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How to Overcome a Trauma and Be Even Stronger Than Before
Trauma. For some, the word conjures up images of the emergency room and doctors. For others, they recall the time their parents first yelled at them. And for others, it was learning their spouse wanted a divorce. Trauma is experienced by everyone, in different ways. I once heard there is no measuring tool against which to compare trauma; it is not a contest and you cannot compare your hurt to someone else’s. That advice has always remained close to my heart because of its truth.Trauma. For some, the word conjures up images of the emergency room and doctors. For others, they recall the time their parents first yelled at them. And for others, it was learning their spouse wanted a divorce. Trauma is experienced by everyone, in different ways. I once heard there is no measuring tool against which to compare trauma; it is not a contest and you cannot compare your hurt to someone else’s. That advice has always remained close to my heart because of its truth.
Trauma is a part of life. But so is recovery.
Trauma, as a general term, is difficult to grasp, and yet 70% of adults in the US have gone through some kind of trauma. Of those individuals, 20% developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1.
Despite its consistency in all of our lives, trauma is not the same for everyone. I recently changed jobs, and it was stressful and hard and incredibly scary. I had to make this change because my fiancé and I were moving to a different state. This meant we both had to make these career changes, yet I was the only one truly freaking out about it. Why? Because for me it was traumatic. For my fiancé, it was an adventure.
Take for instance, divorce. I know plenty of people who married the person they were sure would be ‘the one,’ only to file for divorce shortly thereafter. For a handful of my friends, this was no big deal. I heard a lot of, “We just should have remained friends. But it’s all fine; there are no hard feelings.” This was a great outcome and of course an ideal one. But for my other friends, their divorce was life-altering. Life-shattering, even. For them, this meant a huge failure and it was joined by fear. Fear of dating again, fear of rejection and fear of trusting him/herself to choose the right partner next time.
The important thing to note is that the areas in which we are less resilient do not make us weak people. It makes us human. Maybe you turn into a baby when you have a cold, but when you broke your ankle, nothing could keep you down. This doesn’t mean breaking an ankle is no big deal, but rather that you are more resilient in the face of injury than sickness.
You don’t have to be strong because you have a cold but your aunt has a terminal illness
Regardless of what you find to be traumatic, it’s important to know yourself. Remember that it isn’t a competition; you don’t need to compare your broken ankle to your friend’s divorce. You don’t have to be strong because you have a cold but your aunt has a terminal illness. If it’s traumatic to you, it’s valid. Embrace that. Besides, if you know what you have a hard time coping with, it prepares you to face it early-on.
If you treat everything that goes wrong in your life as a terrible, traumatic situation, this is going to be difficult for you. Remember that embracing and validating your feelings is not the same as over-dramatizing every event. Instead, find awareness and recognize that no matter what you’re going through and how terrible it may seem, eventually it will be a memory and you will be stronger for it.
How to cope with trauma and become stronger for facing it.
We’ve all heard the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but the cliche fails to mention how. Or even when. I don’t know about you, but the last thing on my mind when I go through something traumatic is how excited I am to be stronger when it’s over with.
So here’s a list of things to do to find more resilience within yourself and speed up the process of strengthening yourself!
- Be flexible. The sooner you realize life doesn’t always go as planned, the more resilient you will be. You don’t have to stop making plans and accept disappointment, but you should make it a point to be aware of the possibilities 2.
- Stress less. Resilient people know how to cope with their emotions 24/7, not just when trauma occurs. Figure out what method works best for you (journaling, therapy, mediation) and practice it regularly. Knowing how to decompress will help you tackle trauma as if it were second-nature.
- Don’t deny help. When things go wrong, there’s a good chance your phone will be blowing up with texts, calls and emails. Though it can feel overwhelming in the moment, the last thing you should do is ignore the support system you have. You don’t have to fake happiness for these people or even know what to say. Just remember they are there and they have your best interest at heart. Don’t push them away 3.
- Practice acceptance. Denial never helped anyone, at least not in the long term. Though it can be tempting to pretend the trauma didn’t happen or that if you ignore it long enough it will go away, you are only hurting yourself with this practice. Accept the grief and allow yourself to heal 4.
- Be grateful and meditate-ful. I know for some of you, this crunchy granola, meditation stuff sounds like a bunch of balogna, but don’t knock it until you try it. I have a bullet journal, and one page is titled “Practicing Gratitude.” I try to write down all the things I’m grateful for on any given day. It’s not always easy to come up with one, let alone a few, but I always feel more positive once I’ve done it. Meditation is also a great way to be more resilient. There are so many apps and Youtube videos out there that make it easier than ever to begin your practice. Studies have proven meditation helps us to stay present and strong when facing adversity. It’s a great way to get out the denial we have been seeking and help us face our fears and accept truth 5.
Remember: Hurt and pain is not a competition
If it’s traumatic to you, it’s traumatic. No one else has to validate that or tell you that you are, in fact, experiencing trauma. Hurt and pain is not a competition to have with the people in your life, so don’t seek out arguments based on this misunderstanding.
Don’t be offended if some people don’t understand your heartache. Everyone handles things differently, so the hurt you feel over a breakup may not be a big deal to your best friend. They are still your support system, so don’t worry about convincing him/her that you’re really hurting; they already know.
Be self-aware and know how you cope with trauma, as well as the things that prevent you from coping. You can only persevere once you’ve started practicing the things that help you to become stronger.
And finally, remember that this will be a memory. You have to do some foot work in order for it to become one, but it really will pass. No matter how much you hurt right now, it will get better. And it turns out that cliche is right; what doesn’t kill you really will make you stronger.
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