Trauma is a deeply distressing experience, often related to situations that involve grave danger, the threat of death or injury, or severe violence. Examples include car accidents, experiencing a natural disaster, sudden unexpected death of a loved one, sexual or physical assault, combat exposure, and political violence. Unfortunately, the majority of adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, with estimates sitting around 70%. However, not all those who experience a traumatic event will develop a mental health condition as a result, at least not long term. With that being said, it’s not uncommon to have difficulty adjusting after a traumatic experience. Roughly 8-9% of adults who have experienced some sort of trauma will experience trauma-related anxiety (trauma anxiety) or PTSD. Other mental health conditions such as adjustment disorder, depression, and substance abuse are also common following exposure to a traumatic event.
Exposure to a traumatic event is never the victim’s fault nor is their response afterward. Due to the high prevalence of mental health conditions related to traumatic events, there are a variety of resources available and helpful tips on how to cope. However, one barrier to accessing mental health support is the social stigma associated with mental illness. Mental health stigma has improved over the years owing to more exposure in the media and more openness and honesty in the general public, however, it still remains a deterrent preventing those in need from accessing help. There is nothing to be ashamed of for needing support with your mental illness, trauma, anxiety, or PTSD. If you or a loved one is suffering please don’t hesitate to contact us for trauma support.
Below is a list of 8 things you can do to help support yourself or someone else struggling with PTSD, trauma-anxiety, or another mental illness.
1. Speak with a trained trauma counselor
One of the most beneficial tools for dealing with mental health is therapy. Speaking with a trained professional who understands your experience, the complexity of your illness, and how to treat it can make a world of difference in your healing. Psychologists, psychiatrists, trauma counselors, therapists, and PTSD specialists are all amazing resources to help promote your healing. Most trauma therapy is centered around talking; however, each professional will have their own approach designed to help relieve you of your suffering.
2. Seek out community
Unfortunately, a symptom and side-effect of trauma anxiety and PTSD is the tendency to isolate. Isolation can perpetuate mental illness and further worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is often observed with military veterans struggling with mental health. Remaining close to friends and family or your support network will have a positive impact on your mental health.
3. Share your experience with trauma anxiety
There’s a reason traditional therapy is centered around talking and sharing out loud, it helps! Sharing your experience in a safe environment may help you work through the traumatic event. Sharing can also be a powerful tool to help others heal. It may be worthwhile to seek out a support group where you can talk freely and comfortably. If sharing has been a trigger for you in the past, consider working through this with a trained professional first to ensure you get the support and care you need.
4. Exercise to support mental health
Although not a cure or treatment for mental illness, exercise, and regular physical activity have been shown to help support mental health in a variety of ways. It improves mood by releasing chemicals in the body and brain that increase feelings of joy and decrease feelings of pain. In addition to that exercise helps with some of the physical symptoms of mental illness such as weight gain and reduced cardiovascular health. Exercise is also something you can do with a friend, making it social; good for your body and mind.
5. Go easy on alcohol to relieve trauma anxiety
Alcohol can sometimes be used as a self-medicator because it relaxes the nervous system and acts as a numbing agent. Substance abuse, PTSD, and other trauma anxiety disorders can sometimes co-occur. Speak to your doctor and trauma counselor about the best ways to engage with alcohol and other substances while you’re healing. Herbal teas such as holy basil, lemon balm, and passionflower have relaxing properties and are not damaging or addictive.
6. Keep in Touch
If engaging with your community isn’t an option at the moment due to where you live or the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, set up socializing in a way that fits your needs and lifestyle. Maybe this means scheduling calls with friends or having a family group chat. Or maybe this looks like you asking friends to call you to keep in touch. It’s hard to reach out to others when you’re struggling with mental health, so ask your loved ones to keep in touch with you. Tell them you want to chat but it’s hard for you to pick up the phone but you’d really appreciate a call once a week. You are not being needy for wanting to keep in touch with your loved ones.
7. Include some new habits into your routine
Again, this won’t treat your mental illness, but changing your routine up to include a few new things might make you feel better and help motivate you to keep healing. Try and make time for a hobby or activity that brings you joy and calmness. Other habits to include are changing your diet, prioritizing sleep and downtime, and focusing on stress management and mindfulness. Don’t feel like you have to add in everything or make changes to your whole life, that’s overwhelming. Simply try one thing at a time and see what works, you might find yourself energized and excited to try more new habits as you go.
8. Be open-minded with trauma therapy
This may feel especially difficult when you feel like having a closed mind is the only way to keep yourself safe, but remaining open-minded to therapy options and healing outcomes will make your healing journey better and more enjoyable. Psychotherapy, medication, Reconsolidation Therapy™, animal-assisted therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are just some of the trauma counseling resources available to you. If something hasn’t worked in the past, then try something new!
Please know that you are not alone and you don’t need to cope in isolation or struggle with trauma anxiety, there is relief from your suffering. For more information about My Recon Therapy and the other trauma counseling services we offer, please visit our website. For other questions or support, please don’t hesitate to reach out, we’re here to support you!