Trauma is a nearly universal experience. Over half of the US population will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Full of nuance and always evolving in meaning, one thing remains the same – trauma leaves a mess in its wake.
Most of us associate trauma with an extreme event like physical or sexual abuse. The truth is, trauma encompasses a wide range of events, big and small. In fact, trauma is any experience that we weren’t prepared for and never fully processed. It could result from a single incident, or it could be formed over a prolonged amount of time.
Trauma is incredibly complex, and there is still much to learn about it. For example, two people could go through the same experience and one could walk out just fine, while the other walks away traumatized. That’s because trauma isn’t what happens to you. It’s about how the individual processes the lasting impact of a negative event.
Unresolved trauma can wreak havoc on our lives if it’s never addressed. It affects us mentally, emotionally, and physically. Long term trauma also makes us vulnerable to a variety of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
Trauma affects our sense of identity and how secure we feel moving through our world. Depending on how young you are when you experience trauma, it can affect development. Here are just a few ways unresolved trauma can affect our lives in the long term.
A lot of times trauma goes unresolved simply because we don’t have the tools to or knowledge to understand it. While you can ignore it for some time, the effects of unresolved trauma eventually catch up to you.
Healing is not a singular event, but an ongoing process. There isn’t a moment in time where you finally decide you’re “healed”, rather a journey you go through full of ups and downs. There will be times where you feel helpless and like you aren’t progressing. Remember that those are feelings, not facts.
Because of the complexity of trauma, there is no predetermined timeframe for healing from it. Healing is an individual process and will look different for everyone. The good news is, recovery is possible and there are tools you can use to start moving past your trauma.
You can’t think your way through trauma, but you can move through it. Exercise is excellent for anxiety and depression because it gets us into our body, where we can actively process negative emotions. Bonus points if it’s the kind of movement you enjoy.
Movement pulls us into being present in our bodies, which is a crucial component of healing trauma. If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety, a good tip is to practice movement and exercise in a place where you feel safe to move freely. Below are a few conventional and less conventional forms of movement.
When we repeat negative behaviors and act on emotional triggers, our first response is often shame and regret. You must remember that trauma is often deeply embedded in our subconscious and unconscious mind. Shaming ourselves only makes matters worse.
Healing begins with forgiveness. There is no healing in the face of self-hatred. Start by noticing the negative ways that you talk to yourself. Become an outside observer of your thoughts. From there, practice kindness towards yourself. You’re doing your best.
Trauma and the nervous system share an intimate connection. When we experience trauma, it pushes our nervous system out of balance. As a result, trauma gets trapped in the body. This is why nervous system regulation is an important part of healing trauma.
Below are a few ways you can practice regulating your nervous system.
It sounds so simple, but when you’re used to living in a state of survival, your breath is beyond your awareness and most likely very shallow. This keeps the nervous system in a state of flight or flight. Becoming aware of our breath and taking the time to breathe intentionally allows our nervous system a moment of rest and rejuvenation.
Cold exposure is tough, but it’s worth the expense. Cold exposure releases good feeling hormones and builds resilience. It strengthens your nervous systems capacity for discomfort, signaling that you are safe and you can do hard things.
Connecting with nature is like a hug for our nervous system. It reduces blood pressure, stress hormones, and nervous system arousal. Take your shoes off, feel the grass beneath your feet and the sun on your skin.
CBT is one of the most effective forms of therapy for most mental health disorders. CBT involves challenging and restructuring our thought processes. With the help of a skilled therapist, behavioral therapy can be a highly effective tool for working through trauma. Our experienced therapists located in Flower Mound and Southlake specialize in CBT and take exceptional care of our patients. You can learn more here.
Depending on the severity of our trauma, navigating through life often feels unsafe. Having a therapist to guide you through these heavy experiences in a safe space can be healing in itself. Our therapists in Flower Mound or Southlake, TX are trained to identify and work through trauma.
Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.