The immediate effects of trauma are plentiful—panic attacks, sleepless nights, avoidance, and numbing; but what about what happens long after you’ve begun your road to recovery? What about the Stress that sometimes accompanies you on the path to healing? Stress is often a silent partner to trauma survivors, and it can cause general anxiety, non-stop worrying, body aches, illness and an overwhelming sense of fear. Since stress can cause both mental and physical damage, you must take steps to reduce stress in your life as you heal from trauma. Below are a few tips:
- Raise your awareness of what causes stress. Do your stress levels go up when you’re in a situation or place that reminds you of a traumatic event? Are there certain images or sounds that can trigger your trauma memory and stress you out? Whatever causes stress in your life, take steps to eliminate it, minimize or manage your response to it.
- Improve your nutrition. The connection between your physical well-being and your mental state is very real. Eating unhealthy foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt can make any stressful situation worse. To fight off stress, focus on eating foods that will help you stay calm such as avocados, asparagus, blueberries, oranges, oatmeal, and nuts. By improving your diet, you can make your road to trauma recovery a lot smoother.
- Exercise every day. Physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Not only does exercise keep you fit, it sends mood boosting hormones to your brain. In other words, exercise can help you feel calmer and happier, making it easier to for you to live a better life after trauma. Even if you can’t get to the gym, just doing a short walk outside or simple exercises in your home will go a long way to helping to you deal with stress caused by trauma.
- Stop all negative self-talk. Do you find yourself focusing on the negative? Paying too much attention to the bad things in your life (real or imagined) can increase your levels of stress and make it difficult to recover from trauma. Instead of telling yourself negative things, focus on the good about yourself and your life. That’s not to say you should ignore the bad, but it should not take up the majority of your thoughts.
- Don’t try to do it all. You’re only human and have a limited amount of time and energy. That said, don’t try to put too much on your plate, especially as you heal from trauma. Put together a schedule that allows you downtime and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Over scheduling your day can cause undue stress and slow down your trauma recovery.
- Develop your support network. One of the best things you can do to recover from trauma and reduce stress is to nurture a strong support network. Your support network should include people who can offer help emotionally, psychologically and physically. Having people who can help you when you’re in trouble offers a level of security that will automatically reduce the amount of stress you feel.
Remember, as part of your trauma recovery you must develop the tools to cope with and reduce stress. Your support network and trauma counselor can get help you develop the tools you need.