One of the hardest lessons in life for me has been learning, practicing, and relearning again how to let go of trauma. Has someone ever said to you, ‘Just let it go and move on?’ Well, it’s easier said than done. Trauma is defined as an emotional response to an overwhelming and physically or emotionally threatening event. Many people deal with trauma from life events in childhood or adulthood, abuse, relationship violence, assault, burglary, dealing with a narcissistic partner, or the loss of a loved one. Every day, many of us have been exposed to harmful or dangerous situations that attempt to kidnap our emotions.
There seem to be many levels of trauma that we may experience. Some people deal with it better than others. While helping a family member to declutter their home for 8 continuous weeks, I didn’t realize how traumatic of a situation it was until I was introduced to a medical condition caused by stress that tried to slow me down. I was introduced to Shingles. Not taking the warning, I continued working non-stop. As a project manager, most of my life, working non-stop to accomplish each goal, I forgot one of the key elements I always share with training participants — to be flexible. Every good project plan or personal plan should be flexible and adaptable to change. So, I am relearning a lesson that I used to inspire my training participants to stop, think, pause, and breathe.
It’s easy to believe that the experience, regardless of how negative it may be, we still try to bury it deep down inside in order to move forward with our lives. Unfortunately, it may only work for a limited time. A simple memory of the experience may easily trigger a reaction that we didn’t expect to feel. Each of those triggers comes with a message telling us to focus and honestly deal with the issue.
Reactions to trauma can be acute or long-term. Traumatic events can lead to disturbances or decline in emotional, physical, and interpersonal well-being. In some instances, reactions to trauma can lead to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Growing up, when I heard PTSD mentioned, I always thought about soldiers being sent off to war and returning home with lots of internal stress from the things they saw or what they had to do to stay alive. A lot of the trauma resulted from the horrible treatment and disrespect many of the soldiers experienced upon returning home. I can still remember when many of my family members and friends returned home from fighting wars in Vietnam and Iraq, I would hear our elders say they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Examples of traumatic responses may include:
- Intrusive or repetitive memories or distressing thoughts
- Flashbacks of situations
- Nightmares, bad dreams, or difficulty staying asleep
- Stressful emotions, such as feelings of fear, rage, guilt, or shame
- Feelings of depression or anxiety
- Being on edge and feeling irritable
- Feeling the need to isolate or detach from others
- Trying to avoid negative thoughts or triggers related to the event
Is it possible to let go of trauma? Many people move on with their lives while the rest of us must address the trauma and find a way to eliminate the power the traumatic event may have on our life. Making sense of a traumatic incident and its aftermath is hard. Healing may feel impossible, but it can be done, one day at a time. It’s normal to struggle while recovering from trauma or pain from the past. The experience may be over, but we may still be deeply affected by it. Dealing with a traumatic event can take time to identify and understand what happened and what it means to us. Holding on to the trauma for too long can have a major on the mind, body, and soul.
Here are a few tips that have been helping me, slowly, to get back to my center:
- Staying connected to your support system
- Finding healthy activities that help with self-expression
- Moving your body in gentle ways like stretching, yoga, walking, or dancing
- Eating balanced meals when possible.
- Keeping a regular sleep routine
- Practicing mindfulness and relaxation exercises in the morning and before bedtime
- Getting out in the sunlight
- Doing things that you love and create calmness
Slowly, but surely, I can feel the positive change happening from within. To be honest, there are days that I regress to feeling the trauma, but it helps me to take a closer look at the issue, instead of allowing the fear of it to drive me into hiding. It’s amazing what I am learning about myself and the power that we all have to succeed and reach our goals. One of the ways that I have been dealing with my trauma is through cooking Creole dishes that I grew up with and trying other recipes that friends recommend. It really helps me to relax and smile a lot more, especially when I taste the fabulous concoction. In the past couple of weeks, I have made Jambalaya, Shrimp Etouffee, an Italian Sausage Soup, and a Creole Shrimp and Bacon Bisque. If you have great recipes that you are comfortable sharing, please send them to me and I am happy to do the same. Also, if you have been through any traumatic times, please share a few golden nuggets that helped you to survive and thrive.