Fresh Living

Fresh Living

11 Ways to Ease Emotional Trauma

teacupflower.jpgI received some news this weekend that put me in the trauma zone. No one died or is sick, my health is good, I have a job. I just got some upsetting, disappointing news. A part of my life is not quite what it seemed and it’s thrown me for a major-ish emotional loop. Not to be vague, but the details don’t really matter. What matters is the remarkable thing I noticed when the wave hit–I did not fall apart. Don’t get me wrong, there was some kitchen-floor-based sobbing, but eventually I picked myself up and… made toast and tea. And then I did some exercise. And then talked to a friend. So boring, so lucid, so… kind. Wait, who am I and what have I done with my self?


Much of the time I’m on my case about what I’m not doing enough of or well enough or whatever, so I’m always blown away by the self-mothering instinct that kicks in when it matters. The surprising and not-so-familiar gestures and thoughts of gentle self-compassion–as if I was caring for a friend in the same situation. So I share a little list with you of some things I did and some things I can see doing to self-nurture in the midst of the storm.

1) Cry. Let yourself have that initial release. I cried, screamed into a pillow, and lamented; it subsided and so far hasn’t returned with the same instensity.

2) Bathe. I knew I had to rinse myself of the shock and toxic feelings so I took a non-eco-length shower. And cried some more.


3) Smell Nice. I happen to have a shelf full of essential oils from the health food store for every emotional occasion. I grabbed bergamot and rubbed it into my palms (it’s an uplifting scent), and put a little peppermint oil on my tongue to calm my turbulent tum.

4) Dress Protectively. I bundled up into layers even though it was pretty warm out. It just made me feel comfier, a kind of surrogate layer of emotional skin.

5) Try Some Naturally Calming Substances. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll just tell you what I did without recommending–I took some Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic blend designed to calm trauma; their tagline is “Yoga in a Bottle.” I took an amino-acid supplement called Zen, and I had a little cup of “Calm“–a magnesium-calcium powdered supplement that eases muscle tension.


6) Have Some Toast and Tea. I boiled water, popped a slice of my favorite multi-grain bread in the toaster and nibbled and sipped. So nurturing.

7) Sit By a Window. It felt good to get some light and remember the outside world without actually having to be in it.

8)  Keep the Energy Moving. After the sadness came the anger and I knew I had to do something, so I alternated between bouncing on my mini tramp and doing sun salutations with vigor and some warrior poses with intensity. It’s important to keep things flowing so you don’t get stuck and depressed. This can mean just taking some slow calming breaths for a few minutes.

9) Talk to a Friend Who Will Soothe You. Save the tough-love truth-tellers for later. Right now you need empathy, listening, a gentle touch–you need to get what you need, whatever it is that helps you calm down. My buddy came over and let me ramble and we went for a walk.


10) Listen to Music That Will Balance Your Mood. Sometimes when I’m sad, bummer-y music helps me cathart, But other times I need to hear disco when I’m in pain. Sometimes only Krishna Das or Donna De Lory’s Hindu chanting will do. Go through your music collection and listen to snippets until you find something that feels right to you in your gut and your chest.

11) Read Poetry. Art uplifts and transmutes pain without distracting from it. Because my friend is really nice, she let me read one of my favorite poems out loud, “After Cages” by Cin Salach. It reminded me of the whole self-mothing thing, the instinct of self-care that lives in us, that comes out when we’re in need. At one point she writes, “You are your own mother. No one will ever love you more.” Amen–and that, suprisingly, is really good news.


Some features from Beliefnet that also may help with emotional trauma:

The Healing Power of Tea

7 Reasons Crying Can Be Healthy

Quotes to Lift Your Spirits

12 Ways to Keep Going

How to Transform Toxic Thoughts

  • Stacey Joiner

    Valerie, Love your post. You hit the nail on the head. I am also an advocate of self-care. Since living through the events of 9/11, I have dedicated my life to spreading the good word. I am a Massage Therapist, Yoga Instructor and author of – You Deserve The Royal Treatment – a woman’s guide to living royally.
    I am also a lover of disco :)

  • Terri W.

    Another thing that comforts me (it was what my late mom and grandmother did when I was sick as a child) is to heat up some Campbell’s chicken noodle soup (that’s the only one that will do) and have that as a lunch or dinner. I sit curled up in my favorite chair, my blanket tucked in around me, and I slowly spoon-feed the soup to myself. It’s such a simple thing really and yet, it’s amazingly soothing and healing.
    By the way, I’m sorry for whatever circumstances transpired to upset you so, Valerie. I hope you’ve sorted things out and are feeling much better now. :)

  • Your Name

    Self-nuture was the operative term, I thought. Then came the same old worn saw: call a friend you (in effect) can use as a crying towel. To call someone who can “soothe” you is the antithisis of self-nuturing. I also believe that suggestion is the one that clinically dependent personalities will pivot on.

  • Brandi

    Hi Valerie,
    Sorry for your traumatic news, but thank you for all of the great tips! I think everyone’s gone through similar situations at one point in their lives. It’s nice to know that there are things you can do to mitigate the pain. I thinking focusing on the present helps and have written about other ways to deal with the unknown as well through my own experiences:

  • Amy

    What great advice for self care! Love it!!

  • MarleneeEmmett5

    I’ve been a victium of Emotional trauma since the age of 6 when I was
    diagonased with Epilepsy and my father didn’t want to have anything
    to do with me!From that time he told me I was no good,that I’d never
    amount to anything. I’m happily married,for 31 years to a wonderful
    man who loves me~ I’ve also held a high office:I was the president
    of a condo that I lived in and my board put in a brand new GAS boiler
    under budget…… my father may have said horrid stuff to me~~~~~~~
    But when it came down to everything he loved me cause he left me his
    whole estate~he even went as far as cutting out his own sister/brothers!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anne

    When i went through the same situation and after pacing around the house shaking, i began to look up all the information on the situation. Where did it come from, it’s effects on other people, I asked questions , and cried my heart out on and off for a long time. But the more information I found out, the calmer I got. I empowered myself to never let that situation take over my life. The results of that one phone call has changed me and my family forever, but with professional help and open conversation with selected people, I know I will be able to help other people go through the same trauma as I did. We are all in this together. Never be afraid to reach out for help to get you through your darkest hour.

  • Libby

    I recently was very much disappointed by someone I thought was a friend. I took care of myself with the help of my friends (I’m single and live alone). The single most theraputic thing for me is my dogs who are always glad to see me and KNOW when I’m upset. Just petting them soothes me.

  • Cathy

    Hi, Valerie
    Thank you for the great ideas…I, too, have gone through some emotional trauma lately, and it has actually PUT ME TO BED. My response has always, always, been to get physically ill when big changes come into my life. What wonderful tips to try. You’re right about the window, light helps, and sometimes it helps to just turn off the phone. Occasionally you can only let yourself be around the most positive of your friends so when you are in a delicate state it helps to remember that you don’t have to be available to everyone.

  • Marsha Lucas, PhD

    What a lovely post, Valerie! If I might add to your excellent list: I’ve found mindfulness meditation to be a great way to help in getting through tough emotional times. It’s a simple practice; just a little time each day, and then it’s there for you whenever you need it.
    It’s not the kind of meditation where you’re trying to empty your head of all thoughts, but it’s about having your thoughts and feelings and not being “taken away” by them. You don’t even have to sit like a pretzel. 😉
    For anyone interested in trying it, there’s a free mindfulness meditation download on my website (there should be a link with this post).

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