Whether you're struggling to manage challenging life-events, a trauma or accident, loss and grief or any kind of transition that causes you distress or destabilization, it's helpful to understand that your feelings, emotions and behaviors are a normal reaction to extreme or disturbing events. As a psychotherapist who uses EMDR therapy, supportive work and a focus on helping clients develop healthier coping skills, I'm happy to share tips to support you as you move through difficult times. What helps?
- Allow yourself to acknowledge and accept that you're experiencing something difficult and that your reactions are normal, but that you can manage. Remind yourself about how you've handled difficult situations in the past. What healthy skills did you call upon previously to help you cope during stressful times?
- Ask for help. This is hard for many, but people can be quite kind when it comes to supporting others. This also requires that you allow yourself to receive help and manage feelings of shame related to needing help.
- Take exquisite care of yourself, when you can. Show self-compassion and practice self-care. Giving yourself permission for a "time out" can help you feel stronger and more resilient when you need to get back to the problem at hand. If you can, take some time to read, draw or engage any other hobbies that can help you briefly escape (in a healthy way) from the realities of your experience.
- It's tempting to self-soothe with unhelpful behaviors, but this is a good time to take efforts to engage in healthy behaviors. This will help you better cope with stress, fatigue and emotional dysregulation. Sleep, rest or nap when you can. Create healthy, well-balanced meals and avoid substances such as drugs and alcohol that can interfere with sleep, reduce resilience and even increase anxiety and depression. If you suffer from insomnia, relaxation techniques can ease sleep problems.
- Allow yourself to grieve any losses that you have experienced. Processing and mourning loss can evoke strong emotions. With time, the intensity will decrease.
- When you are ready, find someone to talk to. It can be a community, such as a church or synagogue, a trusted friend, a family member, others in a similar situation, support groups or a counselor or therapist. Groups can be incredibly healing as individuals communicate about shared experiences and provide support and helpful feedback.
- It's temping when traumatized or stressed to move into action mode, but it's really important to avoid making major life decisions when your going through times that challenge mind, body and spirit.
There are many kinds of therapists and counselors that offer different kinds of help for individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, loss and transitions. EMDR therapy, Somatic Experiencing or SE, CBT or cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness, meditation, art therapy and acupuncture/bodywork are just a few examples of expressive and somatic therapies that can help clients move forward and release trauma. Trauma therapists understand the neurobiological effects of trauma on the body and nervous system and can provide clinically effective interventions for healing and releasing. As a mind-body therapist with a focus on well-being, my favorite modality is EMDR therapy. It is a powerful, evidence-based intervention that helps clients see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. It leads to deep psychological healing, with less talking, greater emotional regulation and safety and heals the nervous system.
To learn more about trauma, PTSD, therapy and counseling read this article on GoodTherapy.org