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What does self-care after trauma look like?

Trauma impacts us at the psychological and emotional level, and is defined as an event impacting an individual’s spirit, where that person’s will to live, dignity, feelings of security, worldview, thinking, and reaction to stress have all been negatively influenced (The American Counseling Association; Jordan, 2011).

Trauma is inclusive of war, disaster, illness or death, terrorism, motor vehicle accidents, and violence (e.g., sexual abuse, community violence) (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2018). Bullying, forced displacement, historical traumas, and school violence are further trauma inducing events, indicated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, 2018), as are racism and other forms oppression.

As noted in mindtools, “Common causes of suffering in life are bereavement, illness, injury, or a relationship breaking down. But trauma can also come from work-based experiences such as redundancy, demotion, or the long-term stress of a bullying manager.”

What does self-care after trauma look like? While I would never wish a traumatic event upon anyone, our life may be shaken and a new belief system acquired as the result of a traumatic event. We may, for instance, experience what is referred to as Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi and Calhoun) (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1996). This looks for positive responses in five areas: (1) appreciation of life; (2) Relationships with others; (3) New possibilities in life; (4) Personal strength; and (5) Spiritual change.

For survivors of trauma, not only may one experienceresilienceupon persevering through painful life circumstances, but survivors can find time to reflect, grow, and cultivate a new life perspective. This new shift may foster a new appreciation for life, a deeper commitment to one’s values, as well as profound connection to loved ones. So try talking with a therapist, making more time for meaningful relationships, focus on work-related projects that fulfill you, journal, meditate, practice gratitude, and allow yourself to feel. Trauma is painful. So is healing. But in the aftermath of the storm is a beautiful calm.

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