Whether it’s from a past relationship or an experience during childhood, unhealed emotional trauma can manifest in various ways throughout our lives. No matter how much you try to compartmentalize and pretend like you’re totally unbothered by everything, these unresolved issues will always come back to haunt you. Not sure if you’re dealing with emotional trauma? Here are some signs you have some things to work through.
- You overreact to things that are really no big deal. Things that are truly NBD to most other people provoke an extreme reaction in you, whether fear, anger, or sadness. You take things extremely seriously and blow things out of proportion more often than not.
- You avoid uncomfortable places, situations, or people. Maybe that coffee shop around the corner used to be your favorite but these days, you avoid it like the plague because you know going there will trigger unpleasant memories or make you feel a way you really don’t want to feel.
- You often have nightmares or have bouts of insomnia. Unhealed emotional trauma can lead to recurring nightmares or trouble sleeping. You may even want to avoid going to bed at night because you’re afraid of the dark and quiet since that’s when the bad thoughts come out to play.
- You often feel detached or unmoved. You can’t really explain it, but you often feel like you’re walking through a fog or that you’re existing on some kind of parallel plane of existence. No matter how much you want to be present with the people you love, the things you’re doing, etc., you find yourself struggling to really connect.
- Your sense of self-worth is in the toilet. Holding onto unhealed emotional trauma can deeply affect your self-worth, leading you to doubt and even talk down about yourself. This is especially likely if you went through an experience in which someone made you feel less than in the past. Reminder: You are more than enough.
- You often feel sick or unwell for no apparent reason. Emotional pain can manifest physically. While blood tests and doctor examinations may come back totally clear, you could still experience headaches, unexplained aches and pains, and even cold and flu-like symptoms due to the extreme stress on your body.
- You struggle to get close to other people. Trauma, especially when it’s caused by betrayal or abuse, can make it feel nearly impossible to get close to someone and let them in. You’re terrified that your past experiences are going to repeat themselves, so you close yourself off in an effort to avoid being hurt.
- You always have your guard up. All you want is to feel safe and secure, but that’s easier said than done. Instead, you walk through most of your life feeling tense and on edge, constantly waiting for something terrible to happen. This makes you unnecessarily defensive and is incredibly exhausting, to boot.
How to navigate unhealed emotional trauma
- Don’t neglect self-care. Take a day off for yourself. Find what feels good – whether that’s going for a run, reading a book, or even just vegging out on the couch with some pizza and the latest Netflix series. Find time to nurture yourself, because your relationship with you is the most important one you’ll ever have.
- Consider hitting up a therapist. It should go without saying at this point that therapy can be a game-changer. If you feel weird about going to see someone or are looking for a more laid-back (and cheaper) option, there are even online therapy sites like BetterHelp that let you talk to a professional from home.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer a low-key way to get into meditation and mindfulness even if you’ve never tried it before. Your mind will likely wander for a while and you’ll find it hard to focus, but practice really does make perfect here.
- Rely on your crew. Lean on your friends. Whether it’s a deep heart-to-heart or just a fun night out, surrounding yourself with people who love you, who know you well, and who bring out the best version of you is an amazing way to feel happy, loved, and supported.
- Move your body and stay active. If you’re not into exercise, that one will probably make you roll your eyes, but hear me out. You don’t have to go to the gym for an hour or run a mini-marathon. Just take time to get up and get sweaty a few times a week. You’ll be amazed at the difference this can have on your emotional trauma as well as your overall sense of well-being.
- Educate yourself. Read up on trauma and healing. Books like “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk are a good place to start. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to combat what you’re up against.
- Limit your triggers. Know what sets you off? Whether it’s certain shows, songs, or even people, it’s okay to set boundaries for your mental health. While you shouldn’t avoid things forever as a way of not dealing with your trauma, it’s okay to be gentle and give yourself space.