In this article, you will learn accessible and affordable steps to begin healing from trauma on your own. These steps are simple enough that you can start healing today.
You Can Heal Trauma on Your Own
Healing trauma is a complex and multi-layered process. As such, therapy is recommended for at least a portion of your healing journey. However, you needn’t wait to heal.
You can begin – or continue – to heal trauma on your own. This is true whether you aren’t sure if you want to attend therapy, can’t afford therapy right now, or haven’t found the right therapist for you.
Related: What to Look for in a Therapist: 3 Tips By a Licensed Therapist
Embarking on your Healing Journey
This article will provide you with steps to allow you to heal from trauma. Of course, as this is truly a journey you’re embarking on you may want to return to this article repeatedly to stay the course. It’s completely natural to forget these steps – or feel overwhelmed at first.
The most important thing is you’re here right now. Your willingness to heal is an amazing asset. And you only need to take baby steps in the direction of healing to ultimately, resolve your trauma.
Baby Steps Lead to Healing
As you read this article, try to focus on making baby steps. It’s natural to feel eager to heal especially when you’re experiencing the pain of unresolved trauma. However, this is a recipe for burn-out and to feel discouraged.
Instead, allow for sustainable change and healing. Find one recommendation in this article and commit to creating a habit around this. Once you’ve established a habit with this trauma healing tool, pick another step. Repeat the same process until this is a habit. Continue as needed and now that each step is leading you to your destination of healing your trauma.
Step #1: You Can Regulate Your Nervous System to Heal Your Trauma
Without any conscious choice, or thought, your nervous system reacts in the face of danger. When you’ve experienced trauma, your nervous system can essentially get “stuck” in ways that leave you feeling depressed or anxious. Often, you may want to isolate yourself or numb yourself with things like food, alcohol, or other substances.
This hijacking of your nervous system again is automatic. It’s not your fault if you often feel overwhelmed, irritable, or stuck. These are common trauma symptoms with origins in your autonomic nervous system.
To help yourself heal from trauma on your own, you can learn to attend to your nervous system. This will help you feel more emotionally regulated or balanced. Feelings of safety, relaxation, and peace arise with nervous system regulation.
How to Regulate Your Nervous System
One of the simplest ways to regulate your nervous system is through your breath. Attending to your breath with various exercises is a way you can help your body, and mind, heal from trauma in any given moment. You can practice breath work at any time in any place – and it’s completely free!
However, when you’ve experienced trauma, your breath may feel shallow. Or you may often “forget” to breathe. This all has roots in your autonomic nervous system reacting to a sense of danger (trauma). There is no fault in this. And you can come to your own assistance by learning how to breathe into your diaphragm.
Practicing Deep Breathing to Heal
In this video, you can learn how to practice diaphragmatic breathing. If you’ve experienced trauma, this may not be the “natural” way you breathe yet. No problem yet the more you practice this type of breathing the more you help yourself heal from trauma.
Step #2: Tending to Your Body for Healing
After trauma, especially complex trauma (which includes multiple traumatic experiences and a prolonged sense of unsafety), many people tend to abandon their body. It can feel safer to live your head rather than your heart so to speak. For others, if they experienced abuse towards their bodies, this complicates their sense of wanting to be with their body. Naturally, they may want to dissociate from it.
However, healing trauma is not just a mental process. Instead, much of trauma healing involves tending your body. This is done with breath as previously described. It’s also done with movement.
Moving Your Body to Heal from Trauma
One of the most effective ways to heal trauma through movement is through yoga. If you’ve never tried yoga – or have only done an intense class – it can seem intimidating. Yet, the true practice of yoga is simply to pair movement with breath. You want to honor movement in your body in a gentle way that never causes physical pain.
A very simple demonstration of how the breath and the movement pairs through yoga is shown in this video. In this cat-cow pose (if your body allows), you can see how you move with your breath. This is all that’s needed to practice yoga – nothing more!
Other Ways to Practice Movement
Besides yoga, there are many other ways you can move your body to support yourself and heal. A great way to help your healing process is to focus on moving your body daily – even if just for 5 minutes – to create a self-care practice. Bonus: Developing a self-care practice is the act of showing yourself love even if you don’t always feel worthy yet.
You can move your body with walking, dancing, or even “shaking off” whatever is stressing you out. By the way, shaking off traumatic events is how an animal can prevent trauma symptoms like anxiety, and dissociation but as humans this process often gets interrupted.
Step #3: Create a Safe Environment for You Now
Very simply said, trauma symptoms arise when you have yet to felt safe after a wounding event. The opposite of trauma then is the experience of safety (and true connection).
Yet sadly, many of us who have experienced trauma feel compelled to seek out, and recreate, relationships which are retraumatizing because they’re familiar. If you find that you seek out relationships which are abusive after experiencing childhood trauma, for example, this makes sense. It’s how trauma works – we attempt to recreate it to try to heal it. Yet, it doesn’t work this way. To truly heal from trauma, you must experience what you didn’t before: safety.
Setting Boundaries to Feel Safer
Self-sabotage and recreating painful relationships arises with unresolved trauma. To heal your own trauma, you can interrupt this process with boundaries.
Often, when discussing boundaries, it can feel like it has to be all or nothing. For example, you may think your only options are to hide your needs or feelings or to cut people off. It’s natural to get stuck at this point. But you have more options than this.
Finding the Middle Ground
Boundaries exist to allow you to experience safety. However, you have the right to decide what works best for you – it doesn’t need to be all or nothing.
For example, if your mom is hurtful with her words to you, you may still love her and not want to cut her out. But at the same time, if you stay silent, you will continue to feel unsafe. An option here is you could set the boundary with your mom that if she uses certain names towards you or is highly critical, you will end a phone call with her.
Of course, this is only an example. Only you can decide what’s the right path for you as you protect yourself with healthy boundaries.
Related: How to Be Your Authentic Self
Ending Relationships Which Recreate Trauma
Trauma often leads to issues with self-worth while also leading to an attraction to what’s familiar. Because of this, you may find that you date partners who are unkind or abusive towards you. This makes sense and isn’t your fault.
At the same time, to heal from trauma on your own, it’s important to work towards ending abusive relationships. When you make a commitment to have only safe relationships, this creates a foundation in your life supportive of trauma healing. Of course, this is a process and healing journey itself so please be patient with yourself. To start, set boundaries with safer people. You may also want to learn more about codependency recovery.
Step 4: Treating Yourself with Love
Trauma often makes people feel “messed up” or “broken.” If you relate, this is not a reflection of your worth. Rather, it’s what happens when your sense of safety, especially with other people, is violated. You, innately, are worthy, important, valuable, and lovable. Of course, it makes sense if you don’t yet fully believe this.
Part of healing trauma is learning how to show yourself the love, care, and safety you didn’t receive previously. You best support safety by tending to your nervous system, body, and setting boundaries.
You are Worthy of Care
By creating a sustainable self-care practice, you show yourself love and care. This can overlap with previous steps to heal trauma. For example, if you commit to 10 minutes of yoga or breathwork a day, this is an act of self-care and regulates your nervous system. Through this practice, you are showing yourself you’re worthy of love.
You also treat yourself with love by learning to care for, and accept, your emotions. This is the practice of self-soothing. There are many things you can do to soothe your emotions, which again, includes diaphragmatic breathing.
However, when you’ve experienced trauma, it can be hard to know how to soothe your emotions. To support you, I’ve created a free self-soothing handout to give you self-soothing tips for whenever you feel overwhelmed:
You Can Heal Your Own Trauma
With the steps provided here, you can begin to heal and resolve your own trauma. Of course, this steps require time, practice, and commitment. Furthermore, you can’t do them “perfectly.” Healing from trauma just like anything else in human reality is an imperfect process. Have compassion for yourself and with the process.
The most important thing is that you are here – making the choice to show up for yourself with love and care.
Finally, if you find that you start feeling worse trying any of these steps, please take a pause. This may be a sign you may need the support of a trauma therapist or another professional i.e., a trauma trained yoga teacher. Please be gentle with yourself as you don’t want to recreate trauma in the process of healing.
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her third book, Therapy Within Reach: Setting Boundaries, will be released September, 2023.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to email@example.com or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.
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