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Updated: Jul 5, 2023

By Rhonda Armbrust

Trauma is any deeply disturbing experience that invokes an emotional response. It can be an accident, a rape, losing a loved one, being the victim of a crime or a natural disaster, or other events. Immediately after a traumatic incident, shock and denial are common. Longer-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, memory loss, and even physical symptoms like headaches and nausea.

Traumas can physically change your brain. During the event, your amygdala may take

you into a fight-or-flight mode. This can lead to troubling symptoms. Right after a trauma, neurons in the brain die, and cortical pathways decrease while previously unused neural networks are uncovered. A few days later, new synapses and neurons begin to form. The next few weeks are a critical time for healing as new pathways in the brain open.

Sometimes traumas will cause people to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the Mayo clinic, if the symptoms that occur after a terrifying event, like severe anxiety, flashbacks, recurring or intrusive memories, and nightmares, continue for months or even years and interfere with your daily life, you may be experiencing this disorder. Mayo Clinic PTSD can be so intense that a person will hallucinate when triggered by something. Traumas can bring on suicidal thoughts. If that is the case, don’t wait. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

The severity of your trauma may influence how you move past it. If it is in the PTSD realm, you should seek counseling or speak to your doctor. Getting help sooner rather than later can boost your recovery.

Most people have experienced some degree of trauma in their lives. There are strategies you should use after this type of ordeal and things you should not do. You shouldn’t ignore, repress, or otherwise bottle up your emotions. Strong reactions are a natural response to trauma. Sometimes we try to avoid thinking about a distressing incident by burying our thoughts under an extra workload or other self-defeating tactics. Instead, you can journal about your feelings, and/or talk to a trusted friend or a therapist. You can contact us at Best Life-ing. There are also support groups such as Compassionate Friends Grief Support. Visit this link Mental Health America to find groups and other resources related to trauma. The key is to address your struggle as soon as possible.

It is important to practice healthy coping strategies. This may feel like work, but it is a necessary step toward overcoming trauma. Relying on drugs and/or alcohol is the worst thing you can do. Pursue healthy activities such as regular exercise like yoga or tai chi, meditation, self-hypnosis, eating clean, getting enough sleep, and taking extra steps to be gentle and kind to yourself by indulging in a bubble bath, a massage, or a mani-pedi. Avoid making major life changes as your judgment could be off. Seek feedback and advice from trusted friends. It’s best to not take on too much because the added stress can be counter-productive. You need to allow yourself time to heal.

If you have a friend who has experienced trauma, you can help. Be there and listen. Offer to do some of their daily mundane tasks that might feel impossible for a victim to manage.

The good news is that there are ways out of trauma and you can take back your life. It will require time and effort, but giving yourself the opportunity to recover is an important step and well worth it.

Learn more about how to move past trauma in our podcast!

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