How to Tame the Effects of Trauma

Last week, I wrote about trauma, what it is and how to begin to deal with it in a proactive, healthy way. It was inspired by all the trauma I was seeing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian's horrible destruction. In last week's email, I gave a quick definition of trauma, some examples of potentially traumatic events, and a couple of first steps to start at the very beginning of the healing process.

To re-cap the first two steps, this is what I said in last week's newsletter.

  1. Acknowledge that you have been through a traumatic event (a loss, an injury, an abuse, something that put you into the fight, flight, or freeze response). First acknowledge to yourself, that yes indeed, you are feeling shaken up. Then, pour out your heart to God and tell Him all about the situation, the feelings you had, the lingering feelings you still experience, and then ask God to bring a compassionate and emotionally intelligent person across your path that you can share this with.
  2. Create a good support system and focus on "safety" before charging ahead with other trauma-healing measures.Find a support group or a compassionate person who will listen with empathy and care. Make sure you have physical safety by leaving an unsafe home where abuse continues. Create emotional safety so that your system can begin to be calmed by avoiding verbally or psychologically abusive relationships.

Once you have acknowledged the trauma you experienced and you begun to create some "emotional safety" for yourself while you heal, you can prayerfully consider moving on to this next step.

This next step (#3) involves helping your nervous system, your brain, your body, and your subconscious mind realize it is now "safe", that the "bear/tiger" (traumatic event) is no longer present and that your system can downregulate again. It is important to establish the truth of "safety" before you continue with deeper trauma-healing methods.

  1. Be very intentional about becoming more aware in the present moment. The world calls this "mindfulness" but I look at it from a Biblical viewpoint as becoming more purposeful about tuning into the present moment, where God is with you and where you are currently existing.

Our minds have a tendency to go into the future and worry about how things will work out (causes anxiety). We also tend to ruminate on the negative things that happened in the past, which can cause depression. The healthier way is to focus on the here and now and the fact that you can call upon Jesus Christ to calm your mind and nervous system.

In Matthew 6:25-34 it says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ..."

Here are some practical ways to harness your thoughts and bring them back to the here and now. Sit quietly with eyes closed or eyes opened, whichever is most comfortable for you. Focus on your breathing for a minute or so, then let your attention move to feeling your body as it sits on the chair. Let yourself become aware of what you smell, what you hear, and if your eyes are opened, what you see.

Take in these sensory details while having the beautiful knowledge that God is right there with you in that moment. You are safe. You are breathing in and out, you are alive, Jesus is with you, and at that very moment, Jesus is giving you life and breath. Let all the evidence of this sensory data (hearing your breath, feeling the chair, smelling the air, seeing the blue sky, for example) impart the gift of being "safe" in that moment.

If you can do this a few times each day for several days in a row, you will begin to notice your trauma response beginning to lessen. It might be very helpful to keep a log of your symptoms along with a number, rating the level of intensity. Keep this log for at least one week, logging in twice a day, morning and night.

  1. Keep a log to track your symptoms.Here is an example:

Monday A.M. - woke up with some fluttery, nervous feelings in my chest and stomach, felt anxious - intensity level was a 7 (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most intense, 1 being the least).

Monday P.M. - felt some fatigue after dealing with the day, joints and muscles felt tired - intensity level was a 5. After being present with Jesus for 5 minutes my anxiety was lower than this morning - rating it a 3 at the moment.

Tracking your symptoms is a good way to help you know what kinds of behaviors (such as being present, praying, singing, etc.) are helping the most. This will allow you to adjust what you are doing.

If you notice that you are experiencing anxiety, depression, and/or hopelessness at an intensity level of a 10 and it does not come down no matter what you do, you may need to consider getting some urgent support. Go to the E.R. if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, racing heart, or other similar symptoms. If you don't feel suicidal, but you still have very high levels of anxiety, depression and hopelessness, I strongly recommend you seek professional counseling right away.

Trauma responses can vary a lot from person to person so I encourage you to be very observant of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. If your responses begin to become more intense, that can actually be a sign of healing, but you will definitely need more support than what this newsletter can give to you.

If you need a professional counselor in your area, you can call your church and ask if they recommend someone or you can simply do a Google search for Christian Counselors in your area and prayerfully call one of the people listed to see if they will be a good fit for you.

Back to blog