Stress and trauma are more than just buzzwords in popular psychology. They are, in one form or another, part of our everyday life.
Learning how to cope with stressful and traumatic times in your life and how to summon your inner courage and strength is a useful skill that anyone can benefit from. But, it’s not as easy as it might seem – though we’re much stronger than we think, many obstacles between us and our inner power were placed by society, our families, and even ourselves.
What are stress and trauma?
Speaking in psychological terms, stress is any kind of change that causes our body and mind to quickly adapt to a new set of circumstances. A change of the stressful kind can bring you physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress makes us step out of our comfort zone and stay there. As you might have guessed by now, not all stressful events have to be negative experiences. While the death of a spouse is rated the highest on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, marriage is at the 7th place, while retirement takes the 10th place. As you can see, any form of long-lasting change can be a cause of stress.
Trauma can be closely related to a period of prolonged stress, but it can also be caused by a single, emotionally powerful, event. In general, psychologists say that we experience trauma every time we feel like we’re not in control of our own life. So, even something as mundane as having to make a phone call that you don’t want to make is considered a traumatic event, albeit on a small scale.
How to deal with stressful times
If you take a look at the definitions listed above, you might start looking at your life as a series of unfortunate events, with stress following trauma, followed by more stress. That way of thinking can easily lead you into a trap where you see yourself as a constant victim with no control over your life. That is simply not true. Remember, no matter how desperate things might seem at times, you’re in charge.
Face your feelings
However, finding your inner strength is not a straightforward process. First of all, you need to be able to admit to yourself how you feel. Don’t repress your feelings, but don’t delve onto them too much, either. All of your feelings are valid, including fear, anxiety, and dread, and facing and embracing those feelings doesn’t mean that you are in any way weak or less than someone else.
Believe it or not, it’s little kids that can teach you how to deal with your difficult emotions. Kids deal with their feelings as they come, experience them completely, and move on. Sure, a skinned knee may cause a kid to cry one minute, but that doesn’t stop that kid from admiring a butterfly the very next moment.
Be kind to yourself
Another thing that can help you when dealing with an issue that causes you stress or trauma is to think about it as if it’s a problem that someone else is facing. Ask yourself, what would you say to a close friend if they came to you with a problem like the one you’re currently facing. Chances are you wouldn’t call them useless, or dumb, or incapable of doing anything right, correct? So, don’t be harsh on yourself either.
When dealing with our problems, we are taught to stick to them until we find a solution, to just hang in there, to “fake it till we make it”. On the other hand, if someone else came to us asking for help, we would most likely advise them to take a break, to relax, and try to do something that will take their mind off the problems they’re currently facing.
Keep in mind that finding the right balance is the key both when it comes to experiencing your true emotions and when it comes to treating yourself. While it’s OK to be a bit scared of what the future has in stock for you, don’t let the fear paralyze you. It’s perfectly fine to admit that life sometimes isn’t fair, but that doesn’t give you – or anyone else – the right to constantly behave as a victim.
Similarly, while you can and should give yourself a chance to relax and take it easy when life gets too tough, that doesn’t mean that you should take a day off and treat yourself to a spa day every time someone steals your parking spot. Just like with everything else in life, finding the right measure is the key.
To sum it all up, we all go through times of trauma and high stress. When that happens, try not to see yourself as a victim of events that are beyond your control. Think of yourself as a survivor, as a fighter rather than someone unable to change anything. Face those negative feelings and truly experience them before brushing them off. Repressed emotions can only do you harm in the long run.
Remember, everything must pass. No matter how tough things might seem at the moment, you’re going to make it through. Think back to all the problems that you have successfully overcome in your life. This should give you enough strength to deal with your current issues as well.
If none of this helps and you start to feel overwhelmed by your present circumstances, try to take an objective look at your situation. Or, to say it in another way, treat your problem as if it were someone else’s. Odds are, you’ll be much more relaxed once you change your point of view.
Lastly, keep in mind that there are people in your life who can and want to help you. There is no shame in asking for help from friends. Another certain thing that can help you unleash your inner strength is looking for help from a professional, someone like folks from Firefly therapy in Austin who specialize in counseling that is empowering people who are going through hard times.
Remember, you are stronger than you think. Your feelings are valid. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else. Feel free to ask for help if you need it. Good luck!