Going through any type of trauma can be difficult to process. Often, traumatic memories are stored in such a way that makes them difficult to access. This is your mind’s way of protecting you. That’s why it can take so long to heal from traumatic events.
However, you can use different tools and techniques to process trauma. Getting more in-tune with those memories and emotions can make it easier to move forward without holding onto the effects of your experience.
If you’re feeling stuck and ready to start overcoming your traumatic thoughts, here are a few of the tools that will help.
Focus On Your Breathing
It’s easy for someone to say “take a deep breath” when feeling overwhelmed. However, deep breathing isn’t just a way to calm down in the moment.
By breathing slowly and deeply, you can activate the part of your nervous system that allows your body to calm itself. Not only will that help you from feeling overwhelmed and anxious when a trigger occurs, but it can empower you to remain calm more often. It’s a tool that can be used any time, anywhere, and offers instant relief from distressing symptoms.
Acknowledge Your Experience
It’s not uncommon for people who have been through a traumatic experience to keep it to themselves. It’s especially problematic for those who have gone through childhood trauma. You might think that keeping things pushed down or repressed will make it easier to cope with life. Unfortunately, it makes things harder.
Emotions are demanding. Acknowledging and validating your experience will make it easier to cope with them and open up opportunities to get help and support when you need it most.
Try the Five Senses Approach
You may not have given much thought to your five senses since you learned about them as a child. However, now could be a perfect time to focus on them again. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by your trauma symptoms, let your senses serve as both a distraction and a way to re-focus.
Start with five things you see. That could include birds in the sky or your co-workers across the room. Then, focus on four things you feel or can touch. From there, go down to three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Repeat as needed until your body and mind feels more calm and more grounded.
This approach helps you be more mindful and can bring you back to the present moment without working at it. If you’re not familiar with mindfulness practices, this is a great way to start.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
We’ve all heard that saying about laughter, but sometimes it’s easier said than done when working through the effects of trauma.
However, there’s a lot of truth to the saying, and it should serve as motivation to laugh more! Laughing puts you in a good mood and can reduce stress, making the long-lasting effects of trauma weaker over time. When you laugh, your body releases specific hormones that actually rewire your brain and boost your immune system.
Try seeing a funny movie or going to a comedy show. Or, spend more time with people who always make you laugh.
Use the Window of Tolerance
When you’re first dealing with the effects of trauma, your “window of tolerance” might be small. You might have a hard time talking about your experience, and it’s easy to get triggered by things in the outside world.
Over time, however, you can learn how to stabilize your feelings through other coping techniques and the help of therapy. As a result, your window of tolerance will grow. It gives you space to turn to it whenever you need it, but the goal is for it to keep opening wider, so you can easily talk about and cope with your experience.
Processing trauma isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Use these tools to help you cope with whatever you’ve gone through, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.