mental healthtrauma

8 Tips for Healing Emotional Wounds and Trauma

Healing emotional wounds, trauma, and heart-break is hard work; sometimes it’s discouraging. Use these tips to heal and stay motivated.

Do you ever wonder if healing from emotional wounds is possible? Can someone actually heal from trauma, rejection, depression, a broken heart?

Perhaps you’ve been hurting for a long time and things don’t seem to be getting better.

Perhaps you feel stuck—like you’ve tried everything, and it hasn’t helped.

Or perhaps you feel like you’re too old or it’s too late for you to change.

When you feel so broken and defeated, the task of rebuilding or reinventing yourself and your life feels overwhelming. It’s natural to have doubts – to wonder if emotional healing is really possible.

Healing emotional wounds is possible

I want to assure you that emotional healing is possible. As a therapist, I see people make remarkable recoveries, becoming healthy, happy, and more fully themselves – often in ways they never imagined.

But, it’s true, not everyone returns to emotional health. Some people continue to experience deep emotional pain, repeat unhealthy behaviors and relationships, and struggle with negative, distorted thoughts.

In my 20+ years as a psychotherapist and social worker, I’ve noticed some commonalities among people who heal more fully from their emotional wounds and pain. I hope these reflections and tips will help you heal, as well.

Tips for healing emotional wounds

1) Take baby steps. Trying to make too many changes all at once can backfire. You may become overwhelmed or feel like a failure if you set unrealistic expectations. And dramatic changes are often unsustainable. Making micro-changes – small, manageable, incremental changes – creates feelings of success, hope, and encouragement that are important to carry you through your healing process. You can learn more about making micro-changes here.

2) Healing isn’t all or nothing; even some healing will probably improve your quality of life. Many people mistakenly believe that emotional healing is all-or-nothing, but you don’t have to heal 100% to improve the quality of your life.. Again, this belief can be discouraging and overwhelming. But most importantly, it’s not accurate. Any modest amount of healing will improve the quality of your life. Take it one step at a time and you will notice small improvements in your mood, ability to cope with triggers, relationships, self-esteem, and ability to complete your daily activities.

3) Be patient and persistent. Healing is a lot of work. We need to be patient and allow for the time needed to gain new insights and skills. And we need to be persistent and keep going even when it gets difficult, be willing to try new approaches, and challenge ourselves in new ways.

4) Set realistic expectations. I’m a big believer in the importance of setting realistic expectations. When we don’t, we end up disappointed and frustrated – often at ourselves, which doesn’t help us heal. One of the most common unrealistic expectations that I see is expecting progress to be consistently forward. Nobody just gets stronger and stronger, healthier and healthier. Progress is more likely to be two steps forward and one step backward. And, honestly, don’t be surprised if sometimes it’s two steps backward and one step forward. This isn’t a failure, it’s a reality. And realistic expectations coupled with patience, persistence, and self-compassion will lead to forward progress, it just may include a few detours and be slower than you’d like.

5) View setbacks as part of the process and learning opportunities. Not only are setbacks normal, but they’re also important. Often, we learn more from what doesn’t work than what does. So, instead of trying to avoid setbacks or relapses, accept that they are part of the process and challenge yourself to be curious about what you can learn that will help you move forward and toward greater healing and self-love.

6) Prioritize self-care and self-compassion. When you ask a lot of yourself, you need to give a lot to yourself. And working on emotional healing takes an awful lot of energy, time, and sometimes money. To keep going, you need to pay attention to your feelings and your physical sensations in your body (such as tight muscles, headaches, fatigue, etc.) because these are your body’s way of telling you what it needs. Take the extra time to listen and take good care of yourself.

7) Ask for and accept help. Healing isn’t meant to be done in isolation. It isn’t easy to ask for help, especially if people have betrayed you in the past. But reaching out for help has so many benefits—emotional support, guidance, and the ability to overcome shame. And help can take many different forms depending on your needs, so I hope you’ll look at it as another form of self-care and ask for the kind of help that best meets your needs.

8) Look for and seek emotional safety. It’s nearly impossible to heal if you don’t feel safe; physical and emotional safety are pre-requisites for healing emotional wounds. When you’ve been traumatized or experienced a deep emotional wound, it’s natural for your nervous system to be on high alert for signs of danger. Your nervous system wants to keep you safe. But sometimes we look so intently for signs of danger that we miss cues of safety–and when this happens we stay in a high-alert or fight-or-flight state, which makes it difficult to connect with others, trust, relax, be vulnerable, and regain our equilibrium and wellbeing. You might start to identify signs that you’re safe or not and notice when/where you feel safe.

Healing Meditation

If you feel discouraged, a guided meditation or mantra can help you shift your thoughts towards a more hopeful, positive outlook. You can experiment with the short healing meditation I’ve written below or try creating one that’s specific to your own challenges and needs.

Emotional healing is possible.

I am learning to take it one day at a time.

I will remember that it’s not a race to the finish line.

I will be patient with myself and continue to take small steps forward.

And when I have a setback, I’ll use it as an opportunity to learn more about myself and how to heal my emotional wounds.

Emotional healing is a lot of work, so I will treat myself with loving care and remember to replenish my physical and emotional energy.

I will try to slow down and feel my feelings.

I will seek help from trusted people who can give me guidance, encouragement, and love along this journey.

I am healing one day at a time.

I am learning to trust myself and speak my truth.

I am learning to embrace my true self, imperfections, and all.

I am learning to let go of what other people think and to honor what I think and feel.

I am learning about my interests, priorities, and values. 

I am learning to make time for rest, fun, and pursuing my own goals.

I am learning to put myself on my to-do list.

I am learning to be ME.

I am healing one day at a time.

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©2019 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.

The Self-Love Digital Journal

The Self-Love Guided Journal

I created the Self-Love Guided Journal to help you rediscover who you are, accept yourself – imperfections and all, and learn to treat yourself with kindness. It includes reflective questions, journal prompts, inspirational quotes, and a healing meditation to help you develop positive thoughts and feelings about yourself. Find out more by clicking HERE.

Sharon Martin is a psychotherapist, writer, speaker, and media contributor on emotional health and relationships. She specializes in helping people uncover their inherent worth and learn to accept themselves -- imperfections and all! Sharon writes a popular blog called Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today and is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.

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