Great news! You can heal! For years research focused on the damage done to victims brains and well-being by abuse, but as it turns out survivors are more resilient than anyone ever dreamed. They may feel broken, but they don’t have to stay that way.
Although after trauma, our brains are rewired, leading to the release of stress hormones and anxiety, we can choose to create new neuropathways and new responses to stress.
Trauma survivors have a personal basket full of coping mechanisms they use at times of stress. Some of the ways they use to cope worked well during trauma, like abusing alcohol, however, after the trauma passes abusing alcohol becomes an additional problem. Survivors can work on adopting healthier ways to cope.
Once a survivor finds a healthy way to self-sooth, like exercise, they can reinforce it through practice, making it easier to let go of some of the costlier methods. It’s hard to let go of a habit that has served a survivor well unless they replace it with a habit that serves them better and gives them a healthier sense of self-worth.
Here are some healthy coping mechanisms. Try one or try them all. Find out what comforts you and put it in your basket of coping mechanism for difficult days:
- Exercise. It isn’t necessary to run a marathon to benefit from exercise. It is important to find something participants like doing so they want to do it again. Anything from a calm nature hike to a cross-fit class constitutes a healthy way to reduce stress and combat depression. Remember, variety keeps it interesting.
- Read a book. Whether it’s a romance novel or a self-help book, it can be a mini vacation between covers. The library is free and filled with adventures to give readers a short break from life.
- Garden to Table. Gardening is a way to move, find peace and grow healthy food for interesting meals. Gardening can be a quiet solitary moment or a place to connect with family and community. Community gardens may offer free or low-cost space to plant vegetables and grow a healthy salad.
- Yoga or meditation. Trauma survivors often spend time disconnected from their feelings or their body. Sexual assault survivors sometimes feel their body has betrayed them. Yoga is a way to reconnect in a safe environment. Survivors should ask instructors if they are trauma informed and inform instructors if they are uncomfortable being touched. Learning to control breathing and relaxing are skills that can transfer outside the yoga studio.
- Art. Any form of arts or crafts that allow free expression of inner feelings is powerful. Be aware that art therapy is a safe environment to explore feelings and express them. Survivors, who are new to art, may experience powerful emotions as they process feelings.
- Music. Whether a survivor sings plays or is a part of the audience, music is therapeutic. A song can express a feeling a survivor hasn’t found words for, or lift an aching heart with hopeful notes.
- Writing. Anything from a short poem, journal entry to an autobiography can help a survivor process the good and bad experiences that make up all of our lives.
- Spiritual healing. Read, ponder and pray. Search out good books and spiritual connections that fill your basket.
What do you do to cope? Comment below and share ideas with other survivors. Let’s stop examining the trauma and start focusing on healing.