Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events and situations, from sexual abuse and physical violence to natural disasters and even car accidents. When an individual experiences trauma, they may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma symptoms. Although trauma can have a devastating impact on an individual’s life, not everyone who experiences trauma will be diagnosed with PTSD. To manage PTSD and trauma symptoms, learn more about the effects of trauma, the importance of self-care, and the power of healthy coping mechanisms.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition brought on by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include intrusive thoughts, avoidance, mood swings, and intense reactions. With time, most people can learn to cope and heal. But if these symptoms last, or begin to interfere with daily life or relationships, you may be suffering from PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Being easily startled
- Inability to feel safe
- Tension in your jaw, neck, and back
- Distressing flashbacks
- Emotional distress
- Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse or dangerous driving
- Inability to focus
Other Symptoms of Trauma
- Physical arousal
The effects of trauma can be devastating because it can change the way an individual understands their reality and views their future. Unwanted, recurring memories of the traumatic event may confirm feelings of hopelessness, fears of death, or the anticipation of more trauma. Managing symptoms of PTSD and trauma can be difficult, but therapy can teach you healthy coping skills and provide support throughout your healing process.
How to Manage PTSD and Trauma Symptoms
1. Understand the Effects of Trauma
The first step to managing PTSD symptoms is to understand the effects of trauma on the mind and body. Experiencing trauma can cause your brain to process memories differently and leave your body feeling on constant alert. Understand that the symptoms you are experiencing are a completely normal response to a traumatic experience.
You may think that shame or guilt is keeping you up at night when insomnia is a common symptom of trauma. Maybe when your gut aches you think it’s stress-induced but acid reflux medication may actually help to assuage the pain and the guilt. It’s important to understand the physical, emotional, and mental toll that trauma can take on an individual.
2. Practice Self-care
One of the most accessible ways to manage PTSD and trauma symptoms is to practice self-care. Living with PTSD and trauma can be debilitating– even “simple” daily tasks are insurmountable when you’re suffering from depression and anxiety. Celebrate the small things, and modify your tasks so that the impossible can now be possible. Make it your goal to take a nice hot shower, brush your teeth, call a friend, or walk the dog. But on those days when a shower seems impossible, wash your face and call it a day. And, remember to still treat yourself by watching a feel-good show, settling down with a new book, or getting a coffee.
Don’t beat yourself up if you cannot complete the entire task at hand. Instead, celebrate what you were able to accomplish. Prioritize activities that make you feel good, like exercise and time with friends and family– or relaxing and time without friends and family! Establish healthy eating habits like intuitive eating and meal planning to get your body and mind back on track. The point is to allow yourself to feel good without punishing yourself for feeling bad!
3. Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms
There are several healthy coping mechanisms that you can keep in your toolbox for managing PTSD and trauma symptoms. Healthy coping strategies can help you reframe a traumatic experience and deconstruct your triggers in a way that allows you to grow. It’s important to practice compassion toward yourself while protecting your personal healing process.
Self-monitoring or journaling
Self-monitoring can be a great way to gain more insight into your trauma symptoms and evaluate your current coping skills. To self-monitor, you’ll need to focus on observing and recording certain behaviors, thoughts, or feelings you may be experiencing. Through repetition, you’ll be able to identify patterns and avoid triggers. Over time, you’ll be able to draw connections between healthy coping skills and daily habits. When you feel triggered, use a special notebook (or even your smartphone!) to record your feelings, thoughts, and accompanying symptoms.
Mindfulness exercises like yoga and meditation
Studies have proven over and over again that intentionality and mindfulness can significantly lessen symptoms of depression, anxiety, restlessness, and other symptoms of PTSD. Use mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, guided meditation, and yoga to make a habit of intentional thoughts and self-awareness. Regular meditation and breathwork can help you become more familiar with your thought processes and connect triggers to trauma responses.
Behavioral activation is perfect for those whose minds are moving too fast to be calmed by yoga or meditation. This process introduces a system of reward and repetition to an already positive interaction. By relying on positive reinforcement, you can increase the connection between a certain activity and feeling good! Make a list of activities that are enjoyable or meaningful to you, like hiking, meal planning, listening to music, going out for coffee, hanging with friends, or even binging Love Island alone. Set goals to reach each week and explore different strategies to keep you motivated. Rewarding yourself for establishing healthy habits can help you build a sense of control and give less attention to automatic trauma responses.
A large part of managing PTSD and trauma symptoms is learning about control in the present moment. Instead of blaming yourself for the past or worrying about the future, recognize the importance of taking control of the present moment. It may seem like a small thing, but realizing the limitations of your control while testing those boundaries goes a long way in establishing autonomy for future you, too. Use self-soothing tactics to relax, then acknowledge traumatic events as they resurface without letting them overwhelm you. Physical self-soothing can help keep you grounded in the present when trauma creeps up from the past.
Some good ideas for self-soothing include:
- Self-holding (like a hug!)
- Hot water bottle
- Weighted blanket
- White noise
- Ice bath for your face
4. Surround Yourself with Support
Reaching out for help can be intimidating, but it’s an essential part of the healing process! You don’t have to go through recovery alone. Talking about your PTSD symptoms or trauma can help you reframe your experience and practice the coping skills you’ll need to deconstruct your triggers. New Hope Counseling and Wellness provides trauma-informed care and treatment, including trauma-focused therapy, exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and somatic experiencing therapy.
Get Help and Hope For PTSD and Trauma Symptoms
There is no easy way to recover from trauma, but understanding the effects of trauma, practicing self-care, learning healthy coping skills, and surrounding yourself with support are all crucial steps on the road to healing. With the right tools and support, you can manage your PTSD symptoms and find hope in tomorrow.
If you are living with PTSD or suffering from trauma symptoms and you live in the Soda City area around Columbus, South Carolina, there is HOPE! Contact us today to talk to a licensed therapist without having to leave your home!