How to Heal Trauma: A 5-Step Approach

by Christina

One of the most frustrating things I see is a belief that there is one way to heal trauma.

Unfortunately, healing trauma is not a one-step approach. It takes time, consistency and discipline, and you must address it from several angles. 

I’ve been on my healing journey since 2008 from CPTSD, and this is the roadmap I used. Feel free to mix and match. Here are the four aspects you must incorporate into your healing journey. 

1. Develop a healthy relationship with your true self

Because of trauma—especially prolonged trauma from childhood—there is a tendency to develop a false self that pleases whoever is inflicting the abuse. That being said, we all tend to conform to what we think others want. 

This primordial desire to belong and be liked stops us from embodying who we truly are, leading to so much of the suffering that comes from living an inauthentic life. 

The first step towards embodying who you truly are is to identify your values. Values are individual beliefs that motivate people to act one way or another. I use a simplified version to understand what inspires and excites me and what tends to produce the best results in my life. 

To discover your values, answer these questions: 

What are your passions? 

What do you spend the most time thinking about (when you aren’t working, etc)?

What do you spend your extra money on? 

When were you happiest?

When were you most proud of yourself? 

What was happening when you felt fulfilled? 

Establishing your values gives you a roadmap towards making better decisions for yourself. Don’t take a job, enter into a relationship or embark on an adventure unless most of your values are met. 

For example, my top four are health/wellness, creativity, family and learning. I feel fulfilled Whenever I do something that ticks all these boxes. 

There’s a lot more you can do to get to know your true self better, but this is a good first step!

2. Establish a baseline feeling of safety 

When we are traumatized, living with PTSD or CPTD, feeling “safe” is a foreign concept. You must prioritize feeling safe in your body, at home and out in the wider world. 

If you are currently in an abusive relationship, this means you must leave that relationship. You cannot feel safe living in the same home as an abuser, so you can either have them removed or find a safe place to live in. Please contact your local domestic violence organization for assistance and advice. When abusers feel they are losing control of you, they become extremely dangerous. 

Once you are in a safe place, establish boundaries that prevent abusive, narcissistic and toxic people from taking advantage of you or making you feel any guilt or shame. 

Meditation, gratitude, and mindfulness all work well to calm your nervous system while exercising. Yoga and fun and easy sports are great ways to feel what it’s like to be in your body in a joyful, relaxed state. 

3. Focus on your food & exercise 

The root cause of every addiction is trauma. Addictions can play out in many various forms, such as drugs and alcohol, relationships with certain types of people, gambling, shopping, or even working too much. Addictions are coping mechanisms and ways of making your body feel safe. 

But addictions steal your life as much as the trauma that caused them does. Seek help for your addictions and work in groups or alongside therapists who understand the link between trauma and addiction. And while you begin to develop a new relationship with yourself, focus on what you eat and how often you exercise. 

Certain foods make our trauma symptoms worse, and some make it better. The best diet to promote healthy physical and mental health is the protein, fiber and antioxidant-rich Mediterranean diet for three main reasons:

It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which have been proven to protect against depression and anxiety.

It promotes healthy gut microbiota with fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These dietary components support the gut microbiota, which has been linked to mental well-being.

It reduces inflammatory load and enhances cardioceptive accuracy, leading to better psychological health and overall well-being.

Exercise has been proven to improve mental health in three main ways:

Promotion of neurobiological remodelling means that your brain can be re-wired thanks to neuroplasticity. Exercise enhances neurobiological remodelling within key neurocircuitry, which is critical for changing how trauma and stress affect your brain. Adaptive learning and affective control processes improve the regulation of cognitive and affective responses. You want this to happen, making exercise a key component of healing trauma. 

Exercise releases endorphins and neurochemicals linked to pleasure, anxiolytic effects, sleepiness, and reduced pain sensitivity, promoting a sense of well-being and calmness. 

Enhancement of cognitive function and resilience stimulates the growth of new brain cells, improves concentration, memory, and thinking, and helps build resilience, allowing individuals to cope with mental and emotional challenges in a healthy way.

4. Regulate your nervous system

A lot of people talk about learning how to regulate your nervous system, and while I don’t believe this actually “heals” trauma, it does teach you how to calm triggers. 

One of the best ways to do this is through Polyvagal therapy to learn how to manage your emotions, triggers, reactions, stress and anxiety. 

Polyvagal therapy, based on the Polyvagal Theory developed by Dr Stephen Porges, focuses on the role of the vagus nerve in regulating emotions and social behaviour, particularly in response to trauma. The therapy aims to help individuals regulate their physiological state, enhance their sense of safety, and improve their ability to engage in healthy social interactions. Here’s how Polyvagal therapy aids in healing trauma:

Regulation of the autonomic nervous system
Polyvagal theory recognizes the autonomic nervous system’s role in responding to stress and trauma. Through techniques such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, and body-centered practices, Polyvagal therapy helps individuals regulate their autonomic nervous system, reducing hyperarousal and promoting a sense of safety.

Enhancing social engagement
The therapy focuses on improving an individual’s social engagement system, which involves fostering connections with others and feeling safe in social interactions. By utilizing techniques that promote social connectedness and safety, Polyvagal therapy helps individuals overcome the social withdrawal often associated with trauma.

Addressing Trauma Responses
Polyvagal therapy helps individuals identify and address trauma responses by teaching them how to recognize and modulate physiological cues associated with trauma. By doing so, individuals can learn to self-regulate and reduce symptoms such as anxiety, hypervigilance, and emotional dysregulation.

I enjoyed using the NEUROFIT™ app, which is marketed as the world’s first nervous system trainer. It helps you regulate, balance, and optimize your nervous system with daily check-ins, biometric measurements, tailored somatic exercises, and personalized insights. 

Pets, play, creativity, and healthy relationships are other great ways to help with nervous system regulation.

5. Reprogram your subconscious  

I developed an innovative way of not just reprogramming your subconscious, but the method also clears the emotions and beliefs attached to a traumatic event. Doing so removes any future patterns from occurring (as trauma can leave you feeling like you are on a loop/repeating behaviour and experiences) and triggers. 

Belief Hacking™ identifies the root cause or original experience that created the trauma, rewrites your experience of the events, clears the emotions and helps you process and integrate the experience. 

This allows you to choose what experience you would like to have consciously instead of being stuck in an unconscious loop, unaware of how the trauma is affecting you on a subconscious level. 

Belief Hacking™ is also a method designed to help you clear blocks or bad habits so you can achieve your goals more easily. 

To find out more about Belief Hacking™, click here

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