Self Care for Emotional Trauma

Are you surviving or thriving?

Living with the effects of C-PTSD can feel like a game of Survivor: seeming threats can appear out of nowhere; people you trust may turn against you; and meeting your basic needs is uncertain at best. Survival is your number one goal for every day, and it’s exhausting.

This concept of thriving - flourishing, prospering, growing - is foreign to you because your energy and capacity are tied up in just making it through the day. But thriving intrigues you, and at some level you really want to do it. But you’re not sure how to bridge the gap between here (surviving) and there (thriving).

It comes up to come out

Does this sound familiar? Every time you start to see progress, conflict appears. Maybe you and your spouse are hitting a particularly loving period…and just when you start to feel so in love, you start wondering if he’s cheating on you or you get in a major fight. Or you finally land that great client or job, but instead of excitement you’re picking apart the situation.

Typically when you’re on the edge of expansion, conflict occurs because opening to life is in direct opposition to the unconscious strategies you’ve employed to keep you safe. Growth requires confronting our limits, but confronting our limits feels incredibly threatening. If symptoms have been dormant, like anxiety, night sweats, irritability, lack of focus/concentration, digestion issues, etc., they start coming back just when you start moving forward.

If you’re sure that this opportunity is for you, then these symptoms can be a clue that healing is imminent. It’s a different way to look at what’s happening, one that I hope is helpful for getting “unstuck.” These symptoms aren’t coming up to stop you; they’re coming up to show you where your wounds are. When that happens, you can tend to the wound and provide the conditions for healing. Thus, “It comes up to come out.”

Top Five Self Care Practices

Remember that you’ve built enough capacity to handle these things coming up. You ARE enough to handle what’s in front of you. And if you go back to basics, you’ll see that you do have what it takes to walk through this healing journey. When the symptoms come back, return to the basics of self care. Be selfish in doing these things. They will support you in processing and moving through the inevitable anxiety of growth and change.

  1. Go the F to sleep. Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Your brain and nervous system need time to rest. Go to bed at the same time every night. Keep your room dark and cool. Put electronics far away from your head and cover up their lights. And organize your entire life around the sacred 9-hour block you schedule for sleeping. This one may be challenging but it’s so worth it. Also, I recognize that sleep may be extremely difficult so this could be frustrating to read. Under the bonus practices below, I suggest counseling. If you have sleep problems, you could discuss them with a counselor. You may also consider seeing a medical professional (I’d start with acupuncture) who can help you get to the root of your sleep disturbance.

  2. Eat real food. Lean protein, fresh produce, healthy fats, and whole grains are your best sources of fuel. Find food that’s as close to its original form as possible. And if you can’t pronounce or recognize an ingredient, don’t put it in your mouth. Your body probably won’t recognize it either.

  3. Move yourself. Find how you like to move and do it daily. Sometimes people call this “exercise,” but there are a lot of connotations that come along with that word so I call it movement therapy. Just move your energy around, whether it’s dancing or swimming, running or walking, yoga or kickboxing. My favorites are running, yoga (what I do and teach), HIIT, and walking. You do you. And enjoy!

  4. Hug a tree. Literally, take off your shoes, put your feet on the earth, and wrap your arms around a tree. Connect with the magnetic field of the earth and root yourself deeply into her delicious vibes. If this doesn’t seem quite right to you, just go outside and enjoy nature. Get some sun on your skin. Check out the green grass or the leaves on the trees. Appreciate the blue sky.

  5. Breathe. One of my favorite yoga teachers used to say, “As we learn to control the breath, we learn to control the mind.” Sit comfortably and place your hand on your lower belly. Imagine a balloon behind your hand and inhale slowly, trying to fill up that balloon. On the exhale, just let that balloon release softly and gently. Do this for 5 rounds (one inhale + one exhale = one round). Repeat as needed.

The practices above create the stability and support needed to withstand the inevitable ups and downs of healing. They also help create structure, something that must be in place for us to feel safe enough to walk through hard shit.

Bonus Practices

OK, I didn’t want to overwhelm you with more things to do, but I did want to mention these as additional possibilities if you want to take them on.

  1. Mindfulness / Meditation. There are many ways to train attention. Eyes open or closed. Sitting or moving. Indoors or outdoors. The right way to do it is the way that works for you. Try 5 minutes once a day to start. See where that leads you. Here’s a free 5-minue meditation that I created for Calm, Clarity, and Confidence.

  2. Journaling. Sometimes it helps to do a brain dump. My favorite method is to write whatever I’m thinking for 30 minutes and get it out of my head. I’ve watched the crazy train turn into the peaceful plane in a matter of minutes using this technique. It can also help you get clear and provide a place for truly free self-expression.

  3. Counseling. I highly recommend EMDR for treating trauma. Only a professional counselor can deliver EMDR. Check credentials on this one. If you need a referral, ask me. I am NOT a counselor and do not provide EMDR but I know plenty of people who do.

  4. Acupuncture. No doubt, living with trauma takes a toll on the body. Adrenal fatigue is common, which then impacts hormones and digestion. If you can get some biological support, the mental-emotional challenges might be met with more ease.

  5. Massage. Fatigue and soreness are often present and can be alleviated by massage. When you’re not fighting physical discomfort, you free up capacity to deal with the mental-emotional discomfort of change. And physical touch helps us remember to come into our bodies, the safest space we can cultivate.

Be selfish with your self-care

In closing, remember that these small practices are what allow you to show up for the rest of the challenges that life offers. It may be helpful for a period of time to be somewhat selfish about these practices. And it may also be a growth edge for you to honor your own boundaries (why counseling and yoga are suggested practices).

If you’d like to learn more about how the practice of yoga can support you to work through emotional trauma, please contact me today.

May all beings be happy and free.