9 things you can do to protect yourself from future trauma
Traumatic experiences like violence, abuse or abandonment leave emotional scars that rewire our nervous system. In each of those events there is an implied message that can imprint deep with us. These messages can become beliefs that we hold against ourselves.
Those messages are things like:
You are worthless
You are flawed
You are not good enough
You do not belong
You are ugly
No one will ever love you
You have no meaning
Why are some traumatised by an experience and others are not?
The more we have things that remind us of our worth and meaning, the more we are protected from trauma. When the negative messages come they do not hit as hard to go as deep. Sometimes we can escape these experiences with no trauma at all.
We want to be surrounded by people and activities that give us worth, meaning and significance. If our mom loved us unconditionally, then it does not hurt so much when an abusive father tells us we are worthless. If we get bullied at school but our friends comfort us afterwards it doesn’t so much. When we are treated unfairly at work but we are confident in our skills and our past work we lose less sleep. If our spouse dies suddenly but we are surrounded by friends and family, it cushions that hard loss.
There are things we can do to protect us from future trauma and aid the trauma recovery process.
Pursue relationships where you feel emotionally supported, loved, accepted, and belonging
This might just be the most powerful one. Having someone in our life, anyone, who unconditionally loves us can reduce the risk of trauma by around one half. The more vulnerability you can show in this relationships, the more you will feel that love and acceptance.
Find work or projects that connect you with your values, meaning and purpose.
These activities help remind you of your worth. The more you align yourself with your goals, difficult events can be framed as setbacks.
Regularly talk to someone you trust like a friend, mentor, sponsor or therapist
Few things help us feel more valued than being heard. Having someone hear our thoughts and respond to our feelings it validates us as people. Having someone you know that treats you with care and is eager to learn about you helps us believe are significant.
Enjoy quality time with safe friends and family
Quality time involves experiences that help us bond. Sometimes there are words, sometimes they are not. It could be fishing with a buddy or a long walk with a friend together. Enjoy life together.
Pursue experiences that leave you feeling successful or empowered
We all have things we are good at even if they are small. Celebrate the little things and do not discount them. If you are good at something, then find ways to do more of it and if possible, do it for or with others.
Focus on your health with attention to exercise and nutrition
Treating your body as something important and that matters helps you believe that you are important and that you matter. Exercise, while hard to do when you are not feeling good, is probably the best non-medical antidepressant.
Take time to relax and find activities you enjoy
Overworking yourself leads to fatigue and irritability. Sometimes it is necessary but if you constantly put other people or projects ahead of yourself, you are not treating yourself like you have value. Find things that help you unwind. Treat yourself, because doing so tells you that you are worth something.
Do activities that help you understand yourself, like journaling, meditation or self-reflection.
It might appear like a stretch for some to believe but you are a unique and valuable person. If you give yourself fair consideration you will find things to appreciate like strengths, skills and passions. The more you align yourself with those strengths, skills and passions, you will find accomplishment and meaning.
Engage in spiritual practices like meditation, prayer, yoga or walks in nature
Spirituality can be a deep source of connection and give us meaning and purpose. Spirituality often gives us a sense of the interconnectedness of people and a grounding in transcendent love.
About the author: Leighton Tebay | IFS Therapist
Leighton Tebay is husband, father to three and a Certified Counsellor in Canada. Shortly after he started his internship for his counselling degree he discovered IFS. With that came a passion for helping people heal from trauma. In September 2021 Leighton finished the official training to become a Level 1 IFS Therapist. If you are interested in booking a session with Leighton he is available in person in Saskatoon and online serving all of Canada.