We usually only consider our
mental health when something goes wrong. Some mental health conditions are
biologically based due to physical trauma, injury, genetics, exposure to toxic
substances, such as lead, or physical disease. In these cases, medical and/or
natural therapies are generally required to manage the symptoms.
Some aspects of mental health
are believed to be highly susceptible to environmental influences. This means that we can contribute to good mental health based on our choices.
Unresolved trauma responses are
unlikely to respond to the suggestions below. I’ll include a note to each
making an adjustment for trauma.
- Maintain Social
Support: Stay connected to a network of people, groups and organisations
that are supportive and/or fun, it’s imperative to
good mental health. Example activities: book clubs, friends, volunteer
opportunities, support groups, neighbours, yoga, singing groups, community
events and extended family members.
Trauma Note: One of the signs of trauma is isolating ourselves, so to be social may be too big an ask. What you can do is bring into your consciousness the fact that you are isolating, isolate with full awareness. Then ask yourself if this is what you still want to do. Any time you do work with yourself you must make sure that you become the explorer of your own being and not judge it as wrong. Whatever you are doing is one way you have survived your trauma. You are gathering data on yourself and considering how you may like your life to be different.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: The food we eat can support or impair
brain function or illness. While there are many opinions about food and diet,
most agree that eating wholefoods including plenty of fruit and veggies is
ideal for most people. Can you spend some time and focus on improving your
Trauma Note: Food can often be used as a replacement for what we are really craving. Often called emotional eating, we don’t feel the normal feeling of being full physically. We just can’t get enough of what we are eating because it is not actually meeting our true need. When you sit to eat next time, before you start eating without awareness, ask yourself – What am I actually hungry for? Wait a moment and see what comes into your mind. Again, remember this is an inquiry not an inquisition. You are gently exploring and working to understand your incredibly amazing being. The being that has helped you to survive your trauma.
- Use supplements: I suggest here that you work with a
natural health professional before you head to the chemist or supermarket to
buy your supplements. It is important to know where your body is lacking and
what it is lacking. We can actually create more
imbalance by not knowing what our body actually needs. I personally work with a
homeopath and/or I use Ayurvedic herbs and diet. Try out some therapists and
see what you prefer.
Trauma Note: This may be too much to even think about managing. If you do feel you would like to explore this, then I would suggest that you have a call with the person you think you would like to see and get a feel for them. Will they listen to you or do they have their own opinions without really getting to know you? Interview them over the phone and trust your instinct when making a choice about who you will work with. Remember you can stop working with them any time you feel it’s not working. Something people who have trauma forget, is that they have choice, because in the trauma there was no choice.
- Learn to Manage Stress: Learning to look after yourself
when you are stressed can prevent a multitude of issues. Basic skills such as
planning, prioritizing, organising and time management are critical to stress
management. Exercise and good nutrition are also very important along with good
sleep and creating space for down time and relaxation. Include things you love
doing into your life to support lower stress levels. We have to fill our cup to
be able to give from it.
Trauma Note: Most people who suffer from the symptoms of trauma live in a highly stressed state all or most of the time. They may feel anxiety, panic, depression, hypervigilance, lack of interest, isolation or have sleep issues. It is often difficult to regulate your stress which is exhausting and depleting to your body, mind and spirit. I would suggest you seek support for these symptoms from a trained trauma therapist. Again I would encourage you to interview the person you are considering going to. Get a feel for them, do they understand what you are saying, do you feel they are safe? Just because they have studied psychology or counselling doesn’t mean they have done their own work and are able to hold space for you. Your healing is about takingback the reins of your health and wellbeing and stop being done to. You have your own inner wisdom and the role of the therapist is to get you back in touch with that.
Relaxation and Exercise: As mentioned above, rest, relaxation and exercise
are important in stress management and overall good mental health. Exercise is
recommended to manage and/or prevent anxiety and depression as well as other
mental and physical health. This is such an important part of having health and
wellbeing on all three levels of body, mind and spirit. Just pick one thing to
start with and implement that. You can build upon this beginning point and
reach the level you are happy with.
Trauma Note: Rest and relaxation are not usually in the vocabulary of a traumatised person. I’m sure it will have been told to you to relax and rest BUT how impossible is that? Your system is on high alert all the time and if you knew how to stop that you would. You need support to help you with the tools to settle your nervous system. Exercise may or may not work. You may be obsessively exercising or unable to move at all. Again, this does need support to understand what is happening with your own system.
- Avoid Alcohol and Recreational Drug Use and Abuse: Alcohol use in
moderation has been reported to have some health benefits. However, I am
someone who used alcohol to self-medicate most of my life. After my own trauma
recovery I haven’t had alcohol for years and I know I will never need or want
it again. I believe that any use of alcohol or drugs is a way of numbing
yourself at some level. I’m sure I will get shouted down by this statement and
that’s ok. What I have found is that if you have done your psycho-emotional
work you don’t need alcohol or drugs (prescription or recreational). We can all
reason away our behaviours and I challenge you to just take some time and bring
into your consciousness what makes you take this drink or drug and see what you
find out about yourself.
Trauma Note: Addictions of all kinds are one of the ways we can manage our trauma responses. Understanding what it is actually doing for you is the best place to start. Before taking a drink or drug, stop and ask yourself what am I looking for this to do? Listen for the internal response. Seek support of a trained trauma therapist to help you with a deeper understanding of addictions and specifically how you are using addictions to support yourself.
- Ask for Help During Difficult Times: Know when to
ask for and how to receive help during difficult times. Depending on the
circumstances, reaching out to talk about it with family or friends may be
sufficient. Other times, professional help may be useful. Whatever the need,
reach out and connect with others for support. We are hard wired as community
beings yet our society is full of isolated people who often suffer in silence.
Trauma Note: This is probably the most difficult thing you could be asked to do. Most of us feel like we are already crazy or there is something wrong with us. We don’t see or understand that it is the trauma response in the wrong place and time that is creating these feelings of crazy and wrong-ness. Most people who have suffered trauma don’t ask to have their needs met.
I hope that
from this article you can see there are differences for those who have trauma
responses. Most of us don’t even understand what is happening to us. We don’t
even question our behaviours; we just accept this is how we are and
often just beat ourselves up for not being different.
The good news
is that you don’t have to keep doing what you have always done. With the right
support you can change your life. In my opinion, trauma recovery can’t be done
by yourself, you need someone to help you to see what is out of your awareness.
You also need someone to highlight how your perceptions may not be accurate for
your current reality.
I will be
talking more about trauma and the impact it has on people’s lives in my brand
new The Truth About Trauma TV which is launching on 3rd May 2019. I
would love you to subscribe to my channel and please share with others. My
mission is to eliminate all UN-necessary trauma from the world through
education and training. Help me achieve my mammoth goal.
May you be well
and may you be happy