Five healthy coping mechanisms for trauma

Are you struggling to live with a traumatic experience from your past? Here are five healthy coping mechanisms that may help.

Many of us have previous traumas that we are currently trying to work through. Going through the process of healing from traumatic events and the lasting effects they have on us can be emotionally grueling.

Personally, I have found that the only true way to emotional freedom is by working through my childhood traumas and finding self-soothing strategies that work for me. 

What is trauma? 

Trauma is caused by any emotionally or physically damaging event from your past or present life, that causes continuous psychological stress. Often, people feel hopeless or lost when trying to deal with the aftermath of a traumatic eventand fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Examples of common unhealthy coping mechanisms: 

  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Self harm.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Risky sexual behavior.

Commonly, people will experience trauma at a young age. As children, we typically don’t know what to do with our negative experiences, which causes us to hold onto our trauma until adulthood. According to studies, 60% of adults report experiencing abuse or other difficult family circumstances during childhood. 

As adults, we begin to feel the effect of our unresolved trauma(s) which will usually prompt us to seek ways to ease our problems. This is when finding healthy coping mechanisms that work for us as individuals can be vital for our mental state. 

1) Finding a hobby you enjoy

When we are trying to resolve trauma, a lot of stress and anxiety can come to the surface. For some people, finding a way to channel their stress can be extremely helpful. 

In my personal experience, painting became a powerful tool in my recovery from trauma. I could tune out all of my anxieties for the moment and become mindful of my painting. Eventually, I began to use my art as a way to express how I was feeling. This enabled me to find some closure in relation to my trauma. 

2) Meeting with a trauma therapist 

Dealing with trauma alone can be unbearable. Therapy can be the key to unlocking the deep rooted issues that you may be unable to pin-point yourself.

There are many different types of therapy, and talking to a stranger about uncomfortable personal experiences can be scary. That is why finding a therapist who specializes in trauma, and has likely gone through traumas of their own, can be helpful. 

I went through trauma therapy concerning abuse from my childhood and emerged feeling like a completely different person. My therapist gave me a sense of understanding and compassion that I had never before experienced, and also equipped me with a lot of the following coping mechanisms from this article.

That being said, working with a therapist can offer you personalized tools to help relieve you from the everyday struggles you may face. 

3) Journaling or writing down your feelings 

You may experience overwhelming thoughts and anger in your journey through recovering from traumatic events. Writing down your feelings on the event, or writing a letter to the aggressor of the trauma can help you feel as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. 

4) Meditation or prayer

Whether you are spiritual, religious, or none of the above, using meditation and prayer techniques can help subside anxiety and fear. 

When meditating, you focus on mindfulness and breath control. Doing so will calm your mind down, allowing you to cultivate rational thought and work through issues in a more effective manner. The same goes for prayer, which can allow you to come up with varied solutions to your problems or simply help you feel less alone. 

5) Using your trauma to help others 

Many people have gone through, or may be currently going through similar things as you. Sometimes, we get lost in our trauma and lose a sense of purpose. Finding people with shared issues and helping them overcome them can be one of the most rewarding ways of finding a purpose in an otherwise negative situation. 

Photo by Jen Theodore