Emotional trauma is the response to a devastating event. It usually lasts long after the event passes, with profound physical and mental health problems. Trauma goes beyond simple mishaps and is usually the result of serious incidents ranging from accidents to physical abuse. Because trauma is experienced differently by each person, their reactions to traumatic events also vary.
An almond-shaped structure in the temporal lobe, the amygdala is the system that processes emotions in your brain. It gets overloaded when we experience emotional trauma, and continues to be on alert for future dangers. The over stimulation of the amygdala causes some of the hyperarousal, avoidance, and anxiety associated with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The hippocampus can be triggered in many ways when impacted by trauma. Some people keep reliving that moment and cannot stop visualizing / experiencing it. Others suppress it almost too well, often having no immediate memory of the trauma.
The symptoms of emotional trauma cannot fit into a neat box, since they vary so vastly. While some people may lash out, others may become numb. Here are some commonly reported symptoms, the most important of which is a prior traumatic experience.
According to the Extended Recovery transformational model, trauma recovery happens in five stages.
These stages are not always linear, nor do they occur in fixed brackets of time. Sometimes recovery is messy, can result in temporary setbacks, or takes longer than you first thought. This model is just a framework, but your journey will be unique and best suited to your healing process.
Exercise contributes to stabilizing the chemical imbalance caused by traumatic events. Aerobic exercise like dancing, running, walking, or cycling, can be highly beneficial. It improves the functioning of the amygdala and hippocampus.
Yoga exercises, breathing techniques and Tai chi have a similar centering effect on your mind and body. Rigorous exercise releases endorphins which cause a temporary surge of exultation. While low intensity exercise has long-term benefits on mood and energy. Randomized trials have also demonstrated significant improvement in depression and PTSD symptoms with regular exercise.
After going through emotional trauma, your goal should be to prioritize self care. You cannot help others unless you help yourself. Start by trying to find a routine that helps engage your senses and makes you feel good in the moment.
Try to avoid unhealthy coping skills like alcohol or drugs. While they seem to provide a temporary relief, they are heavily detrimental in the long run. Surround yourself with the people who bring out the best in you, and avoid those who don’t. Your health is your priority at this time.
There is a general notion that opening up about your emotions is a weakness. Therefore, many people opt to deal with their trauma on their own. However, letting people hold your hand through the healing journey can have several benefits.
It reduces stress and loneliness. Additionally, being around your loved ones can increase the oxytocin in your body, making you feel positive and happy. Find a support system that you trust and lean on them.
No matter what you’re healing from, recovery is rarely a linear process. It is normal to feel a little better every day, and then get hit by a wave of anxiety. You may go weeks feeling centered only to have a trigger send you back to what you had felt earlier. But remember that in the long run, you are better.
Not everyone needs professional help to cope with emotional trauma. If the traumatic experience is impacting your daily life - seeking help from a therapist or support groups can help.
As mentioned before, everyone copes with trauma differently. The goal is simply to feel better, and you can do it your own way. Your therapist can help you face your trauma in a safe and encouraging environment and eventually help you conquer it.
There are many therapeutic approaches to emotional trauma like CBT, EMDR, and exposure therapy. You can work with your therapist to find what best suits your needs. There are also medications available for those facing intense symptoms.
Meditation regulates the sympathetic nervous system which goes into overdrive when we feel threatened. A study on 74 Army Veterans suffering from PTSD, revealed that regular meditation can help reduce dependency on medications and symptoms.Initially, closing your eyes can trigger flashbacks and cause people to avoid them. However, over time it aids in recovery.
Some ways to ease yourself into the process include – finding a therapist who understands trauma and meditation practices. There are other ways to reap the benefits of mindfulness based stress reduction which can also help with coping skills. Activities such as painting, knitting, puzzles, can help bring your attention to the present moment, while engaging your body and mind.
At Bloom Clinical Care Counseling and Therapy Services, we are Social Workers registered with the OCSWSSW. We have 25+ years of experience in supporting people experiencing grief & bereavement, depression, anxiety, guilt, anger, low self-esteem, stress, relationship issues and other mental health challenges. We do not require any referrals and are always welcoming new clients.
If you are looking for therapists near you in Toronto, Bloom Clinical Care is located at 1200 Markham Road, Suite 306C, M1H 3C3. We also offer virtual therapy options by phone or video call across Ontario. Help is available, and we may be able to help
Let us help you, help yourself.