8 Key Ways to Heal After Personal Trauma and Setbacks

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It’s normal to wonder how you will every heal after personal trauma or a serious setback. Life isn’t always fair, and a personal crisis can happen at any time, rocking our stability personally or professionally. Be it a trauma, crisis, or a significant setback, healing takes time and requires consistent, and hopeful, effort.

Here are 8 key things you need to know:

1. Make sure you are safe: Safety and health can be threatened in any traumatic setback. Be it your physical safety, your emotional integrity, or maintaining your health, establishing safety is a must when it comes to healing from a crisis.

2. Coping with the initial after effects: Recognize that things have changed and so will your routine for a while. In dealing with the first few days of a crisis, make sure to prioritize on the most important things, and use your energy towards them.

3. Managing anxiety: Expect that anxiety will be part of the landscape, of course, but watch for signs that anxiety is getting out of control. Managing anxiety in a crisis requires being honest with yourself about how helpful or hurtful your anxiety is. If anxiety is getting in your way of functioning, this could be a sign that it’s time to see a doctor.

4. Grieve without getting stuck: Loss is always part of a crisis, trauma or setback, and it is normal and important to grieve. Be gentle with yourself and allow space to express your feelings – whatever they are. Crying can be cathartic, and good for you. No matter how you feel, make sure to treat yourself with compassion as you absorb the new reality.

5. Beware of the ‘if onlys’ and second guessing yourself and others. These are gateways to the quicksand of fantasy – our wishes for a different reality than what is. Wishing for a different outcome or situation is a normal human reaction to an unwanted situation, but can significantly hold you back from moving forward. No amount of wishing will change what has happened in the past, and spending time dwelling in alternative realities can entrap you. The only place you can effect change, and take control, is within the reality of your new situation. Embrace the choices you have rather than the ones you wish you had.

6. Engage Support: Lean on the support system you have, and surround yourself with positive compassionate people as much as possible. Do your best to avoid people who are negative or judgmental. Research shows that few things facilitate healing from trauma than social support. Don’t let shame, pride, or fear stop you from getting the support you need from the people around you that can support you. You do not have to do this alone, and help is available around you if you are willing to look.

7. Beware of Shame: Traumatic experiences commonly produce feelings of shame, anxiety, and the sense of failure. Seldom does one escape feelings of doubt or self questioning, or resist the sheer magnitude of the feelings of grief, anxiety, shame, even humiliation. A first challenge is to resist letting such feelings define oneself. This is an internal process, but is dramatically aided by the help and support of trusted third parties in one way or another.  Pushing through shame to enlist vital support is a key element to bouncing back.

8. Remember you can handle this: When the unexpected happens – because it could happen to any of us – resist the urge to doubt yourself, and remember YOU CAN HANDLE IT. You can. Yes, it will be a process, and yes, it will be uncomfortable, and yes it will take time. But you can do this, and you will.

Healing from a crisis takes time and effort. There will be times you feel crippled by the weight of the change, and times you feel strong and positive. Be gentle with yourself, and notice your progress as you heal. Just like broken bones heal stronger than before a break, we too grow stronger from weathering adversity. When we stretch bravely past the point of vulnerability, we build resilience. And it is this resilience that helps us weather adversity, and truly heal.


Looking for more help healing from a setback,  check out my anxiety blog, download my free ebook, or sign up for my newsletter

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD