Physical Self-Care in Trauma Recovery

Trauma Release Through Exercise

When going through trauma it is not unusual for your body to react to the stress. It has become common knowledge that the mind, body and spirit are not separate entities that respond in isolation to one another. Emotional trauma will strongly impact the body and spirit, just as trauma in the body or spirit will impact the others. When you take a fall and break a bone or have surgery, your emotions come along for the ride! One cannot have a baby and not have a profound emotional and spiritual experience along with the physical act of giving birth.

If you have been physically or sexually abused, you may have learned how to separate yourself from your physical feelings. You may hardly notice when you are tired or hungry or something is hurting. On the other hand, you may be intensely sensitive to physical changes. Being attentive to your body is an important step in self care. Learning to give your body what it needs is one way to honor yourself. Exercise is one of the most important needs your body has when dealing with trauma. Take a break and go for a walk when stress threatens to overwhelm you. Go to the gym and be part of a class. It may be hard to get up and move while you are dealing with trauma, but physical exercise actually helps release the trauma that is held in your body on a cellular level.

Stress Stored in the Body

Business and life coach Malcom Avner writes, “When humans experience a traumatic situation, the body’s nervous system initiates an energetic infusion to fuel a genetically encoded physical defense response. If not expressed and released, the energy generated by traumatic experience is stored at the cellular level. The stored energy generates an ongoing loop of mind/body self-defense reactions. Trauma Release Exercises are a set of physical exercises designed to address and release deep-seated, unexpressed energy that originated in past experiences of physical or psychological trauma.”

For those who are avid exercisers, don’t be surprised if you need to slow your workouts down for a time. Your body needs energy to process your grief. Sometimes people avoid their feelings by driving themselves too hard physically. Be aware of your tendency to overwork, as well. Allowing yourself to exercise appropriately will help your process tremendously. Another area to be conscious of is rest.

Massage helps de-stress the body and can be beneficial for trauma release.

Massage helps de-stress the body and can be beneficial for trauma release.

Connecting to the Body, Connecting to the Heart

When you are trying to avoid painful feelings or memories, it is easy to drive yourself hard. You can do that through work, studying, and even playing. Keeping your mind and body busy enables you to be disconnected from the heart that may contain things you don’t want to feel.

If you have decided that it is time to live fully and put to rest the thought patterns and relational dysfunctions that are keeping you from authentic living, then connecting with that heart is crucial. Giving yourself permission to rest is part of that picture. When you need rest, make some time for a nap, or just lay down for awhile even if you don’t go to sleep. Turn off the TV and computer and turn on some soothing music. Take a hot bath, read a book, or drink a cup of tea. Build a fire or light a candle. Tell yourself that you are worth taking care of!

Joyce O. Beckett writes in an article on Silver Planet, “You may need to determine what relaxes and re-energizes you. It may be an evening with friends, a long walk, a ball game, exercise, a religious service, sitting by a lake, or reading a good book…Whatever self-care activity you select, it is important to regularly schedule the time. Place it in your personal calendar and set alarms to remind you. Then, protect that time by telling yourself and others: “I have an important, standard appointment that I cannot cancel; I am unavailable for anything else.

You're worth it!

You Deserve It!

Paying attention to the needs of your body is one way to communicate love and acceptance to yourself. Underneath your struggle with self-care may be a belief that you are not worth taking care of, or that your body is the enemy that betrayed you. Becoming aware of the emotional blocks that keep you from being connected to, and kind to, your body can help you move through your resistance to learning great self-care. Maybe it’s time to replace those beliefs with the truth: You deserve it. Really, you do.