The impacts of trauma can be long-lasting and unfortunately do not just go away. You may find yourself still triggered and challenged by many of life’s situations long after an experience of trauma. For many people, the story of their past continues to haunt them and the difficulty of moving on can create further pain and frustration.
If this sounds like you, know that rebuilding your life after trauma is a process that unfolds over time. It is a process that you have likely already begun, and for that, you can be proud of yourself. You have already decided to start moving forward.
In this article, we hope to support you by sharing how to rebuild your life after trauma in seven steps. This process has been simplified to give you some guidance, however, we recognise that healing from trauma is not a simple process.
Step 1. Regain your loss of self
One of the most significant impacts of trauma is the loss of your sense of self. This is particularly common after experiencing emotional trauma or relationship trauma. It is common for those lacking a sense of self to experience feelings of hopelessness, deep-rooted guilt or shame, and self-doubt. You may also experience ongoing identity issues during adulthood if you experienced trauma at a young age.
Restoring your sense of self can be difficult during the early stages of your recovery journey. It will take time and exploration to reconnect with what matters to you. Discovering what that is for you may involve spending some time alone or time with friends. If you feel like nothing matters to you anymore, start small, and believe that your passions and goals are still there and will come back to you.
You can start by identifying your values and setting simple self-care goals. For example, you may take a long walk in nature once a week or plan to cook yourself your favourite meal.
You may like to use the values setting worksheet in this blog about identifying your values.
Step 2. Forgive yourself and others for past hurt
It is easy to think that forgiveness is something we do once and it’s done, however, forgiveness usually unfolds over time as deeper layers of the trauma are processed. The good news is that forgiveness will be easier once you have reconnected with your sense of self.
Reconnecting with yourself will help your heart to open to forgiveness. It also allows you the courage to forgive as an act of self-empowerment; remember that you don’t have to forgive someone because they deserve it, but because you deserve it. Forgiveness releases the resentment, anger, and judgment within your heart, creating space for positive emotions.
To forgive, it is important that you separate yourself from the story. Acknowledge and sit with your uncomfortable feelings by first creating a safe space within yourself. Once your painful feelings have been felt and processed, it will allow you to be more compassionate and forgiving towards yourself and others. If it is challenging for you to feel your emotions without getting consumed by them, you may like to see a counsellor to help you with this important step.
Step 3. Work on replacing negative thought patterns
After experiencing trauma, it is common to develop negative thought patterns as a coping mechanism. At the time these limiting thoughts seem to keep us safe, yet they become unhelpful over time. Retraining your brain can help you to replace negative thought patterns with more constructive ones.
Just like a social media algorithm, at first, a new type of video will not show up in your feed. However, the more often you choose a new video the more often similar videos will show as suggestions, and replace the old preferences. Your mind works like this, and it requires effort and consistency over time to keep selecting your new thought patterns. Mindfulness training can help you and there are many great mindfulness apps you can try.
Step 4. Create a good environment for yourself
The next, and one of the most important steps is to establish a healthy environment for yourself. This includes your living space, work environment, and support circles.
Plan out and take the small steps needed to create an environment where you feel comfortable and supported. This might include redecorating your living or desk space to showcase things that inspire you.
Expand your support circles where needed. This may involve forgiving yourself or others to reconnect with friends or family members that genuinely care about you. It may also include reaching out to a counsellor who can help support you to rebuild your life.
Step 5. Healing the nervous system from trauma
A vital part of feeling like yourself again is resetting your autonomic nervous system. It is very difficult to be yourself when you are feeling on edge. The goal here is to move out of fight or flight mode and into your parasympathetic nervous system where you can relax. It is in this state that we are also able to think and act clearly.
Some of my favourite ways to heal the nervous system from trauma are: walking in nature, going for a swim or bath, listening to soothing music, meditating, or listening to positive affirmations. Have fun finding your favourite ways to heal your nervous system.
Step 6. Learn to trust life again
This can be a difficult challenge that takes time. If a person has hurt you, it can be very difficult to trust others again and even more difficult to trust yourself. However, this is an important barrier to move through to be able to feel confident and happy in your life again.
Challenging yourself with small, new experiences is a great way to rebuild your trust in yourself and life. The path towards trusting yourself also means allowing for and learning to trust your emotions. Trust that your emotions and life’s challenges are important messages guiding you through life.
Step 7. Don’t give up on your progress
As you heal it is natural to face new challenges that may trigger you. In these times, remind yourself that you have made progress. Practice being compassionate towards yourself and believe in yourself.
If you have experienced trauma and are looking to build a life of freedom, joy, and hope we are here to help. Contact us today to find out how trauma counselling can help you to reclaim your life.