Emotional trauma can take a toll on us in many ways — mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Coping with traumatic experiences isn’t always easy and it may take time, but it’s possible to heal and overcome them. If you’ve gone through a traumatic event and you’ve experienced emotional trauma, you may be wondering how to know when you’ve finally healed. While healing may be a process, there are ways to tell you’re making progress. Continue reading to learn what emotional trauma actually is and signs you’re on the path to recovery.

What is Emotional Trauma?

Emotional trauma typically takes place after a distressing event or experiences which leave an individual feeling helpless, fearful, anxious, and unsafe. Emotional trauma can happen from a single event or a string of events over a prolonged period of time. While an individual can experience emotional trauma after an event that causes physical injury or harm, they are not mutually exclusive meaning you can experience emotional trauma with the absence of physical trauma. 

Individuals who experience emotional trauma may also experience physical symptoms in addition to emotional ones such as nightmares, sleep issues, fatigue, or muscle tension and aches. Emotional trauma can often be difficult to heal from as it can potentially change the way an individual thinks and copes with future issues down the road. However, it’s possible to find ways to overcome it and heal from overwhelming or distressing experiences.

Here are five signs you’re healing from emotional trauma :

1. You Stop Ruminating

When an individual ruminates, they often get stuck in negative thought patterns that become repetitive. If an individual goes through a traumatic event, they may replay it over and over in their head, reliving the distress each time they think about it. Most people may ruminate at times, but it can be an incredibly unhealthy  behavior as it doesn’t allow you to move towards any feelings of resolution and may even make emotional distress worse. 

If you’ve lived through a traumatic event and you find you’re no longer ruminating over what happened, and you’re able to move forward, that may be a good sign you’re beginning to overcome your challenges and finally healing. However, if you still find you are constantly thinking about what happened and the trauma you endured without ever coming to a resolution, there may be strategies that could help.

  • Avoid Triggers – Some individuals may find specific factors that may trigger their ruminating behavior. It may help to stop ruminating by limiting your exposure to these triggers.
  • Journaling your thoughts – If your mind seems to be on a loop about the trauma you’ve endured, it may be incredibly helpful to get those thoughts out on paper by journaling. Journaling may allow you to express your thoughts and feelings, recognize any negative thought patterns you may have, and may even help you understand what happened better and come to a resolution.
  • Exercise – When your thoughts become overwhelming, it is often helpful to get your body moving with a bit of exercise. A recent study shows that just a single session of physical activity can reduce rumination behaviors. Not only can exercise distract your mind from your thoughts, but it also boosts feel good endorphins which can boost your mood and improve overall mental health.
  • Meditation – Practicing regular meditation has many proven mental health benefits. It can reduce symptoms of  anxiety and depression, improve concentration, and it can also be an effective way to learn to redirect any negative thoughts you may have and focus on the present moment.
  • Healthy Distractions – While it’s important to deal with our emotions and not repress them, sometimes when our thoughts begin to overwhelm us, it can be helpful to find a healthy distraction so we can come back to it with a fresh mind. If you find you’re ruminating over an experience, try going for a walk, calling a loved one, or try a challenging puzzle. 

2. You Allow Yourself to Feel Emotions

Often when an individual goes through a traumatic experience, they may experience denial or try to find ways to minimize their emotions so they don’t have to deal with their feelings or what happened to them. However, when you begin to allow yourself to feel a range of emotions such as those you experience during the five stages of grief, you may finally begin healing. It’s natural to feel sad, angry, or confused when something traumatic happens in your life. By allowing yourself to experience those emotions fully, you validate them and may begin to fully understand exactly what it is you’re feeling. 

3. You Begin Living More Mindfully 

When an individual goes through a distressing experience, they may try to find ways to distract themselves and numb their pain or they may find they are constantly thinking about what happened instead of being in the present moment. However, once you begin living more mindfully and with intention, you may find you’re able to find healthier ways to cope with life’s challenges and adversities by being present. It’s important to allow yourself time and space to cope with your experience so you can overcome it in a healthy way. Walking in nature, meditation, yoga, or simply doing everyday tasks mindfully are all effective ways to be more mindful.

4. You’ve Accepted What Happened

Acceptance is a completely necessary and very important part of the healing process. Learning to accept what happened to you doesn’t mean it didn’t happen nor was it traumatic. Learned to find acceptance in a distressing situation allows you to find peace. When you finally accept what happened for what it is, you’re acknowledging the uncomfortable parts which allows you to show yourself compassion and finally move forward.

5. You Reach Out for Support

A healthy support system is an invaluable resource for individuals experiencing emotional trauma. However, it may be common for someone who went through a traumatic or difficult experience to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like withdrawing from people close to them or putting a guard up and not allowing people into their emotional inner world. However, once you begin healing from emotional trauma, you may begin to finally let people in, sharing your emotions and feelings with them. You may also begin to understand what your authentic wants and needs are and you may start to finally reach out to others for help. It’s important to remember, there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. If you’re experiencing emotional trauma, reaching out for support from a trusted friend or a professional can help you finally heal.