Human beings have an incredible capacity for emotion. The intense excitement, joy, and love we can feel is one of the best parts of being alive, but unfortunately, we can also experience the opposite extreme. Stressful and traumatizing events can have severe emotional repercussions, and overcoming these challenges can be very difficult. Emotional trauma can completely take over your mind and prevent you from living a full and happy life. If you’ve been through a traumatic event, you might struggle to process your fear, grief, anger, or sadness. Recovering from emotional trauma takes a great deal of effort and intention, but it’s necessary for your mental health. In order to truly move past your trauma and achieve peace, you should prepare to take active steps toward wellness.
What Is Emotional Trauma?
Emotional trauma is any life event that leaves you feeling afraid, helpless, distressed, or despondent. Going through an emotional trauma can completely destroy your sense of security and force you to reimagine your understanding of the world.
To get through the immediate danger during a traumatic event, your brain might enter “fight or flight” mode. You may not process what’s going on because you’re so focused on your immediate safety and survival. However, over time, intense and painful emotions can start to take shape in your mind.
Types of Emotional Trauma
Emotional trauma takes on so many different forms. Most people will experience at least one emotional trauma in their lifetime, but our responses to traumatic events can vary. Some forms of emotional trauma may seem more severe than others, but any emotional trauma can have lasting emotional effects.
The following are just a few examples of emotional trauma:
• Loss of a loved one
• Experiencing a natural disaster
• Assault, abuse, or domestic violence
• Serious or life-threatening illness
• Losing your job
• Divorce or breakup from long-term relationship
• Experiencing humiliation or bullying
Emotional trauma can have a long-term effect on your emotions, your thinking habits, and your behaviors. You might feel like you’re a different person after your emotional trauma, or you may divide your life into two eras: before your trauma and after.
Here are some of the symptoms you may face during or after an emotional trauma:
• Feeling anxious or on-edge
• Feeling helpless or hopeless
• Crying more often than usual
• Change in your self-image
• Feelings of guilt or shame
• Social isolation
• Avoiding people or situations that remind you of your emotional trauma
• Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, overeating, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms
6 Steps to Healing From Emotional Trauma
Recovering from emotional trauma is possible with patience, self-compassion, and support from others. Here are six steps you can take to heal from your emotional trauma:
1. Allow yourself to begin the healing process.
While time might make the emotional trauma feel more distant, you cannot simply wait for yourself to feel better. You must make a conscious decision to allow yourself to heal. By approaching the healing journey with intention, you give yourself the space and energy needed to recover.
Often times, people try to run from their memories and emotions after an emotional trauma. For a while, suppressing your emotions and turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms may work. Deciding to truly heal can be scary because it requires you to face your experiences directly. It has to happen eventually, though, and the sooner you commit to the healing process, the sooner you’ll feel at peace.
2. Feel your emotions without judgment.
Being mindful about your emotions is one of the best ways to process your trauma. Self-judgment is common when healing from trauma, but you can’t help feeling the way you feel. Criticizing yourself for your emotions only adds another layer of hurt, shame, and guilt, which is not conducive to your recovery.
All emotions are valid after you’ve gone through a traumatic event. If you feel like you need to cry, let yourself cry. If you feel angry, allow yourself to experience this anger. While you shouldn’t act on these emotions and do something reckless or harmful, learning to sit with your feelings will help you heal.
3. Seek support from your loved ones.
Social support is so helpful during and after a difficult life event. If your loved ones want to help you, allow them to. Your friends or family could lend a listening ear if you need to talk about your trauma, or you could just enjoy their company to elevate your mood. Many people isolate themselves socially after emotional trauma, but you should try to do the opposite.
4. Talk to a therapist.
Attending therapy is the most important step you can take when healing from trauma. Going through a traumatic event can cause permanent changes to your brain and your way of thinking, but processing your experiences in therapy will help you protect your mental health.
Your therapist will offer you a safe environment for you to recount your trauma and explore how it has affected you. By gaining a stronger understanding of your response to your trauma, you can start to take control of your thoughts and behaviors. Counseling is also an opportunity to develop your coping skills so that you can get through difficult and emotional days.
5. Commit to self-care.
Self-care should always be a part of your regular routine, but it’s absolutely critical when healing from trauma. Recovery can be mentally and emotionally draining, so you should take plenty of time for yourself to rest and recharge. Getting enough sleep, spending time with your loved ones, and participating in your hobbies are all great ways to practice self-care.
Exercise is another excellent self-care strategy. Working out is a physical and mental stress reliever, so it can dramatically reduce your tension and anxiety after trauma. If exercise isn’t something you regularly engage in, you could still increase your movement by taking walks, practicing yoga, or trying other gentle forms of activity.
6. Remember that the process isn’t linear.
Even when you’re making active steps toward healing, recovering from emotional trauma is rarely a linear process. You might feel fantastic one day and anxious or upset the next. You could go weeks without thinking much about your trauma only for something to trigger a memory and make you backslide. No matter what happens, though, trust that the work is worth it. The difficult moments will become fewer and farther between, and although the trauma will always be a part of your life, it won’t rule your mind forever.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers counseling for trauma recovery and other mental health concerns. If you’re ready to heal from your emotional trauma, you can reach out to us to schedule a meeting with a therapist in Los Angeles.