8 Tips to Bounce Back From a Traumatic Emotional Experience
How do you bounce back after a traumatic experience? How does a burn victim become a survivor? Bouncing back, or being resilient and growing after trauma, is possible!
Resiliency is defined as the ability to bounce back from negative emotional or traumatic experiences. Burn survivors show us every day how to thrive under pressure—not just survive. It's about using tools and finding ways to build a new and stronger self. Read the 8 practices to build personal resilience...
(These steps are offered by Dr. Shelley Wiechman, a burn unit psychologist, in an excerpt from her article "Thriving - Beyond Surviving: Resiliency After Trauma", from Burn Support Magazine, Issue 3, 2015.)
Steps to Building Resiliency
- Adopt an active coping style. Active coping, such as problem focused coping and reinterpretation consistently appear as strong correlates to post-traumatic growth and seem to be more effective than passive coping styles. Cognitive processing that focuses on an individual’s struggle to make sense of the trauma and the creation of a new worldview is an important part of active coping.
- Work toward acceptance. In the control-coping literature, it is generally believed that acceptance coping leads to better outcomes in situations where the person has no control over the event or environment. Those who can accept that the traumatic event happened and that it cannot be changed can then focus their energy on what they can control.
- Surround yourself with positive social support. This support can be from family, friends, and even strangers in a support network.
- Foster spirituality. People who have intrinsic spiritual beliefs and who attend religious gatherings tend to experience more resiliency and growth. The social support that they receive from others who share similar beliefs is quite helpful in the face of a trauma. Spiritual beliefs can also help an individual restructure their worldview in a way that makes sense to them.
- Acknowledge three blessings. Engage in writing down three blessings daily as described by Alicia Assad in the previous issue of Burn Support Magazine (Issue 2, 2015). This exercise will help you to stay focused on the positive.
- Engage in daily positive imagery. Set some future goals and visualize yourself accomplishing them. Practice positive self-talk. Keep track of your self-talk and stick to the magic 5:2 ratio—for every 2 negative thoughts, have 5 positive thoughts.
- Find inspiration. Put together a playlist of inspirational songs that you can pull out when you need a boost. Watch some of the classic movies of inspirational human performance to inspire you. Here is my list to get you started, but add whatever is inspirational to you:
- The Blue Angels (documentary)
- Field of Dreams
- Chariots of Fire
- The Right Stuff
- A League of Their Own
- Apollo 13
(While many inspirational movies show the hero conquering adversity, note that it’s not always a smooth road.)
Dr. Shelley Wiechman is an associate professor and the attending psychologist on the Burn and Pediatric Trauma Service and Pediatric Primary Care Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.