We were taught to be kind to others, turn the other cheek, and work hard. Helping others has always been seen as a noble and praiseworthy thing to do. The thought of putting oneself first was unbearable for many and an act of selfishness for others. We had chores to do, families to care for, and bills to pay. There was no room for silly things like mindfulness and self-compassion!

Fortunately, times are changing and, with them, the idea that we deserve less attention and care than the people we care for and love. Millennials have found the courage to talk about the power of self-care and there is no going back. We know the truth now! We know that self-love is the shortest path to follow if we want to live happy lives. We know that self-care is not selfishness, indulgence, or a trend. Self-care is a necessity!

As a matter of fact, studies have shown that self-care practices have a major impact on the successful management of diseases like diabetes mellitus. Patients with diabetes manage to have better glycemic control when they include self-care activities in their daily routine. From healthy eating and exercising to monitoring their blood sugar levels, everything contributes to the reduction of complications and a better life for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, you don’t have to be diagnosed with something to start exercising self-care.

If before the COVID-19 pandemic, we associated self-care with yoga classes, gym sessions, going out with friends, and spa treatments, given our current situation, we should think about self-care at a smaller scale but not lose sight of the big picture. There are plenty of self-care activities we can do in the comfort of our home that will invite self-love, peace of mind, relaxation, and motivation in our hearts and minds. We just need to make self-care a priority and treat every day as a mental health day!

 

lady exercising

Exercise daily

You can exercise as much or as little as you want and can, but do it regularly. Whether you take a short walk around the block, do yoga in the courtyard with your dog, or jog for 15 minutes, you will feel the difference. Any exercise is better than no exercise at all. There’s no need for me to tell you about the importance of staying active. It’s common knowledge. However, I will remind you that exercise has the power to improve your mood, well-being, and mental health. It boosts your energy levels and invites positivity into your life. Moreover, exercise helps you achieve better sleep. In other words, exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have against anxiety, depression, or simply a bad day. And of course, it helps you maintain a healthy weight and improve your body image, both important aspects for a healthy relationship with yourself.

 

woman taking a bath

Take a long and mindful bath

Forget about showers on the run once in a while. We know, the world needs you but it will not crumble if you decide to immerse yourself in a world of fragrances and calming music. Your bath can easily become an aromatherapy session if you add jasmine, lavender, or ylang-ylang to your bathing ritual. A 2009-study discovered that fragrances can affect our mood, physiology, and behavior, so include essential oils in your life for indulgent self-care experiences. Try to relax during your bath and focus on the present. Mindfulness is about focusing on the moment and experiencing everything it has to give. Keep any worry away from your bathtub. Focus your attention on yourself and all the positive feelings you exude on your self-care journey.

 

chamomille tea

Make time for tea

Tea time is not reserved only for royalty. It can be the best excuse to take some time off from your daily duties and enjoy a few moments spent all by yourself. Tea time is not necessarily about drinking your tea, although it has been proven that green tea may lower your LDL levels and black tea can lower the risk of heart disease. Tea time is about the ritual of mental self-care. You can savor your tea near a window or in the courtyard while reading a book or eating a piece of cake. The idea is to create a corner of serenity and inner peace. Silence the outside world and think about yourself for a moment or two while spending time away from your phone, to-do list, and everyday life.

 

friends talking

Talk to your friends

Humans are and always will be social animals. We need to interact with each other to protect our mental health. Whether we do it for support or simply to say hi, it’s important to make time for friends. We don’t necessarily need to meet face to face for our interaction to have a positive impact on our mood and state of mind. Hearing the voice of someone we care for floods our body with positivity and oxytocin, a chemical in your brain that boosts the feel-good sensation. Some time alone is a great way to reconnect with yourself but so are conversations with good friends. We often listen to ourselves better when voicing out our thoughts, hopes, and worries. Healthy and smart conversations may reward you with a clearer picture of your life.

Studies show that about 60% of the US population has reported experiencing at least one trauma symptom in their lifetime. The good news is that this is not a permanent condition, there are effective treatments! Read on to learn more.

What is Emotional and Psychological Trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma occurs when a person is exposed to very distressing circumstances that leave them struggling to function normally afterward. The emotional response can range from extremely upsetting emotions and anxiety to feeling completely numb and disconnected.

Typically, when most people think of emotional trauma, they associate it with life-threatening events such as military combat, domestic violence, or sexual abuse. However, there is a very broad range of situations that can yield traumatic experiences.

What is a Traumatic Event?

A few elements that are commonly present in traumatic events are:

  • The person was not prepared for the situation or it was completely unexpected
  • The individual felt incapable or powerless in preventing the event
  • The stressful occurrence happened during childhood
  • What transpired was associated with extreme cruelty

Even though we typically associate trauma with a single event, it’s not always necessarily the case. Though people can certainly experience trauma from a single occurrence, it can also be the result of continual exposure to unrelenting stress. It may be the cumulative toll of living in a dangerous neighborhood, daily bullying, years of domestic violence, etc.

Whatever the source, its magnitude or perceived severity is less important than the effects on the individual. There is no shame in experiencing trauma from stressful events that others may not perceive as severe. Every person is different and their causes for, and reactions to trauma are also different.

 

girl experiencing emotional trauma

Symptoms of Emotional Trauma

Emotional reactions to trauma vary from person to person. Though there are many common reactions, each person may exhibit their own subset of symptoms of trauma. They encompass a wide array of emotional and physiological responses. We won’t cover all of them here, but among them are:

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Easily or frequently startled
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive alertness, always looking for threats, low sense of safety
  • Racing Heartbeat (Tachycardia)
  • Constantly agitated or on edge

Psychological Symptoms

  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating, loss of memory
  • Disorientation
  • A persistent sense of fear
  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Guilt and/or shame
  • Numbness, feeling disconnected
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Mood swings, irritability

Remember, people don’t need to experience all of these symptoms in order to qualify as a trauma response. However, if some of these symptoms persist for at least a month, it is very likely the case.

Effects of Untreated Psychological Trauma

If emotional trauma is left untreated, it can continue to worsen and slowly make the world of the affected individual smaller and smaller until they’ve completely isolated themselves. These individuals can manifest avoidance behaviors, aggressive behaviors, and various self-destructive behaviors that can worsen over time. Effective treatments for trauma are available and it’s important to get help. If left unchecked, common effects can be:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Depression
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Alcoholism
  • Compulsive behavioral patterns
  • Hostility
  • Sexual Problems
  • Self-destructive Behaviors
  • Dissociative Symptoms

When to get Treatment for Trauma

When you begin to feel that your past or current traumatic experience is interfering with your life, you should get help. Particularly, if your symptoms are worsening; even if the event was months ago. There are many effective treatment options available and trauma recovery is possible.

A licensed mental health therapist can assist you on the path to recovery. Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be especially helpful for trauma. This is a type of talk therapy where negative emotions and thoughts are identified and then discussed. The goal is to replace them with healthier ones.

For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t always as effective. However, there are other treatments like computerized treatments or animal-assisted therapy. A mental health professional can help you find the right treatment for you.

Immediately I can hear some of you asking, how long does it take? Though unsatisfying, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. Every person is different and their journey to recovery and restoring their sense of security is different. It can take weeks or months. No matter how long it takes, it’s worth it. It’s also important that you understand that anyone guaranteeing that you can recover in x number of days is either uninformed or more interested in your wallet than your mental health.

 

Girl by the ocean

Tips for Recovery

Though there is no substitute for the help of a qualified mental health professional, there are several things you can do to help promote healthy behaviors and reduce the frequency and development of unhealthy ones.

Exercise

The physical symptoms of trauma can put your body into a constant state of hyperarousal. The fear spikes your adrenaline and it’s healthy to engage in activities that help burn through it. Exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days can provide relief. Rhythmic exercises where you can involve your arms and legs, for example, walking, running, swimming, or dancing are best.

Connect With Others

As time goes by, you may feel the urge to isolate yourself. It’s important that you don’t give in to that and instead connect with your friends, family, loved ones, meet new people, etc. Needing some time alone is healthy, but too much time alone dwelling on your traumatic event is counterproductive. Try to cultivate hobbies that you can do with others, accept lunch invitations and spend time with other people. If interacting with others is uncomfortable or creates anxiety seek help from a counselor or therapist that can help you work through it.

Meditate

The traumatic event can generate a lot of stress and anxiety. Meditation is a great way to alleviate some of that stress. Your goal during meditation is to bring your focus and attention to the present moment. Focus on your breath instead of engaging with your distressing thoughts. It can be difficult, but with practice, it can help reduce the stress you are feeling.

One More Thing

We covered a lot about emotional trauma today. We discussed physiological and psychological symptoms, treatments, and even a few helpful tips that you can practice on your own. The last thing I want to add may also be one of the most important.

Remember that even though it may not feel like it, your feelings are normal. It’s the event or circumstances that created the trauma that is abnormal. It’s critical to understand that, so I’ll say it again, your feelings are normal. During this time, remember to be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion, you deserve it.

There are many great options to help you manage and overcome your trauma-related symptoms. If you’d like my help dealing with trauma, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be honored to take this journey with you.