How to Heal From Trauma

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If you have recently dealt with a traumatic event, you might be worried that you're going to feel lousy indefinitely. While it can certainly take some time to feel fully happy and healthy again, there are many steps you can take to help you move forward. Know that you will indeed be OK again and that you have the power to make your healing journey an effective one.

This article discusses how to heal from trauma. First, we'll first look at exactly what trauma is so you can be clear that it's what you're experiencing, then we'll share various steps you can take and tips you can try.

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What Is Trauma?

Trauma is the result of a negative event. It occurs when you feel emotionally or mentally hurt by something that has happened, and it may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, which is commonly referred to as PTSD.

Examples of traumatic events include the death of someone you love, experiencing abuse, a plane or automobile crash, an extremely difficult relationship or breakup, or a natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane.

If you feel shocked, saddened, anxious, or otherwise overwhelmed by an occurrence like one of the above, you're probably experiencing trauma. The trauma isn't the event or experience itself but rather your body and mind's response to it. Traumatic stress affects the brain, which makes it crucial to take steps toward recovery and mitigate its negative effects and impacts as much as possible.

If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Accept Support

First and foremost, getting past trauma is to want to heal and be willing to accept the help and support. It might turn out that much of your healing journey occurs alone, or it might involve a lot of community support or individual therapy. Whichever route it's going to take naturally, you'll have the best chance of recovering well if you are in the space of accepting support.

You might receive support from loved ones, a support group, a therapist, or from friends or colleagues. The important part here is to get into a mindset where you understand that others may likely be able to help you, and you are willing to take that help.

Find the Right Help

Next, you'll want to find the right type of help for your situation. If therapy seems like the right step for you, you can look specifically for a trauma-informed therapist to ensure the therapist is able to work with trauma and provide you with the best possible service.

Or, it might feel better to attend a support group so that you can be around others who have experienced a similar situation and find understanding and community.

Connect With Others

Whether or not you attend a support group around healing, it will help you connect with other people. You don't need to center your trauma with the group, and you don't even necessarily need to talk to other people about your trauma if it doesn't feel like the right move for you.

Connection with others is key to happiness as humans, and isolating yourself while dealing with trauma can lead to negative outcomes like depression. Spend time with friends when you feel up for it, and share what you've experienced when it feels right.

Physical Movement

Exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of PTSD. In addition to directly helping you heal, exercise and physical movement also provide your body with much-needed feel-good chemicals like endorphins.

If you don't love working out, that's OK! Take walks, do something fun like bike riding or roller skating, move along to a yoga video, or have a solo dance party. Anything that involves moving your body will help you heal.

Work With Your Feelings

Journaling is a common way to manage stress and move through complex events. Give it a try if it feels like it might be beneficial for you. If it doesn't, it will still be helpful to spend time sitting with your feelings.

Do your best to get in touch with what you're feeling, allow yourself to experience it entirely for a few moments, then notice how it passes.

Feeling your feelings, and accepting them, is key to healing from trauma. You may have some difficult feelings along the way, like anger, and that's OK. It's natural to have a wide variety of emotions, and there's nothing wrong if some of them are new for you.

Practice Self-Care

Self-care reduces stress. Equally important, it feels good. Practice self-care through your healing journey by regularly taking action to do things that feel good and loving for yourself.

Self-care acts can be simple and free and might be as mundane as taking a bath. What matters is that you set time aside to care for yourself, and you do things that make you feel loved.

Avoid Recreational Substances

While healing from trauma, it might be incredibly tempting to drink or do drugs. Because recreational substances are addictive and help your brain stop thinking and feeling, this is not the right time for them.

You won't be able to work through your feelings if you're actively avoiding them by taking substances. Know that this is temporary, and you can go back to activities like social drinking once you have taken the time to heal from your trauma.

Take Breaks

When moving through healing, you might find that you're more tired than usual. Or, you might feel like you have physical energy, but your mind doesn't work as well. Healing from trauma takes a lot of energy.

The best way to deal with reduced energy during this time, whether physical or mental, is to be gentle with yourself. Taking breaks, even from doing fun things, to pause and give yourself a moment will help keep your energy up and ensure you don't exhaust yourself.

Practice Mindfulness or Meditation

One act that's well-proven to support healing is mindfulness. It's a method of experiencing life where you make a point of paying attention to each moment. You stay present for everything from your thoughts and feelings to how things are for you physically. This can help you relieve stress.

Additionally, meditation and breathwork, which are natural offshoots of mindfulness, can improve stress levels and help you to feel more relaxed and settled in your life. These are all helpful for healing.

Engage in Creativity

Lastly, having fun is a great healing tool. Getting creative, for you, might mean making music or just listening to it. It might mean writing poetry, journaling, or even just reading a fiction book. Engaging your brain in creative and artistic endeavors has been proven to improve physiological and psychological outcomes in people.

You can try art therapy or be completely casual about your creativity and do it alone. What matters is that you engage with anything creative that feels positive for you.

Healing from trauma might feel overwhelming. Know that there are many options at your disposal, and if you use them, you'll be on your way to feeling better soon.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the five stages of trauma?

    Trauma can cause emotions similar to grief, which is why the five stages of trauma are similar to the five stages of grief. These stages are:

    1. Denial: A defense mechanism that helps to reduce the initial impact of the trauma
    2. Anger: The reality of the experience sets in
    3. Bargaining: People begin to try to take control of the difficult emotions they are experiencing
    4. Depression: Characterized by sadness, low energy, guilt, and social withdrawal
    5. Acceptance: A step toward healing that allows people to process their trauma and come to terms with what they have experienced

  • Can you ever completely heal from trauma?

    Yes, it is possible to fully recover from trauma and live a fulfilling, happy life. It may take time and, ultimately, you may not be the exact same person you were before the experience. However, treatment and self-help strategies can help you process your experience, develop new coping skills, and find ways to move past the trauma.

  • How long does trauma take to heal?

    It can take time to recover following a traumatic event. One study found that 20% of people recovered within three months, 27% within six months, and 50% of people with PTSD recovered within two years. The study also found that 77% had fully recovered within a decade.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.