Releasing Past Traumas: Healthy coping can be nurtured
When you were in school, did you ever notice that you would often get sick at the end of the semester? You would push so hard to get through the finals. You were looking forward to a much-needed break (maybe a vacation) only to find yourself in bed miserable with the latest virus going around. It’s as if your body gave you its all physically to perform at its best and it finally crashed at the end of it all.
This same scenario happens to us emotionally, as well. I have patients come to therapy all the time frustrated that they are struggling to enjoy their life despite so many good things going on around them. They will describe a history of childhood trauma followed by repeated chaos in their adult world, including one unhealthy relationship after another.
They fought hard to survive those circumstances while striving to create a better life for themselves. Finally, they have found themselves in a healthy and peaceful environment and yet they are falling apart emotionally.
They describe crying more than they ever have and have withdrawn from previously enjoyable activities. They notice they are highly anxious and fear “the shoe will drop” any minute and that their wonderful world will get yanked out from under them.
What has happened to these patients is they have been in survival mode for years and have now found themselves in a safe place to release the pain and begin healing. They have used an extraordinary amount of mental and emotional strength to get through the hard times they experienced. This new healthy environment is the safe place to crash and begin to let go of the mental and emotional weight they have carried around for years.
Although this can be scary and confusing for the person experiencing this release, it is a very healthy process that should be carefully nurtured. If you find yourself in this situation, you may feel overwhelmed at first and fear the negative emotions will be consuming, but with healthy coping, it will not consume you, the pain just needs to be digested.
If you have experienced traumas in your life, it would be wise to seek professional help to guide you through the healing process. A trained professional not only will offer a neutral place to recall the trauma, but will provide tools and techniques for processing the thoughts and emotions associated with painful memories. When a memory of an unhealed trauma surfaces or is triggered, the associated emotions can be intense, as if it were happening in the present.
Working through the healing process will allow you to get to an emotionally neutral state, meaning that when the memory surfaces or is triggered, you can recall there were painful emotions at the time, but you are not experiencing those emotions in the present.
As you begin the journey of healing, it is crucial to find ways to remove any unnecessary stresses from your life and choose a slower-paced lifestyle during this time. Emotional work requires time and energy and can be exhausting. It’s OK and healthy to pause some of your extra obligations to take care of yourself for the time-being. In time, you will return to these roles and activities in your life feeling stronger and more grounded.
Communicate to loved ones what you are experiencing and allow them to support you as they are able. It is a strength to be vulnerable enough to show you are struggling. People will better relate to you and feel more connected to you when you are willing to show them all sides of you, not just your “happy” side.
It takes a lot of physical strength to cope emotionally. Quality sleep, good nutrition and regular exercise are important to maintain your physical health during this time, as well.
If you have suffered in the past, you deserve time to heal. Finding the courage to feel negative emotions in our life is what unlocks our ability to fully feel the positive emotions, too. Give yourself permission to embrace this place in your life so you can effectively nurture your wounds and live in the present while enjoying the many gifts around you.
Kristin Woodling, a licensed mental health counselor and certified marriage and family therapist, is the owner of Pamper Your Mind, LLC in Satellite Beach. She is devoted to providing a confidential and elite therapeutic experience to professional women seeking healing, clarity, and balanced lifestyle for optimal health. Woodling promotes strong mental health services in her community and teaches counseling at Webster University and Eastern Florida State College. She is a graduate of the 360 Ignite program offered through WeVenture at Florida Institute of Technology and enjoys volunteering as a mentor to help other professionals excel personally and professionally.
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