With the incredible suffering Muslims are experiencing due to globally sky-rocketing cases of Islamophobia, it wouldn’t be surprising if most Muslims were feeling a pretty high degree of trauma right now.
As some may be aware, trauma-informed care is a buzzword in mental health. People drop it in conversation all the time. The buzzword gained popularity a few years ago, when a well-known study came out. The study, known as the “Adverse Childhood Experience” (ACE) study, was conducted by surveying over 17,000 Kaiser members, and ended up showing a direct link between childhood trauma and adverse health outcomes in adults.
The study found that the more childhood trauma a person had experienced, the greater their likelihood of numerous physical, mental, and social health problems. So it would be reasonable to deduce that within the concept of mental health, if you treat a person’s trauma, you treat a vast array of problems.
But how does this mental health wisdom translate into what we can do on a day-to-day basis? Do we need to go to therapy if we had a difficult childhood? Is there anything we can do for ourselves that can help us overcome these types of challenges that is low-barrier and accessible? Yes, there certainly is, and here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. Focus on Your Strengths
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It is so important to focus on your strengths. Knowing your assets is a great way to support your own resiliency in the face of trauma. Trauma tends to be debilitating. It tends to make us feel powerless because it generally involves being the victim of circumstances out of our control. Overcoming the feeling of powerlessness is a crucial piece of resiliency. One way to do this is to focus on what we do well; what our strengths are.
So start by making a list of good characteristics that you possess. Think about challenges you have overcome and inventory what contributed to your successes in those situations. Try to be around people who validate these strong points and support your health. This leads me neatly to point number two.
2. Cultivate Supportive Relationships
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Cultivating positive and supportive relationships go hand-in-hand with trauma-informed healing. Of course, we all know this and agree it’s easier said than done, but we should at least have a goal that the people we focus on and spend time with should be people who support our choice and agency, and affirm our power.
Trauma care needs to be oriented around empowerment, and having choice in our relationships is a piece of this power. If you have people in your life who are toxic but you don’t want to, or you can’t give them up (they are relatives for example), try to spend as much time as possible with people who do support you. No company can be better than bad company. Simultaneously, focus on connecting with family and friends who are supportive. Don’t isolate yourself because connection is an integral part of how people recover from trauma.
3. Unpack Your Trauma
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Look at and unpack how trauma in your life has affected your assumptions. This is good grounds for a conversation over a cup of tea with one of the above-mentioned supportive individuals. Trauma has been shown to profoundly impact how people interpret and frame their experiences, and this has been shown to have a direct impact on how intense people’s trauma reactions are.
If 100 people experience a traumatic event, not all of them will develop long-term trauma reactions. Some of them will just brush it off. One of the reasons for this type of resilience is that people interpret events differently. So if you are feeling traumatized, ask yourself, or discuss with someone you trust, what is the meaning you have given the traumatic events that you have experienced. Why do they make you react the way that you do? Do you feel powerless, or do you feel motivated to take care of yourself and others? Do you have hope for the future? What has the trauma meant to you about who you are? Reflecting upon this leads to greater self-awareness, which is a powerful tool in tackling trauma.
Trauma has a profound impact on our health and well-being. It can affect us in endless ways. We all need to take seriously the health risks of trauma and support each other in living together in ways that help us all cope and take care of ourselves. Hopefully, these suggestions will be helpful, and if not, I encourage you to look into ways that you can help yourself and others practice self-care so we can all be as healthy and happy possible.