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How to Overcome a Trauma and Be Even Stronger Than Before

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 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.

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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.

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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!

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  • 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.

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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.

Featured photo credit: Allef Vinicius via stocksnap.io

Reference

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Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

The 7 Types of Learners: What Kind of Learner Am I? What If All the Choices You Make Every Day Aren’t What You Need Most? What To Eat (And Not To Eat) When You Are Suffering From Inflammation! Yes Life Can Be Boring Sometimes. But There’re Some Tricks to Make It More Interesting Why Our Personal Values Matter More Than Ever Today

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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