Trauma Counselling – Stage Two. After The Storm:
First Five Steps – ReBuildingYou After Physical Trauma
The urgent acute care stage is over and recovery now begins in earnest. Perhaps you will have been reading this website and already understand the value of trauma counselling. Perhaps your partner/parent/friend has been reading it or perhaps it’s been recommended to you by hospital staff. However you found us: welcome! Let the work begin.
1. First Step: Take Stock of Your Situation
It may sound elementary but when you are plunged into a difficult situation, you often forget even to breathe, let alone to take stock of your situation. Trauma counselling is a good way to assess each of the 5 areas listed below as they affect you right now. Compare that to how those same things were for you just before your incident. Take in the difference between ‘before’ and ‘after’, imagine what it will take to succeed in your recovery. Give yourself time just to acknowledge the knock you have taken.
2. Second Step: Find ‘Your Place’
This is an important step in both emotional and physical trauma because it will give you back some control and support you through particularly difficult times. Again, trauma counselling is a great way to do this work which will help you ‘manage’ pain and tricky procedures or to breathe through a nasty panic attack.
One of the first ‘shocks’ after the initial trauma is to realize that you have to go right through the whole of this phase now. It’s a bit like about halfway through my first pregnancy when I suddenly realized that giving birth was inevitable! There was no going back or changing my mind! It’s a seriously sobering thought. There is no ‘quick fix’ or pill to take away the symptoms, not longterm anyway. You won’t be waking up and finding it all was just a bad dream. For now, this is your reality.
In both emotional and physical trauma, finding a place – your place – where you can breathe and rest awhile, is really important. I will say it again (as it’s so important): it gives you back a sense of control over how you deal with the things – often unpleasant things – happening to you.
I suggest thinking of a place you find comforting and build an image, a quite detailed image, in your mind of that place. You can then ‘go there’ – quite quickly – whenever you need.
While you’re building the image of ‘your place’, you may find it helpful to answer these questions: What can you see? Fill in the spaces just as if you were painting a picture. How does it smell? Imagine the scents wafting to your nose. Is it warm or cold? Imagine the feel of the air on your skin. Can you feel the warmth of the sun on your face? Are you aware of the cold air going up your nose? What can you hear? Let the sounds unfold as you look at various parts of the picture you have created. Trauma counselling can help you do this work too.
Go to this comfort place whenever you need to ‘get away’ from something that’s happening and control pain such as a medical procedure, or if you need to find calm during a panic attack.
Go to ‘your place’ and practice breathing in to a count of 3 and breathe out to a count of 4. This is important because when the exhale is longer than the inhale, your heart rate has no option but to slow down.
3. Third Step: Address Each Area Of Healing At The Same Time
Consider addressing each of the areas discussed below at the same time in order for effective and lasting healing to take place. This is a very important notion and it’s worth staying with it for a while and letting the idea settle. Neuroscience has discovered that there are positive changes in the brain when you work this way which proved what I ended up realizing after years of trial and error and getting the best healing when I balanced my attention between these 5 different areas of healing.
Attention to each area, at the same time, is important. Then you can take another step, another step in each area. For many years I would find one area and concentrate on it, just to find that I had lost ground ‘generally’. You need to rebuild the whole of you and a coach or trauma counselling will help keep you on track.
Next, list out the 5 areas we talk about below – or download the ReBuildingYou Blueprint (when it’s available) and ask someone to print it out for you.
Read what I say about the 5 areas and think about how those areas appear in your life. Think about how you could address them.
4. Fourth Step: Find Others to Partner With You In Healing
Assign someone you trust – family, friends or professionals – to be ‘in charge’ of each area. If one person is in charge of more than one area, ask them if they would be willing please to keep them separate. It would be helpful too if someone else, maybe you, were in overall charge.
Help make an action plan, including work in each of those separate areas, for the next week or two. Remember to work in each of these 5 areas at the same time and ask the person in charge of each area to hold you accountable for their area.
It’s somewhat helpful for each of your friends/family to have a more specific role to play and know that they are contributing to your recovery. You do want to be careful though that visiting you remains fun and not always about you and your recovery.
Addressing Each Area Of Healing At The Same Time is the only way real healing can take place: to plan and address each area and then concentrate on following that plan. I can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention to the whole of you.
Trauma counselling is ideal to help you brainstorm and help find information to understand your new reality and to make this plan toward the life you want. A month of unlimited email support from a professional counsellor is invaluable.
5. With Each of Your Supporters, in Each of the 5 Areas of Healing, List At Least Ten Activities
Choose goals that you are able to achieve fairly easily now, that can increase in difficulty and duration as you recover.
Track your progress every day and review with your supporter.
For example sit in a chair in the fresh air for 10 minutes a day and increase to walking around the neighbourhood for 30 minutes each day.
Or count backwards in increments of 2 from 20: 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and graduate to counting backwards in increments of 4 from 100 to 4.
There are books of mathematical puzzles, crosswords and other games available and many games such as the word game www.FreeRice.com online.
As you see, some activities are particularly valuable because they address more than one healing area. The overall goal is to gradually build your life according to your custom design. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve: it took me many years but I not only walked again but now I dance ballroom to silver level.
Everything you do may start small but will build to become more skilled and stronger as you gain stamina.
The 5 areas of healing are:
Physical such as clean air and water, medical and naturopathic information, nutrition, exercise, shelter, multi-vitamin, protein supplement, practicing yoga, tai-chi, massage, finding energy to work, supporting physical health with a zapper device
Emotional such as love and support of friends and family, giving yourself an email counselling session, Zoom online counselling, a cat to stroke, massage, feeling independent when you work
Cognitive such as mathematics games, card games, internet research about your trauma and other interests, working on your ‘What I Mean Is…” book (after brain injury), learning dance steps or choir songs, reading, retraining for suitable work
Joy such as listening to music, sitting in the sun, dancing with friends, visiting with loved ones and friends, receiving special visits, attending church, massage
Financial such as sickness benefits, welfare requirements, employment, medical, life, car and house insurance, homecare, social benefits, credit card and bank account balances and status, working
Be mindful of everything you do and every day share your time between all of these 5 healing areas. Support your body to heal itself: it is the most efficient healer.
I think one of the most important things to do when you are rebuilding from any major physical injury or if you are facing serious chronic challenges is to take it gently, consistently, as confidently as you can and try and make each thing you do ‘fun’. When a young child learns a new skill, they allow themselves to fail and get up and try again. Be gentle with yourself. Keep trying!