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Childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental health, physical health, relationships, and overall well-being. Complex trauma in childhood, such as invalidating and judgemental relationships with caregivers, abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence, can be particularly challenging to cope with throughout life.
Survivors of complex trauma in childhood may struggle with issues such as emotional dysregulation, dissociation, and difficulty forming healthy relationships. However, there are healthy coping strategies that can help survivors to heal from past trauma and cope with their emotions, build resilience, and create their lives worth living.
In this blog post, we will explore some of the healthy coping strategies that survivors of complex trauma in childhood can use to manage their emotions, build resilience, and create their lives worth living.
Seek Professional Support
One of the most important steps in building healthy coping strategies for survivors of complex trauma in childhood is to seek professional support. This can include therapy, counseling, and other forms of mental health support. Working with a trained professional can help survivors to process their experiences, develop coping strategies, and build resilience.
Therapy can help individuals to identify patterns of behavior and communication that may be contributing to their distress. It can also help individuals to learn new coping strategies and develop healthier relationships with others. By working with a trained trauma informed therapist, survivors can begin to build resilience and move towards a healthier future.
Develop a coping plan for overwhelming emotions
Survivors of complex trauma in childhood may experience triggers that cause them to feel unsafe or overwhelmed. Developing a coping plan can be an effective way to manage these triggers, reduce trauma related mental health symptoms and build resilience. A coping plan involves identifying triggers, developing strategies to manage them, and identifying safe places and people to turn to when needed.
Some strategies that can be included in a coping plan include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, TIPP skills (described in What are TIPP skills? A Simple Guide to Surviving Intense and Overwhelming Emotions) and distraction techniques such as listening to music or engaging in a favorite hobby. It is also important to identify safe places and people to turn to when feeling overwhelmed. This may include a trusted friend or family member, a support group, or a crisis helpline.
Self-care is an important part of building healthy coping strategies for survivors of complex trauma in childhood. Self-care involves taking care of one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. This can include engaging in physical activity, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in activities that bring joy and pleasure.
Self-care can also involve setting boundaries and saying no to activities or situations that may be triggering or overwhelming. It is important for survivors to prioritize their own well-being and take the time to care for themselves.
Build Healthy Relationships
Building healthy relationships can be a challenge for survivors of complex trauma in childhood. However, developing healthy relationships is an important part of building resilience and healing from trauma. It is important to seek out supportive and nurturing relationships and to avoid relationships that may be triggering or harmful.
Developing healthy communication skills is an important part of building healthy relationships. It is important to learn how to express feelings and needs in a clear and assertive way, while also being open to feedback and compromise.
Engage in Trauma-Focused Therapy
Trauma-focused therapy is a type of therapy that is specifically designed to help survivors of trauma to process their experiences, develop coping strategies, and build resilience. This type of therapy may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Internal Family Systems (IFS), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and somatic experiencing therapy.
Trauma-focused therapy focuses on helping survivors to process and make sense of their experiences, while also building skills to manage their emotions and cope with triggers of emotional overwhelm and trauma response in the present. By working with a trained trauma therapist, survivors can begin to heal from past trauma, build resilience and move towards a healthier future.
Coping skills that can be helpful for managing distressing emotions
- Deep breathing and relaxation techniques
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Physical exercise and movement
- Engaging in a favorite hobby or activity
- Spending time in nature
- Journaling and self-reflection
- Seeking support from friends or family
- Engaging in therapy or counseling
- Setting boundaries and saying no to activities or situations that may be triggering or overwhelming
- Expressing emotions through art, music, or writing
- Developing a self-care routine that includes activities that bring joy and pleasure
- Identifying and challenging negative thought patterns
- Practicing positive affirmations and self-talk
- Seeking out social support through support groups or online communities
- Creating a safety plan for managing triggers and overwhelming emotions.
In conclusion, building healthy coping strategies is crucial for survivors of childhood complex trauma to heal and lead fulfilling lives in the present. Coping mechanisms such as mindfulness, grounding techniques, and self-compassion can help individuals manage their emotions and alleviate the symptoms of trauma.
It is important to remember that healing from childhood complex trauma is a long and challenging journey, and it is okay to seek help and support from mental health professionals or support groups. By prioritizing self-care, seeking professional help, and utilizing healthy coping mechanisms, survivors can take control of their lives and find peace from the effects of childhood complex trauma.