Healing After Trauma

Carrie Wallis

From time to time, we all experience unfortunate events, situations, and traumas. Although traumas might involve physical injuries and damage, they can also be emotional. It can be easy to brush aside such emotional impacts, but if unaddressed, the results of these emotional experiences can last for years.  

Today, we're focusing on the emotional aspects of trauma and what you can do to expedite your recovery. If you have been involved with the bushfires in Australia this last month, or at anytime the chances are you may be traumatised. This article aims to clarify the impacts trauma can have and share some tips and strategies to start the healing process.

Trauma and it's mental health impacts, like fire, does not discriminate. It does not matter if you are a professional fire fighter, volunteer, individual who has lost their home, survivor or live in a neighbouring community that was not affected, the emotional toll of the fires could be high. Take time, be gentle with yourself and recognise the signs in yourself so that you know when to seek further help.

Take some time to look back at your life and see if there are any old hurts that could use your attention. You can also use this as a guide the next time you experience an intense situation that leaves you emotionally smarting for a while.  

How trauma affects us:

It can be helpful to understand how traumatic events can impact us...

  • Neural pathways change - This means that how you may have dealt with stuff in the past may no longer be able to be accessed
  • Concentration - The ability to focus and concentrate will be less than previously. You may find it difficult to concentrate or settle to any particular task for long. 
  • Memory - Trauma impacts the brain and this can mean temporary memory loss or you may find it difficult to absorb new information.

Know that these are all completely natural reactions to experiencing trauma and time is required to heal.

Follow these trauma coping strategies to help you heal:  

1. Compliment yourself on making it through. You’re here and you’re alive. Whether your trauma involved emotions or physical injury as well, the fact is that you’re strong enough to have survived.  

2. Allow time to recuperate. You may not be completely recovered by next week. Healing from emotional trauma takes time and rest. This can be years. In the evenings after work, allow yourself some time to relax.  

3. Take it easy on yourself. Depending on your emotional trauma, you may still be going to work and carrying out your everyday life while you’re healing. Maybe you didn’t finish every task you wanted to complete while at work. Remind yourself that you’re doing what you can to get better and will soon be as efficient as ever. The impacts of trauma are temporary when dealt with correctly.

4. Think positive. Long known to conquer many afflictions, thinking positive thoughts will help you speed up your healing. When you’re thinking troubling thoughts like, “I feel so sad today,” remind yourself, “I’m taking important steps each day to feel better.”  

5. Find moments in each day to do what you like to do. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day, sit outdoors and watch the birds, work on the bookshelf you’re building, or check out your social media websites. Staying in touch with the things you love will speed your recovery.  

6. Let yourself cry. If you feel emotions building up inside you, it’s quite natural to want to release them by having a good cry. Crying will provide some relief and help you leave some of your pain behind you. Go ahead and cry.  

7. Listen to the music you love. Nothing brings joy to the soul in quite the same manner as music. Your prescription is: listen to music each day for at least 15 minutes. Some days you’ll find yourself extending that time a bit and maybe even singing along. Music will help you heal.  

8. Pamper yourself. If ever there’s a time to indulge in the creature comforts you love, it’s whenever you’re healing from trauma. On your day off, lie on the couch and read a book. Play games all day with your kids. Take a nice long walk with your best friend.  

9. Watch situation comedies on television. Laughing is good for your emotional healing process. You’ve probably seen a few comedies that you find humorous and entertaining. Now’s the time to ensure you watch a few every week. This is a bit of healthy escapism.  

10. Incorporate physical movement into your day. Provided the doctor says it’s okay, engage in some physical activity each day. Go for a swim. Lift weights, or get on the treadmill. Physical exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormones.  

11. Surround yourself with the people you love. Play with your kids. Talk to your partner. Call your best friend. Invite your brother over for a visit. Remind yourself of all the positive people you have in your life and take advantage of their loving care and support.  

12. Recognize when you need professional help. Allowing your emotional injuries to prevent you from living a full life is unproductive, at least after the initial few weeks or months. Instead, call a local mental health professional to help you sort through your challenging times.  

Healing emotionally after a trauma takes time, patience, and effort. Put the above strategies into action to speed your emotional recovery. Trust that you’ll be better soon and discover the rich, full life that’s waiting for you.  

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