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Emotional Trauma - 5 Strategies to Help you Heal

Traumatic events can have devastating impacts on our lives. Some people may experience a traumatic event and move on without lasting negative effects, while others experience traumatic stress reactions. Many emotions can arise, and it can feel that life will never be how it was, but there are strategies to heal, find peace, and feel happy.

What is Emotional Trauma?

Emotional trauma can occur from a single event or an ongoing situation. A single traumatic event may be an accident, sexual violence, or a natural disaster. Ongoing traumatic events can include partner violence, child abuse or neglect, bullying, medical trauma, war, verbal abuse, natural disaster, or refugee trauma.

Types of Trauma

Emotional trauma can be acute or chronic. Acute emotional trauma is the emotional response experienced during and shortly after a single distressing event. Chronic emotional trauma is the long-term response to prolonged or repeated events. Chronic trauma lasts months or years.

There are immediate reactions after a traumatic event such as shock, physical symptoms, and denial. Ongoing responses to traumatic events include flashbacks, mood swings, depression, and relationship difficulties. 

How to Know When Someone is Struggling With Emotional Trauma

The symptoms of emotional trauma can be both psychological and physical.

Psychological responses to trauma can be one or more of the following - changes in attitude, behaviour, attention, concentration, feelings of fear, anger or helplessness, mood swings, guilt, shame or blame, social isolation, avoidance, depression, and anxiety.

Physical symptoms of emotional trauma include elevated heart rate, body aches and tense muscles, fatigue, sleeping problems, changes in appetite, nightmares, and feeling on edge.

Strategies to Help You Recover From Emotional Trauma

Feeling like you won’t move forward and past traumatic events can feel overwhelming, but with time and actionable steps to heal, it is possible.

#1 Commit to Moving Your Body

Exercise is an excellent way of processing trauma and can help with trauma, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Trauma can cause the body’s senses to "be stuck" in a heightened state and fight-or-flight response. Exercise can help the body and mind reconnect. It stimulates the growth and diameter of blood vessels around the body and brain to improve physical and cognitive function. The nervous system restores balance by burning off adrenaline and releasing endorphins. Start slow with low-intensity exercise before building up to your full capacity.

#2 Prioritise Yourself

If you are constantly helping others, now is the perfect time to redirect that attention and care for yourself. Think about what makes you feel safe and happy. Be patient and give yourself time out when you need it. Set boundaries for others about what you want to do or talk about. Don’t be hard on yourself; find compassion and self-respect.

#3 Detach from the Past

Reliving painful experiences over and over again can cause you to hold on to pain and resentment. Commit to limiting the energy spent remembering and going over past events. What happened in the past cannot be changed. You do not have control over past events, but you do have control over how you feel and decide to live in the future.

#4 Start Something New

Trying new activities or hobbies can bring enjoyment. Commit to leaving the house every day or every second day to meet new people, find new interests, and inhale a breath of fresh air in a different environment.

Try a new self-care activity such as going for a walk, getting a massage, journaling, colouring or painting, yoga, or meditation.

#5 Seek Professional Help

It may be hard to recognise the need for professional help when your brain is cluttered with overwhelming thoughts. But the reactions may become chronic. Severe reactions can impact relationships with friends and family, the ability to work, and quality of life. Seek professional help if you:

  • Keep reliving the traumatic experience
  • Avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma
  • Have sleep problems or nightmares
  • Feel numb or empty
  • Have physical stress symptoms
  • Cannot return to work
  • Are using alcohol or drugs to help cope
  • Aren’t beginning to improve after 3 or 4 weeks  

FAQs About Emotional Trauma

How long does emotional trauma take to heal?

For some people, emotional trauma can last decades, and others experiencing the same trauma can heal within weeks. Past experiences, personality type, and external support impact recovery from traumatic events.

What are the emotional stages of trauma?

Emotional trauma can be divided into 5 stages:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

How do I let go of past emotional trauma?

‘Letting go’ of emotional trauma can be really hard. Most of the time, you cannot simply ‘decide’ you no longer want to be impacted physically or mentally by the trauma you have suffered. Many need to seek professional help, and it is advisable to do so.

Does emotional trauma ever go away?

Yes, most people recover from emotional trauma. Their symptoms subside as the body heals and recovers. It may take days, weeks, or months. Some people recover on their own, others with the support of family and friends, and some seek professional help. 

Our psychologists at Altius Group are dedicated to assisting people who require mental health treatment. We offer a warm, non-judgmental environment that supports individuals to talk openly about their problems and emotions. Contact us online or call 1800 258 487 for more information on healing emotional trauma.

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