Self-Care Toolbox – 12 Techniques for Coping with Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma is a reaction to an intensely distressing incident or sequence of events that disrupts your feeling of safety, causing you to feel defenseless and exposed in a threatening world. This can result in persistent upsetting emotions, recollections, and anxiety that seem unshakeable. In addition, it can create a sense of numbness, disconnection, and distrust towards others. The aftermath of traumatic events often includes enduring pain and a struggle to regain a sense of security.

Although overcoming emotional trauma is undoubtedly challenging, integrating certain self-care strategies into your everyday life can substantially assist in the path towards recuperation and healing.

Here are 12 self-care practices recommended for survivors of emotional trauma:

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing, or the act of focusing your attention on your breath, is a simple yet powerful technique that can help reduce stress and anxiety. By directing your attention to the act of inhaling and exhaling, you’re able to shift your focus away from any distressing thoughts or feelings. Slow, deep breaths have been scientifically proven to calm the nervous system, reducing heart rate and muscle tension.

This sense of physical relaxation can, in turn, promote mental calmness and clarity. Particularly during moments of high stress or anxiety, this practice serves as an accessible tool for immediate relief, helping to restore balance and equanimity in the mind and body.

Physical Exercise

Regular physical activity, such as a brisk walk, yoga, or weightlifting, stimulates the production of endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, often referred to as ‘feel-good’ chemicals, due to their ability to produce feelings of happiness and euphoria. As these endorphins are released into your body, they can help to reduce stress, ward off feelings of anxiety, enhance self-esteem, and even relieve pain.

Therefore, finding a form of exercise that you enjoy is not only beneficial for your physical health, but also your mental well-being. By incorporating this enjoyable physical activity into your daily routine, you contribute to the improvement of your overall mood and emotional balance.

Healthy Eating

The food you consume has a direct impact on your brain’s function, which in turn influences your mood and energy levels. Nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains provide the essential vitamins and minerals that your brain needs to produce neurotransmitters, which regulate mood. For instance, lean proteins help increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that keep you alert and energized.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that protect brain cells from damage and improve brain function. Maintaining a balanced diet can significantly boost your mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.

Adequate Sleep

Quality sleep is a fundamental pillar for maintaining both physical health and emotional resilience. During sleep, your body works to support various functions such as the immune system, metabolism, memory, learning, and mood regulation. Establishing a regular sleep schedule helps regulate your body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep at night.

Furthermore, creating a restful environment, free from distractions and conducive to relaxation, can significantly enhance your sleep quality. Prioritizing good sleep hygiene is an essential component of overall well-being, impacting everything from physical health to emotional stability.


Writing about your thoughts and feelings, whether they’re related to trauma or positive experiences, can serve as a therapeutic tool for emotional release and self-understanding. This practice, often known as journaling, allows you to express and process pent-up emotions in a safe, private space. By articulating your experiences and emotions, you can gain clarity about your feelings, recognize patterns in your thoughts or behaviors, and better understand your reactions to certain situations.

If writing about trauma, it can help in processing painful memories and healing emotional wounds. Alternatively, focusing on the positive aspects of your life can foster gratitude and enhance your overall well-being.

Social Connections

Building a support network of trusted friends and family is a vital tool for navigating through difficult times. This network serves as a safety net, providing emotional assistance, understanding, and encouragement when you’re facing challenges. Reaching out to others not only helps you feel less isolated but also provides different perspectives and advice that can help you cope with your situation.

Joining support groups can be particularly beneficial, as they offer a space to connect with individuals who are undergoing similar experiences, fostering a sense of community and shared understanding. Additionally, engaging in social activities that you enjoy can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and strengthen your connections with others, further bolstering your support network.


Regular meditation is a powerful practice that can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, leading to an enhanced sense of well-being. This ancient practice works by promoting relaxation and mental clarity, thereby helping you manage your reactions to stressful situations more effectively. Starting with just a few minutes each day allows you to gradually build the habit without feeling overwhelmed.

As you become more comfortable with the practice, you can slowly increase the duration of your meditation sessions, allowing for deeper relaxation and greater benefits. Over time, regular meditation can lead to long-term changes in your stress levels and overall mental health, making it an essential tool for personal growth and emotional resilience.


Creative outlets such as painting, dancing, or playing an instrument provide unique avenues for self-expression and emotional exploration. These activities allow you to channel your thoughts and feelings into a tangible form, often making it easier to process complex or overwhelming emotions. Because they are non-verbal, they can help articulate feelings that may be difficult to express in words, providing a powerful means of communication.

Engaging in creative activities can also have therapeutic benefits, including stress reduction and the promotion of mental clarity. Moreover, the act of creating something can instill a sense of achievement and purpose, further contributing to your overall well-being.

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques are practical tools used to manage overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety by redirecting your focus to the present moment. These techniques work by reconnecting you with the physical world around you, which can help distract from intrusive thoughts or emotions. Simple grounding exercises can include describing what you see, touch, or smell in your immediate environment.

For instance, you might describe the texture of a nearby object or the colors you see around you. These actions can help you regain control and stability during moments of high anxiety or emotional distress, making grounding techniques a valuable resource for mental health management.

Professional Help

Consulting with a mental health professional can be a crucial step in dealing with trauma and promoting the healing process. These professionals, such as therapists or counselors, have specialized training to help you understand and navigate your emotions, as well as develop effective coping strategies. They provide a safe and confidential space where you can openly explore your feelings and experiences without judgment.

In this therapeutic setting, they guide you through your recovery journey, helping you process traumatic events at your own pace. Furthermore, a mental health professional can equip you with tools and techniques to manage triggers and stressors, ultimately fostering resilience and growth.


Navigating your healing journey requires patience and self-compassion, as it is a process that unfolds over time. It’s important to be kind to yourself, understanding that there will be moments of difficulty and vulnerability. Remember, it’s perfectly okay not to be okay sometimes; such moments are part of the human experience and often crucial steps in the healing process.

Healing is not a linear path, but rather a journey with ups and downs, and it’s essential to give yourself the grace and time needed to heal. Embrace your feelings, honor your progress, no matter how small, and remember that every step forward, even the tiniest one, is a victory in your healing journey.

Limit Exposure to Trauma Triggers

Limiting exposure to situations or people that trigger traumatic memories can be a helpful strategy in managing trauma and promoting healing. While this may not always be feasible, it’s beneficial to identify potential triggers and, where possible, avoid them to reduce the risk of retraumatization. These triggers could be certain environments, conversations, or even specific individuals who remind you of past traumatic experiences.

However, it’s also crucial to balance avoidance with coping strategies, as complete avoidance might not be practical or beneficial in the long run. Working with a mental health professional can help you navigate this balance effectively, providing tools to handle unavoidable triggers while fostering resilience and recovery.

Final Thought

In conclusion, self-care plays a vital role in the journey of recovery from emotional trauma. While such practices may not completely eradicate all symptoms or fast-track healing, they can significantly alleviate distress and foster a supportive environment for recovery. These methods can include activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and mental well-being, ranging from regular exercise to mindfulness meditation.

It’s crucial to bear in mind that seeking help, whether from professionals or trusted individuals in your life, is a strength, not a weakness. Above all, remember that healing is a personal journey that unfolds at its own pace, and it’s perfectly okay—indeed, necessary—to take the time you need for this process.

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