Stress and the Lost Self: Regaining Your Sense of Self After a Traumatic Event
The aftermath of a traumatic event can cause intense, confusing, and frightening emotions. Repeated exposure can trigger traumatic stress and leave you feeling hopeless and helpless. Whether you were directly involved in the traumatic event, or exposed to it after the fact, there are steps you can take to recover your emotional equilibrium and regain your sense of self.
Accept your feelings
Experiencing trauma or stress can cause all sorts of challenging feelings to surface.
These can involve, but are not limited to shock, anger, guilt, sadness and helplessness. Feeling intense emotions is a normal reaction to the loss of safety and security (as well as life, limb, and property) that comes in the wake of a disaster.
Give yourself time to heal and mourn what has happened, whilst not trying to force the healing process. Be patient with yourself; there are going to be difficult and volatile emotions surfacing. Try to allow yourself to feel these feelings without judgement or guilt.
Challenge your sense of helplessness
Regaining your sense of self after a traumatic event is all about taking action.
Even small acts can make a huge difference. A good idea is to volunteer for a cause that’s important to you. As well as helping you to connect to others, volunteering can challenge the sense of helplessness that contributes to trauma. Try to connect with others affected by the traumatic event or participate in memorials, events, and other public rituals. Feeling connected to others and remembering the lives lost or broken in the event can help overcome the sense of hopelessness that often follows a tragedy.
It may be the last thing you feel like doing, however, exercise is a surefire way to get a kick of those trusty endorphins we need to stay happy and healthy. Physical activity performed mindfully can also rouse your nervous system from that ‘stuck’ feeling and help you move on from the traumatic event. A great way to increase your sense of safety and to incorporate exercise is to enrol in some self defence classes, such as those offered by krav maga evolution. Aim to exercise for eat least 30 minutes per day, or three 10-minute spurts.
Reach out to others
After a stressful or traumatic event, it can be easy to think that withdrawing from your friends and society is a good thing to do. On the contrary, connecting face to face with other people is vital to recovery. Even the simple act of talking to another person can trigger hormones that relieve traumatic stress. Also, it’s important to remember that reaching out to others doesn’t necessarily mean talking about the traumatic event. Comfort can come from simply feeling connected and involved with others you trust.
If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, or any level of trauma, you’re not alone.
Trauma is, unfortunately, something that can happen to any of us at any time. The important thing to remember is that: you can come back from this. Regaining your sense of self after a traumatic event may seem nearly impossible, but it’s vital to remember to take things one day at a time.