I recently read a book by R. Dandridge Collins, Ph.D, entitled the Trauma Zone. This book provides clear insight on how trauma adversely impacts psychological functioning. Specifically, Dr. Collins explains why many trauma survivors feel trapped or unable to carry on with normal life because their emotional pain keeps them locked in the past. I recommend this book to anyone suffering with trauma-related disorders such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
Here is an excerpt from a chapter (Summary of Hope – You can Cope) in Trauma Zone:
There comes a time when we can settle the old account of pain through our faith…one of the chief things that happen to you when you have come through trauma is that you become uptight, typically about many things. But the path of recovery helps you to relax and enjoy your life, perhaps for the first time. Rather than our emotions being in constant state of flux in which we feel out of control, out of sorts and out of line, our hearts are transformed by the Shepherd’s love and we take our emotions back. Instead of our feelings ruling us, we learn to cope with our emotions by relying on God’s love in any situation, pleasant or unpleasant.
I am a trauma survivor and can personally relate to the perspective shared in this book. Some years ago, I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). My diagnosis was emotional and life-altering. I struggled with fear, grief (loss of emotional regulation), loneliness, and confusion. I had little support and was instructed to be strong even during times of weakness. Although this was upsetting, I was not deterred. I knew that tackling this disorder would require seeking help, as well as, having a level of vulnerability I was not fully ready for, but I was willing to try. Being diagnosed with PTSD was not necessarily bad; it awakened my need for inner healing. I was once told, “one cannot heal what s/he does not acknowledge.” I came to acknowledge that keeping past trauma buried was compromising my mental health and ability to function normally.
Before embarking on a journey of healing, I had to dig deep and acknowledge that trauma was the source of my PTSD. This is when the hard work began. Understanding trauma and the recovery process called for identification of triggers and learning coping skills such as deep breathing, journaling, self-care, and the use of grounding techniques, mindfulness, and positive affirmations.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and use of coping skills helped me immensely. If you are experiencing anxiety and PTSD, I encourage you to practice these skills as well.
- Deep Breathing (4 7 8 technique) – breathe through the nose for 4 seconds. Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds. exhale through the mouth by pursing the lips for 8 seconds. Repeat the cycle up to 4 times. Another breathing technique is called 7/11 – Breathe in for a count of 7 seconds and out for a count 11 seconds. It is used to help relax, de-stress and regain composure in a variety of situations.
- Journaling is a mindful practice of writing down your thoughts. This practice helps lowers anxiety, boost memory, mood, and comprehension. It also increases cognitive processing. There are great journal prompts and ideas on Pinterest.
- Self-Care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness during periods of stress. A few examples are listening to soothing music, meditating, taking walks, soaking in a relaxing bath, talking to friends, prayer, taking a mental break from work.
- Grounding techniques (calms you quickly and brings you back to the here-and-now). Use your five senses or tangible objects — things you can touch to help you move through distress, such as rubbing a soft object, savoring a scent, looking at a relaxing image, listening to calming sounds, moving your body, putting hands in water, taking a short walk.
- Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. For example: Slow down and notice things around you. Live in the moment. Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Accept yourself and focus on your breathing.
- Positive affirmations lead to positive thinking and mitigates the effects of stress. Positive statements such as: I am enough, I am powerful, Enjoy the little things, I can do anything – will help you overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts.
Lastly, I learned self-forgiveness. It was crucial for me to forgive myself and those who hurt me in order to heal. Kendra Cherry, author Taking steps to forgiving yourself states “Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to let go of feelings of anger, resentment, and retribution toward someone who you believe has wronged you… while you may be quite generous in your ability to forgive others, you may be much harder on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, but learning how to learn from these errors, let go, move on, and forgive yourself is important for mental health and well-being.”
Life is a journey. We sustain wounds along the way, but we can heal. I hope this article motivates anyone who is hurting to take time to heal. When you commit to the recovery process, you will break generational curses and experience a profound shift in your mind and spirit.