Want to learn how to heal from childhood trauma as an adult? I am sharing the complete guide on how to heal from childhood trauma and restore your nervous system (which is so essential and yet most professionals forget to mention).
The healing journey is equal parts challenging and exciting. You are facing, processing, and releasing the pain of the past while building a bright future for yourself. One that you genuinely deserve. As someone who has been on both sides of healing, as a mentor and someone who has been through the journey, I am sharing how to heal from childhood trauma that is effective and incredibly empowering.
This article will teach you how to heal from childhood trauma, stages of healing childhood trauma, how to reset your nervous system, and the best books on trauma.
After reading this article you will be fully prepared for the healing journey, with a plethora of tools to support your recovery, and the empowering understanding of how certain methods will transform your mind and body when it comes to healing from childhood trauma.
This article is all about how to heal from childhood trauma.
How To Heal From Childhood Trauma
Childhood trauma is a type of experience that caused significant emotional, psychological, and physical distress. It can result from a variety of events, such as abuse, neglect, violence, or a natural disaster. The impacts of childhood trauma can be long-lasting and can include symptoms such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and difficulty forming relationships. However, healing from childhood trauma is absolutely possible with the right tools and support.
Here are some steps that can help you heal from childhood trauma:
1. Seek Professional Help
The first step in healing from childhood trauma is to seek professional help. A qualified therapist or counselor can help you work through the trauma and develop coping strategies to deal with the triggers that may arise. There are various types of therapy that can be beneficial, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
The most essential advice when seeking a professional for help it to:
- Make sure you feel safe and comfortable with the person you choose
- They have the knowledge and professional training for the type of trauma you experienced
- It works for you and your recovery
It is normal to go through different therapists and professionals until you find one that clicks. Similarly, you may want to try different types of therapy until you find one that really works for you and your recovery. Nothing, no time nor money, is wasted in finding the right match.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a technique that involves focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, which can be particularly helpful when dealing with trauma triggers.
The more you can remain present in the current moment, a few things occur:
- You begin to recognize (logically and subconsciously) you are safe today.
- You begin to regulate your nervous system from survival mode to rest and reset.
- You create room to heal.
If you are new to Mindfulness, you might like my article 5 ways to easily practice mindfulness for beginners.
3. Build A Support System
Additionally to seeking professional help, having a support system is crucial when healing from childhood trauma. This can include friends, family members, mentors, or a support group. Surround yourself with people who are understanding and who will listen to you without judgment.
One of the most common threads that runs through adults of childhood trauma is this instinctual need to be hyper independent. Asking for help in itself is incredibly healing.
When cultivating your network of support, try to includes these:
- Someone who has been through what you have and is further along in their recovery
- Someone who has been through what you have and is in the same spot as you in recovery
- Someone who has been through what you have and is newer than you in recovery
This formula will anchor you in your recovery journey, giving you someone to learn from, someone you can relate to, and someone you can help. When you have this type of anchor there is a greater chance in continuing your healing journey even with things are tough.
4. Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms
It’s essential to develop healthy coping mechanisms that can help you deal with trauma triggers. This can include yoga, breathwork, meditation, journaling, going for a walk or creative activities like art or music.
Swapping out destructive actions (addictions, numbing, harming ourselves and others) with ones that promote a happier life is far easier than quitting bad habits.
Personal exercise: can you create a list of things you can do to transmute challenging emotions that will support you and your future life? It can include dancing, crying, mindfulness, drawing, therapy, breathwork, swimming, writing, calling a friend to talk, and so forth. Have this list nearby to reference when emotions or memories surface.
5. Practice Self-Care
Taking care of yourself is essential when healing from childhood trauma. Most likely self care was not an option when you are simply looking to survive. By practicing self care now, you are telling your mind and body “I am safe now, it’s okay to relax.”
Some examples of self care are:
- Make sure to get enough sleep,
- Nourish your mind and body with healthy foods,
- Move your body in a loving way
- Clean your space frequently
- Cleanse your mind daily
- Setting boundaries
- Surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally
- Prioritizing your peace and happiness
- Engage in activities that bring you joy.
Each portion of your healing journey is going to require a new level of self care. Don’t worry if it looks different along the way or if it completely changes. That’s growth!
6. Challenge Negative Thoughts
Every single person on this planet has an inner critic. You’re not alone in that sense. However, childhood trauma can lead to extremely destructive negative self-talk and beliefs. Ones that were learned during pivotal times of brain development. For this reason it is important to challenge these negative thoughts and beliefs by replacing them with positive affirmations, consistently and with patience.
It may take longer for these new affirmations to take root, that’s normal. With consistency you will start to notice a massive shift in your everyday thought process and perspectives. Which will lead to making healthier and happier decisions for yourself, a much higher self esteem and self worth.
You may like my 72 Affirmation for Healing if you need a place to start.
7. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is vital when healing from childhood trauma. It’s okay to say no to things that trigger you or make you uncomfortable. Physical boundaries, such as leaving situations, removing yourself from certain relationships, or moving out of environments may be the first boundaries you set. Emotional boundaries, such as asking to not talk about certain topics, shutting down crude jokes or innuendos, not placing yourself in situations that make you feel afraid will come next.
You’ll find that there will be a set of boundaries you have for yourself (speaking kindly to yourself, eating three meals, prioritize sleep, leaving toxic environments) and boundaries you have with others (not engaging with active addicts, not tolerating disrespect, leaving after one red flag instead of 30).
Take a few moments to write out the boundaries that you have for yourself and around others that will protect you and your healing journey.
8. Forgive Yourself
It’s common for survivors of childhood trauma to blame themselves for what happened. It’s important to remember that you are not at fault and to forgive yourself for any negative feelings or behaviors that may have resulted from the trauma. It’s also important to forgive yourself for holding onto the memories and pain that may have affected your adult life. You are doing the best you can given a challenging situation. Grief is a common and powerful emotion that comes up during the healing cycle. Be patient with yourself and forgive yourself for how you may behave while you process the grief of losing a childhood.
9. Face The Trauma
When you have your support system in place, a professional counselor to turn to, healthy coping methods and a self care plan on deck, it’s time to do the hard work: face what happened. This will never feel easy and there will never be a great time to do this inner work but it is incredibly necessary in order to release and transmute the pain.
Journaling or writing down what you remember is one of the most effective and powerful way to release the stored emotions. You may have to do this exercise several times to get everything out on paper. Healing comes in waves and layers.
If you are triggered, which is very common in the early part of recovery, write about. Write what triggered you, how you feel, and what the trigger reminded you of. Through this exercise, you will start to connect your present life cycles with patterns that were common during past traumas. When those cycles are healed, they are broken and you begin to live within a new pattern that is conducive of the life you truly desire.
You may like my Healer Workbook to begin the journey of facing the trauma.
Stages of Healing Childhood Trauma
Healing from childhood trauma will vary from person to person. However, here are some common stages that people may experience:
- Awareness: The first step in healing from childhood trauma is becoming aware that it exists and recognizing its impact on your life. This can involve acknowledging painful memories, feelings, and patterns of behavior that may have originated from the trauma.
- Acceptance: Once you have become aware of the trauma, the next stage is accepting that it happened and accepting the feelings and emotions that come with it. This can be difficult and may involve confronting feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and sadness.
- Education: Learning about trauma and its effects can be an important step in the healing process. This can include understanding how trauma can impact the brain and nervous system, as well as exploring different therapeutic modalities and self-care strategies.
- Therapy: Working with a trained mental health professional can be a crucial part of the healing process. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), trauma-focused therapy, and somatic experiencing can help process traumatic experiences and develop coping skills.
- Self-care: Engaging in self-care activities can help reduce stress and promote healing. This can include exercise, mindfulness practices, journaling, and connecting with supportive friends and family.
- Integration: As healing progresses, the goal is to integrate the traumatic experiences into your overall life story and find meaning and purpose in the experience. This can involve creating a new narrative that includes both the trauma and your resilience in overcoming it
Your Nervous System After Childhood Trauma
The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that transmit signals throughout the body, controlling and coordinating various bodily functions. The nervous system is responsible for everything from breathing and digestion to movement and perception. When the nervous system is healthy, it can efficiently perform all of these functions. However, when it is not healthy, it can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems.
When trauma occurs, it signals the fight or flight responses (our sympathetic nervous system). When the sympathetic nervous system is running constantly, it burns out the body. It stops repairing cells, and uses that energy to survive or run if needed.
Healing the nervous system is essential because it can help reduce the effects of stress and trauma and begin repairing the body. Leading to a better quality of life.
Here are some of the specific benefits of healing the nervous system:
- Improved Sleep: A healthy nervous system is essential for a good night’s sleep. When the nervous system is not functioning correctly, it can lead to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Healing the nervous system can help improve sleep quality and duration.
- Reduced Chronic Pain: Chronic pain can be a result of a nervous system that is not functioning correctly. By healing the nervous system, chronic pain can be reduced or eliminated.
- Improved Immune System Function: The nervous system plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system. When the nervous system is not functioning correctly, it can lead to an overactive or underactive immune system. Healing the nervous system can help balance the immune system, leading to improved overall health.
- Improved Mental Health: The nervous system is closely tied to mental health. When the nervous system is not functioning correctly, it can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Healing the nervous system can help improve mental health, leading to improved well-being.
When you first begin switching the nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic there is typically a crash (loss of energy). Some call it adrenal fatigue, say it’s the body’s natural response to finally being able to rest after being on high alert for so long. Either way, it is a natural part of the process. Your energy will return.
How to reset your nervous system
Healing the nervous system can be a complex process that involves making changes to various areas of your life. Here are some strategies that can help heal the nervous system:
- Practice Relaxation Techniques: Stress is a significant factor that can impact the nervous system. Practicing relaxation techniques, such as aromatherapy, meditation, and yoga, can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, leading to a calmer nervous system.
- Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is essential for the health of the nervous system. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night to promote optimal nervous system function.
- Exercise Regularly: Exercise can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, leading to a healthier nervous system. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, each day.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: A healthy diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help support nervous system function. Focus on consuming whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.
- Deep breathing: The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve and the main nerve for the parasympathetic nervous system. One way to stimulate the Vagus nerve is through deep belly breathing. It will tell your body it’s time to relax.
- Seek Professional Help: If you are struggling with chronic stress or trauma, seeking professional help can be beneficial. A therapist or counselor can provide tools and strategies to help manage stress and trauma, leading to a healthier nervous system.
- Practice Self-Care: Practicing self-care is essential for the health of the nervous system. Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature.
- Get Regular Massages: Massage therapy can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, leading to a healthier nervous system.
- Yin Yoga. Yin yoga holds poses for a much longer duration, which switches on the rest and restore mode of your nervous system. It also helps get into the connective tissue to release any energetid debris from the trauma.
- Red light therapy. Infrared or red light therapy drastically helps heal the nervous system. It will have an instant calming effect on your body and mind.
- Lastly, slow down: Slowing down your pace of living helps slow down the fight or flight and signal the rest and reset.
The Best Books on Trauma
Most often when people ask how to heal from childhood trauma, they aren’t aware of the incredible books on trauma that will not only articulate the journey but provide helpful insight of what is happening with the mind and body. The more information and knowledge we have, the more confidence we can in our ability to heal and thrive. Here are the best books on trauma to read when recovery from childhood trauma:
- You Can Heal Your Life – Louise Hays
- Heal – Kelly Noonan Gores
- You are the Placebo – Joe Dispenza
- What my bones know – Stephanie Foo
- Trauma and Recovery – Judith Herman
- The deepest well – Nadine Burke Harris
- Getting past your past – Francine Shapiro
- The Body Never Lies – Alice Miller
- The Mind-Gut Connection – Emeran Mayer
- Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve – Stanley Rosenberg
This article was all about How To Heal From Childhood Trauma.