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 diet?
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.
- Rest, 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