5 Holistic Way to Heal Trauma without Becoming Retraumatized
If you have experienced trauma, you know firsthand the impact it can have on your life. Trauma can leave you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and even hopeless. One of the biggest fears clients expressed about working on their trauma is that they will have to relive it. Or that they will have to re-experience it as a way to heal. While sharing your story with someone who knows how to hold space for you can be an incredibly important part of your healing process, many times talking is not enough. It can even be detrimental when we get stuck in the loops of re-experiencing. While it can be scary to take the first step towards healing, there are several holistic approaches that can not only help you on your journey towards emotional wellness, they will leave you feeling better, without -re-experiencing it. While traditional talk therapy can be helpful, it may not be enough to fully address the physical and emotional symptoms of trauma. In this blog, we will discuss 5 holistic ways to heal trauma without becoming re-traumatized, including EMDR, yoga therapy, aromatherapy, mindfulness, and Somatic Experiencing.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
EMDR is a type of therapy that has been shown to be effective in treating trauma. EMDR follows the Adaptive Information Processing model, which essentially says that when we have trauma and develop symptoms like PTSD the neural networks in the brain are stuck. EMDR helps the brain to do its natural healing process of clearing those unhelpful neural networks. It involves using eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation (such as eye movements or tapping) to help your brain reprocess the traumatic memories, reducing their emotional intensity and creating new, more adaptive and healing belief patterns. Unlike other forms of therapy, EMDR does not require you to relive your traumatic experiences in detail, which can reduce the risk of re-traumatization. By processing your traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment, EMDR can help you not only decrease symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and substance use, it helps you to integrate all parts of the experience, which in my perspective is where true, lasting healing exists.
Yoga therapy is a holistic approach to healing trauma that combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and substance use. One of the benefits of yoga therapy is that it helps you connect with your body and emotions in a safe and supportive way. Many people live “from the neck up” as I like to say. This can be especially true if you have experienced trauma. It can leave you feeling disconnected from your body, perhaps even unsafe in your body. By practicing yoga therapy with a skilled therapist, you can learn to connect with your body in a healthy way. Many people with trauma “can’t meditate” because their minds are racing or they can’t sit still. This is where the right guided movement can be extremely powerful. The tools you learn in Yoga therapy can help you regulate your nervous system, cultivate a sense of inner peace and balance, and can help you learn to regulate your emotions and physical sensations. It focuses on creating a safe and supportive environment for that mind/body connection. That’s where true healing can occur.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to promote healing and well-being. Certain therapeutic grade essential oils have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. For example, many people know that lavender essential oil is known for its calming properties and can help reduce anxiety and promote sleep and relaxation. Frankincense essential oil is considered the “king of essential oils” has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, stabilize mood and help support the immune system. Different oils have different therapeutic properties, and an experienced aromatherapist can help you identify the oils that are best for your specific needs. For example, two of my favorite aromatherapy blends for trauma are Balance and Adaptiv. Balance helps with grounding and anxiety, and Adaptiv was specifically formulated to help you adapt to stressful situations. Aromatherapy can be a powerful tool all on its own. When used in conjunction with other holistic approaches to healing trauma such as EMDR and yoga therapy it can have profound effects on your overall healing.
Mindfulness is a practice that involves paying attention to the present moment with intention, kindness, and compassion. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The goals of Mindfulness are to reduce suffering and increase happiness, take hold of the mind instead of letting it take hold of you, and to experience reality as it is instead of how you want it to be. You do this by cultivating a relationship with your wise mind, that true self within, by observing, describing and participating fully in the moment, non-judgmentally, one mindfully and effectively. When you can reduce the tension in your thoughts and just notice them (because unless you’re a monk in the Himalayas you’re not likely to fully turn them off) it can significantly reduce the pain and suffering you experience. One simple way to practice this is taking a moment to take a few deep, clearing breaths and observe your environment with as many senses as possible, with curiosity and interest. By learning to observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment, you can learn to regulate your nervous system, emotions and physical sensations. This can reduce the impact of your traumatic experiences and have a profound impact on your life.
Somatic Experiencing is a body-centered therapy approach that aims to release the physical and emotional tension held in the body as a result of trauma. The Body Keeps the Score right? Have you heard this before? This means that even if the mind doesn’t remember the details, the physical sensations of trauma can be stored in the body and direct your thoughts and behaviors. When we’re in our sympathetic nervous system, our “fight, flight, freeze” system, the body releases chemicals to the extremities so we can run, fight or freeze. If we don’t release these, as is true many times in trauma, they are stored in the body as memories and can continue to impact us. By bringing awareness to the physical sensations associated with trauma, and using techniques such as deep breathing, grounding exercises, and guided movements, Somatic Experiencing can help you release this trapped energy and emotions. This can lead to a greater sense of physical and emotional safety, and can help dramatically reduce symptoms of anxiety and PTSD.
In conclusion, there are several holistic approaches that can help you heal from trauma without becoming re-traumatized. EMDR, yoga therapy, aromatherapy, mindfulness, and Somatic Experiencing are just a few of the many approaches that can be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and substance use. With the help of these holistic approaches and the support of a qualified therapist, you can find healing and move towards a brighter future and as I like to say, build a life worth living. Don't be afraid to reach out and seek help. You deserve to live a life that is free from the pain of unhealed trauma.