Is Past Trauma Controlling Your Present Life? How to Break Free

When the worst happens, it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to go back to day-to-day living. It’s hard to see your current life, with the old kind of optimism and innocence you once called “normal.”

Traumatic events can shackle your mind and emotions to ongoing loss, fear, pain, and shame.

It’s vital that you take measures to find release and healing. Recovery will take time, self-compassion, patience, and a plan. You can do this.

Here’s how to start:

Resist isolation. It’s natural to feel like your trauma has somehow separated you from the rest of the world. You may want to withdraw or shut down. But that just exacerbates your pain.

Instead of isolating, rejoin the world in the following ways:

Maintain your connections. Who do you trust? Who wants to be there for you? Who keeps calling despite your unreturned calls? Those are the people to look for and lean on.

Avoid spending too much time alone. Try to socialize in ways that aren’t connected to your trauma. Concentrate on sharing unrelated, everyday activities with others.

Seek support. To break away from trauma, you’ll need the support of loved ones, a therapist, and/or support group who will listen to you, stand by you, and help you cope.

Reach out. A sense of helplessness often comes with the aftermath of trauma. Combat that feeling by getting involved in your community. Use your abilities to empower others, and eventually you’ll feel more powerful yourself.

Remain in the here and now. Life after trauma can become very internal and past-oriented. It’s important to find ways to remain grounded and more in control of your feelings.

Try instituting more structured and mindful awareness in these key ways:

Routine. Structure is crucial in trauma recovery. Keep life moving forward with time for the things that matter, and that keep you healthy and strong.

Manageable goals. Give yourself the grace to break life down into small achievements. Enjoy the boost to your self-esteem with each success, and enjoy engaging your own life and dreams again.

Dedicated time. Devote time to a hobby, classes, or spend more time with your children or pets. Try to redirect your thoughts and actions pleasurably, until trauma thinking becomes less automatic.

Acceptance. Mindfully acknowledge, observe, and allow your feelings to exist. Constantly trying to avoid or suppress trauma-related emotions will only exhaust you. The healing process cannot start until you let your feelings rise, and face them as they are.

Self-care. Trauma can reside in you physically, taxing your health and compromising your ability to cope. Take theses steps to break away from trauma’s toll on your body:

Sleep. A persistent lack of sleep can exacerbate trauma symptoms dramatically. Try to set a regular bedtime and sleep for 7 to 8 hours nightly. Talk to your physician about temporary sleep aids, if necessary.

Avoid substance use and abuse. Drugs and alcohol too easily worsen trauma symptoms and ramp up depressive thinking, anxiety, and feelings of alienation.

Move your body. Make routine exercise a part of your daily life. Your mind will appreciate the infusion of feel-good brain chemicals. Try to work out for 30 minutes to an hour of sustained activity.

Eat well. Resist the temptation to keep your body going on sugar and caffeine. Fuel your body with regular, well-portioned meals of whole, fresh foods to maintain energy and keep mood swings to a minimum.

Reduce stress. Try to relax. Techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing may prove helpful.

You can break free from a past that continues to interfere with the life you want. Feel better. Seek help. Get free.

by Linda K. Laffey, MFT

Published in Self