A few months ago, something pretty traumatic happened to me. I’ve been a little silent on my blog and on Instagram since, but here isn’t the place for me to go in to details – instead, to offer support to those suffering the same. I’m sure almost all of us have had a traumatic event happen to us at some point in our lives: a break-up, divorce, a death in the family. It can seem like it will never get better. If you’re feeling like this, trust me, I know how you feel. But it won’t always be this way. It sounds very cliché, but the most important lesson I’ve learned from all of this is: Life keeps on going.
The earth keeps turning. People keep moving past you, coming in to and out of your life. No matter what happened to you, it can be overcome. Here’s some ways I’ve adopted myself to overcome trauma that I’ve suffered.
1. Let it all out
This is my number one piece of advice. For months, I maintained this mindset that I have to always be strong. Some of my friends were shocked that despite what’d been happening, I seemed to be ‘coping with it so well’. This made my day-to-day easier and allowed me to focus on other problems in my life – my career, my love life. But it didn’t treat the problem. Those thoughts were still buried deep down below. The longer I buried them, the more they bubbled under the surface, threatening to spill over, until, one day, they did.
I had been in a pretty stressful process with a prospective employer for weeks, until, at the last minute, it fell through, when I’d already turned down a contract at my current employer. In the same mindset, I interviewed for what would be my dream job, and because I was feeling so awful, I didn’t perform as well as I should have.
When I hung up the phone, for the first time in months, maybe even years, I completely broke down. Everything that had been building up for the past few months suddenly exploded. It felt like I had been holding on for so long just to stay afloat. But, I let it all out, at last. Don’t make the same mistake I did. More than ever, I recognise how important it is to let my feelings show now. Sometimes I put on my saddest music (Supermarket Flowers, Ed Sheeran is my go-to) and just have a cry. Sometimes I journal to get it all out on paper. You don’t have to be strong all the time. You can show some weakness, and that’s okay.
2. Keep busy
Focus on your career. Take that class at the gym. Go for coffee with that new friend. Go visit a member of your family. Whatever you can do, try and fill your life with as much as you can. Believe me, it works. I was surprised at how something as simple as working full-time could keep my thoughts in check. From becoming pre-occupied with your to-do list at work, to sharing a joke with your colleagues… that all makes it easier. I’m not saying to constantly run away from your thoughts (see point 1), but it’s good to be distracted. It’s also good to fill your life with as much positivity as you can, so make sure you’re making time for all the activities and people you truly love.
3. Tell your friends how you feel
This is one I struggled with a little over the past few months. I tell my friends everything. During the initial stages, I immediately told my nearest and dearest. Unfortunately, I received mixed reactions and, in several cases, it wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. Through this process I learned who my real friends are. That’s the thing with trauma – you learn the people you can really rely on. After that, for a while I was hesitant to open up. Rather than just saying things like ‘I’m okay, not great’ when friends asked how I was feeling, I’ve now learned to openly express my feelings: ‘I feel pretty awful today, can I call you?’, or, depending on the friend, I just pick up the phone and call them. It’s okay to ask for help. I am so grateful for those few true friends I have that have been my rocks the past few months, and I make a point of telling them that as often as I can.
4. Tell someone else
I’m one of those people that thinks that everyone on this planet could benefit from some counselling. There are no perfect people, and everyone is flawed in their own way. Everyone has things they can get to work on. I recently contacted an old counsellor of mine, and I’m excited to be able to speak my mind to someone whose job it is to listen. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who’s unbiased. The very act of just letting everything out makes your soul feel much lighter. Most counselling is person-centred, i.e., you just go into a room and talk to someone, but personally I believe most in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
Where CBT differs is that it works on re-training your mind and your thought patterns. Each session is very structured with a new topic each week, and you learn various written and mental techniques which you have to put into practice. In other words, you get homework. Don’t be put off – this makes the practice twice as effective, because it’s something you bring in to your daily life, not just one hour a week. The main aim of CBT is to create Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviours (TFB) cycles, to examine how all of these are interconnected, and coming up with alternative thoughts and behaviours. I usually do these cycles when I feel down, often prompted by a certain event or thoughts. This is a form of therapy that I’ve found extremely useful for getting into a more positive mindset.
5. Help yourself
Self-help is probably the most powerful area of study I’ve ever discovered. I don’t just mean #selfcare, like doing a face mask or taking a hot bath (although these can help de-stress you during a period of recovery). I mean, actual self-help: meditation, positive affirmations, goal setting, gratitude, mindfulness. I actually have a morning routine that I (try to) do every single day to get me in a positive state (which I’m currently writing a separate post about). They say that your attitude for the day is set in the first 8 minutes – so make your mornings count. When I feel anxious, I rely on meditation to calm me down, and when I feel really down, I rely most on gratitude to lift me up. One of the most powerful things you can do is focus on the positive things in your life. I know that that might seem impossible to you at the moment, and it might seem like there’s nothing good going on. But, trust me, there is always something good. I’d say start with The Secret (I’ve written a whole blog post about that book as it essentially stopped me from being depressed) and The Magic to try to re-frame your mind.
6. Move your body
From my own CBT cycles I learned that one of my most helpful behaviours is going to the gym when I feel down. I also discovered Zumba a few months ago and I’m basically obsessed, because it doesn’t even feel like a workout. There’s a lot of research on this, but exercise is proven to generate mood-boosting endorphins that put you in a better state. A lot of people I know don’t really like exercise, the gym specifically. ‘It’s boring!’ they say to me. And that’s fine. Here’s the thing: find the exercise that works for you. You’ll know when you find it, because it won’t even feel like work. For me, it’s Zumba. For you it might be going on a run through the woods, taking up cycling, playing tennis, yoga, pilates, boxing… the options are endless, and there’ll be one out there for you.
For a full list of helplines: https://helplines.org/helplines/
To find a counsellor near you: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/
Free CBT resources are available here: https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/freedownloads.htm
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Beret: & Other Stories
Bag: Abbott Lyon (gifted)
Hope you guys found this post helpful – let me know your thoughts below.
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