (such as acts of violence, accidents, and unexpected loss) to natural disasters (such as earthquakes, floods, and the pandemic). An individual’s response to trauma (called post-traumatic stress or PTS) is different from one person to the other. It may be expressed emotionally or physically, and may range from feelings of shock, disbelief, grief and anger to physical sensations such as rapid breathing, loss or increase in appetite, and unexplained aches. These responses are normal and naturally ease out in time. However, prolonged reactions to trauma (occurring for longer than one month) which start to interfere with one’s normal daily life indicate that the condition may have developed to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Strategies for dealing with post-traumatic stress
Healing from trauma, therefore, should be given importance and should never be taken for granted. Practicing daily self-care must be put in place to help deal with any adverse effects of a life event. It may be difficult to be calm when dealing with these events, but maintaining one’s composure may help one cope with it. Here are some strategies for doing exactly that. Collectively, they’re known as the CALMER strategy:
Connect. Having somebody to listen to your struggles enables you to let out the heaviness that you are carrying. It may seem difficult at first, but it is the first step toward healing from trauma. Reaching out to trusted family and friends would be helpful in receiving emotional support. Joining support groups with people who have experienced the same trauma is also beneficial in gaining insights on how others cope with the same trauma. If, however, you are still struggling despite these efforts, talking to a mental health professional would be the best option because they can help address your trauma triggers and provide strategies that will help you overcome it.
On another note, connecting to others does not always mean you have to open up your trauma to them. You can receive comfort when you feel that you belong and are involved with others you trust. Simply being with them and doing activities (whether new or usual) also helps you heal from the traumatic stress. What’s important is that you feel safe.
Accept your emotions. Experiencing trauma definitely yields unpleasant emotions. This is normal because traumatic events, the sense of safety and security is broken or compromised. Individuals should allow themselves to feel what they actually feel. They should remember that it is okay to cry, be angry, or feel guilty for some time. Letting out these emotions is necessary to heal and recover from painful emotions. This can be done through journaling, which allows individuals to sit with their emotions and finally let them go.
Also, individuals should remind themselves that what they are going through is not their fault. This is a difficult time. They need to acknowledge that it will heal in time. What’s important is that they don’t judge themselves for what they are going through.
Limit media exposure. Media coverage is not always about pleasant events happening around. Much of the time, news is disturbing and overwhelming to its viewers. Even though not related to the source of trauma, some forms of media may elicit the same emotions, thereby triggering recollection of the traumatizing event. When healing from trauma, it would be helpful to take a break from social media, especially before bed time to avoid viewing and reading distressing contents. What’s important is that individuals are surrounded with positive vibes to support healing.
Make healthy food choices. When experiencing PTS, physical changes in the body occur as a result of hyperarousal (fight/fight) or hypoarousal (freeze), thereby disrupting the person’s equilibrium. This can be fixed by regulating the nervous system through the help of a healthy diet as it can boost mood and increase energy levels. Dr. James Gordon designed a trauma-healing diet to help the body decrease PTS and reverse the damage that happened to the mind and the body. Specifically, this diet includes
- Eating whole and organic foods
Making non-starchy vegetables a major part of diet for a good source of antioxidant and soluble fiber
- Selecting better alternatives to white potatoes, pasta, and rice (e.g., sweet potato)
- Eating fruits in moderation
- Including high-dose multivitamin and multimineral supplements
He further recommends cutting down on meat and instead preferring beans, legumes and fish as the body’s main source of protein. Individuals should also stay away from caffeine especially when you are close to bedtime as it might further aggravate anxiety. What’s important is that you supplement your body with a diet that will reverse the impact of trauma and not further aggravate it.
Exercise. Tightening of muscles is one of the symptoms of PTS. This makes it more difficult to relax, thereby making it more difficult to let go of the emotional tension and trauma. One of the ways to combat this is to encourage body movement through regular exercise which has been shown to have multiple positive effects both on the mind and the body. Specifically, exercise helps burn off adrenaline and release endorphins, thereby helping the body go back to its equilibrium. It also serves as a mindfulness activity that distracts the mind from the sensations brought by trauma and further restores the “I can” attitude of the nervous system.
When engaging in exercise, remember not to overwork the body and start out slow gradually to build up to full capacity. Exercising two to three times a week for 30 minutes is a good start. However, if the idea of exercise causes even more stress, engaging in activities that involve body movement may be preferred. Going out for nature walks or riding a bike or dancing also help. What’s important is that individuals engage in body movements to feel better and have fun, not to further tense it.
Relax. Trauma is physically and emotionally exhausting, and rest is an appropriate response to it. Taking breaks from the usual routine is beneficial in healing. Moreover, practicing deep breathing exercises also helps in activating the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for calming the body and clearing the mind to be in the present moment. Another way to relax is to think about something positive, even for only 12 seconds, to create new neural connections that will replace stress and fear. Individuals should remember not to push themselves too hard.
How EVA Teleconsult can help with post traumatic stress
When being CALMER seems impossible and it becomes difficult to start looking for solutions, seeking professional help is beneficial. Book our mental health counselors to understand you or your loved one’s trauma and further process it to initiate healing. When you book a consult at EVA Teleconsult, you can always expect the following:
- Timely appointments and same-day booking – You’ll never feel like just another number with us. Appointments always start on time, right when you book them.
- Guaranteed minimum of 30 minutes of consultation – You’ll get a full explanation of your concern and how best to manage it, in a language you can understand. Afterwards, you can ask all your questions and voice any other concerns you may have.
- 5-star rated doctors – Don’t just take our word for it! Many of our patients have been so happy with the care that they receive that they give their doctors excellent ratings.