In this blog post, I’m going to talk about how I deal with trauma. To be perfectly honest, this is something I need to be reminded of myself sometimes because when I’m in the thick of something and feel so distressed and lost and overwhelmed, I don’t know which way to turn or what to do next. Kind of like today.
First, let me give you an definition of what trauma is. The Center for Anxiety Disorders says this; ‘In general, trauma can be defined as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing.’
Let’s be real here. No-one will get through life without experiencing some form of trauma. No-one gets off that easily.
Without playing the sympathy/victim card, I’ve been through a considerable amount of trauma in my life. Dealing with it has become just a part of who I am and what I do. Somedays, though, I wish I didn’t have to deal with it at all but it is what it is.
What I’m going to say in this post is as much for me as it is anyone else. I need to remind myself of this stuff.
When I’m feeling traumatised by something, I have to just strip everything back to basics. To the bare essentials. By this, I mean just doing the bare minimum that I need to do to get through the rest of the day.
For me, this is usually completing the work I need to complete for the day, collecting my children from school and daycare, cooking dinner, cleaning up, doing bath/shower time and getting the children and myself in bed. I generally live a very simple and quiet life so this isn’t much of a change for me.
Often, when I’m dealing with trauma, I go into my head. I try not to interact with people unless I have to and even then, I keep the communication as light and simple as I can.
When it comes to cooking dinner, sometimes it’s just jam on toast but at other times, I actually feel better when I have gotten in the kitchen and cooked something nice. Cooking has become a form of therapy for me over the years.
I rarely drink alcohol and when I am dealing with trauma, I avoid it at all costs. This is my personal choice because I don’t like using anything as a crutch. Sometimes people who have experienced trauma drink a small amount but a lot of those who try to manage it avoid drinking too much. This is because of the negative effects alcohol can have on you.
I have also found over the last year that if I stick to a strict bedtime of 9.30pm, I get between 7-9 hours sleep every night. This really helps me keep a clear head. I am by nature an emotional creature and being tired really exacerbates that.
I also try to eat well. I’m not the best at this during the day but in the evenings, I try to have a decent sized healthy meal, even if I eat it in two sittings.
When it comes to my home, if it is messy and cluttered, I find my head gets messy and cluttered so I try to have everything neat and tidy by the time my children go to bed. This isn’t to say things aren’t just shoved into the nearest cupboard or drawer, because they usually are. It’s just that they are out of my line of sight.
After my children are in bed, it is my time for me. Sometimes, when I am especially tired and drained, I go to sleep just after they do. At other times, I fire up my laptop, sit in bed and watch something online.
To be really honest, my favourite form of escapism is anything Harry Potter. I watch the movies or read the books. If I’m having an especially rough night, like I’ve had a few of lately, when I’m ready to sleep, I put my headphones in and listen to a podcast until I fall asleep. This is usually fairly quickly because my brain is focussed on what I’m listening to and not the things going on in my life.
The other thing I try to do as I get through until bedtime is appreciate the small things that go on around me. Maybe it’s a bird tweeting. Maybe it’s my children’s laughter. Maybe it’s sitting watching the waves crash at my local beach. Maybe it’s watching the trees blowing in the wind.
By doing this, I really bring things back into the here and now. It helps my mind take a break from racing at a million miles an hour. When I am feeling traumatised by something, my anxiety makes me want to fix everything. Now. An hour ago. Yesterday.
When I stop to appreciate a moment in time, my brain slows right down. My body releases some tension. I feel like I can exhale a little.
This isn’t to say that after that moment ends, the anxiety doesn’t come back and I am fine because sometimes, I’m not. Sometimes I go back to wanting to fix everything yesterday but at least I had a moment’s break. My head reset a little. My body released some tension and in that moment, everything was okay in the world.
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been sitting on the couch with my children next to me watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Occasionally, I’ve looked out the window at the crystal clear blue sky with a few small clouds blowing over that are bright orange because the sun has started setting.
Everything in this moment is as it should be. It’s beautiful. It is perfect and is exactly what I needed to reset my traumatised and anxious brain today.
I need to just simplify things and do what I need to do to get through to bedtime. Everything else can wait until tomorrow. No-one is going to die if I don’t talk to them. The whole world isn’t going to stop because I have decided to hide for the rest of today. To do nothing more than watch a movie with my kids, cook dinner, clean my house and go to bed.
When you are dealing with trauma, the only thing you need to do is the bare minimum to get you through until bedtime. You don’t have to fix everything today. You don’t have to solve all of your problems today.
That stuff can wait until tomorrow. Or the next day if that’s what is needed.
You just need to get through until bedtime. That’s it. That’s all you need to do.
I’m off to cook dinner now. Bedtime isn’t that far off and I can’t wait for it.
All my love, Gretel xx
PS: I highly recommend watching this video. It’s one of the best examples of how to deal with/live with trauma I have ever seen. It’s about 32 minutes long and the couple in it are such an inspiration. It really is worth watching if you are struggling with trauma of any kind