Traumatic events happen to many people in many different situations. While the severity of the situation can differ, anyone who has gone through trauma will be able to relate to other victims to at least some degree. Everyone has their own ways of coping with trauma, but I have a few steps that I follow that I hope can help you out, especially if you’re experiencing recent trauma and aren’t sure what to do next (or even if you’re revisiting old trauma and need to find a healthy way to cope with it!) These tips will not work for everyone, but they sure have been a godsend for me.
1: Keep a Routine
I’ve always found that keeping a healthy routine of some kind has helped me slowly escape the symptoms of trauma. While some types of routines can seem monotonous and boring, you can create new or fun ones as a means to help yourself if need be. It’s always important to make sure that you get good sleep, eat well, and take care of your mind and body every day — and the more structured this can be, the more in control of your environment you feel.(1)
2: Appreciate the little things
One thing I don’t often see mentioned when people are discussing coping methods and trauma is to step back and appreciate the little things in life. I remember when I first left the hospital after having survived a near-death experience – everything was tinged with new life and new possibilities! When I left the hospital, it was raining. I’d hated rain prior, but just feeling the rain on my skin, feeling the cool breeze and knowing I was still THERE – that I was ALIVE – made me feel giddy and excited. Often now, when I go outdoors, I like to watch for different animals, mainly birds and bugs, to see what they’re up to. I appreciate things I never even noticed before – from cute stickers on the sidewalk to nice handwriting from a cashier. Stopping to smell the flowers, I’ve found, is a great way to cope with disturbing thoughts.
3: Help others
Nothing could ever compete to the feeling of helping others, in my opinion. A multitude of studies have shown that my hunch is scientifically accurate, too: helping others is actually good for you, correlated with “greater well-being, health, and longevity.”(2)
4: Treat yourself
It took us long enough, but self-care is finally starting to become mainstream, and as someone who’s preached about it for years, I’ve never been happier to witness a cultural shift. Self-care is one of the most important things we can give ourselves in the long term. Self-care means something different to a lot of people; to me, barring the obvious things like keeping your health and wellbeing in check, it means doing things that make me feel happy, and make me feel like me. If it means staying a night in and listening to your favorite podcast in a rose petal bath, then do it! If it means cranking up the heavy metal and dancing around in a circle for hours, do it! Do what makes you happy, but keep things in moderation – it is very important for us to have time to ourselves, to relax, to think, and to play, but we also need to keep our other life’s priorities in check!
5: Talk with loved ones or a therapist
Above all else, when you’re struggling really hard, it is vital that you talk to your close family/friends and/or a therapist. At the end of the day, trauma can be ridiculously hard to cope with, and there’s no reason to go at it alone. Let your voice be heard, and get all of your fears out in the open so that you can fight them one by one with the help of someone you trust. In my experience, nothing enables the emotional wounds of trauma more than keeping them to yourself.
1 – Lieber, Mark. “Maintaining a Daily Rhythm Is Important for Mental Health, Study Suggests.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 May 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/15/health/circadian-rhythm-mood-disorder-study/index.html
2 – Post, Stephen G. “Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It’s Good to Be Good.” SpringerLink, Springer-Verlag, June 2005, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1207/s15327558ijbm1202_4