Why you need to stop comparing your trauma to others
by Heather Thatcher
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You know I love you for who you are and your beautiful compassionate heart that cares about other people.
But please, for the love of cheese, stop dismissing your own trauma just because “other people had a harder life than you did.”
Yes, it’s true that there are other people who had to endure trauma in their life, abandonment both physically and emotionally as children and other difficult experiences.
But that doesn’t mean that your life challenges don’t deserve some compassion and healing!
Read that again.
Just because your life challenges aren’t the absolute worst that any single human could experience in the entire world – doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to ask for help and take the time you need to heal from it.
All you’re doing here is repeating that same self-sabotaging learned behavior of deprioritizing yourself and pushing down the stress and challenging emotions.
This is an Inner Critic driven, fear based protective behavior.
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Instead of actually facing our demons, and processing these difficult experiences – we’ve found yet another way to avoid, push them down and ignore.
It’s not your fault. You’re not doing this on purpose.
It’s an ingrained behavior that you were either taught directly by someone telling you to “toughen up” or by having the adults in your life while you were growing up demonstrate this way of coping by avoidance for you.
As I’m sure you know, though, avoidance is a maladaptive coping strategy, which is just a fancy way of saying it doesn’t work at all.
Sure, you may feel better once you’ve pushed down that stressful or difficult experience. But you’ve really just prolonged the inevitable.
Those emotions are going to resurface later in life, whether you want them to or not.
Speaking from experience, these little grief moments are going to pop up at some incredibly inconvenient times.
Now, I know that this is a deeply rooted habit with so many of us, especially in this fast-forward world we’re living in.
Life is just too busy and we have too many things going on that we feel we don’t have time to stop and process.
It’s true that in the moment there may not be time to sit in these emotions, to notice them without judgement and let them go after we’ve processed them.
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Which is why we have to MAKE time later.
Otherwise this stress and trauma stays stored in our body and our nervous system starts to see this high-stressed state as the new normal. Chronic stress like this (chronic meaning it is something abnormal that doesn’t go away) is what leads to all of the negative health effects of stress like heart disease and cancer.
It doesn’t open overnight, though.
Every day we walk through just a little bit more stress and experience a few more challenges. Our body notices the stressful or challenging situation and turns on our stress switch to start pumping out all of the stress chemicals in our body.
Every day that we keep turning this stress switch back on, is one more day where the normal level of circulating stress chemicals in our body becomes just a little bit higher.
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So every day our overall stress load gets just a little bit heavier, and this chronic stress level gets a little bit worse.
This then moves us through the three stages of stress from the Stage of Alarm, to the Stage of Resistance into the final stage, the Stage of Exhaustion which is where our body can’t cope anymore and we start to see those negative health effects of stress.
The good news is that there are lots of easy ways that we can prevent and even reverse the damage caused by constantly pushing down our stressful and emotionally challenging experiences.
Yes, eventually when you’re ready you will need to do the inner work to rewire these thought habits and the Mindset Reboot Program will be waiting for you when you’re ready to do that. But in the meantime, here are three things you can start doing right now that will help you process and release your body’s stress load to keep it from getting worse.
#1 – Journal
Often when people think about journaling their mind automatically goes to the idea that they need to have a daily journaling practice. That’s not the case.
Not all stressful and emotional experiences in your life will require you to journal it out.
The ones that feel heavy, that are triggering or challenging that you feel are still hanging on – those are a great opportunity to use journaling to release the stress.
You can journal on paper, on a digital app, in a Word Document or Google Doc, or in a voice recorder app on your phone.
However you need to express what you need to say is perfect. Just let it out. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Just journal until you’re done; you’ll know when you’re done.
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#2 – 5-5-5 Breathing
I keep coming back to the 5-5-5 breathing technique because it’s just that powerful.
Our stress response is a switch that’s either on or off. By slowing down our breathing and taking deeper breaths we can signal our brain to stop the flow of stress chemicals which means we’re not going to keep adding to the problem.
I’m going to take things one step further, since I talk about 5-5-5 breathing so much and talk about diaphragmatic breathing.
If it’s safe to do so right now, put one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest just below your collar bones.
Now, on your next inhale slowly count to five and try and only have your lower hand on your belly be the one that moves, while your hand on your chest stays still.
On the exhale just allow your belly to relax and the air to release from your nose while you count to five.
This is easier to do if you’re lying on the ground, so if you’re struggling a bit to just get your lower hand to move – don’t worry. Try it again when you have a few minutes to lie down.
Do that for five breaths, for five seconds in the inhale and five seconds on the exhale – and do this five times a day: when you first get up, before each meal, and before you go to bed.
This is going to keep turning off that stress switch so that you have some time for your body to catch up and clear those stress chemicals from your body with journaling and other stress relieving activities.
Which brings me to my last strategy…
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#3 – Practice Active Self-Care
Now I want to make something really clear.
Active self-care doesn’t mean that you have to be moving.
Active self-care just means that you’re actively doing something to release the stress and stored emotional experiences from your body so they don’t add to the chemical balance and become the new normal.
I hear it a lot when I ask people what they do to relax and they say “watch some Netflix and drink a glass of wine.”
Now I’m not bashing wine or Netflix!
But I have to ask: do you feel better after you’ve done that? Or do you feel the same, you’ve just been able to ignore things for a while?
Don’t give up Netflix and wine! Just spend 5 – 10 minutes doing some active self-care first.
Active self-care can be journaling, yoga, meditation, breathing, dancing around your kitchen to your favorite songs, talking to a friend or family member on the phone, snuggling your pets, or any one of the 100+ ideas I have in this free pdf guide.
You can get the Self-Care guide by going to heatherthatcher.com/selfcare
Just like with journaling, practicing active self-care doesn’t have to be a specific amount of time.
Listen to your body and your heart and just do it until you’re done.
So remember, lovely, it doesn’t matter how awful your trauma was in the grand scheme of everyone else’s trauma.
You’ve been impacted by it and that means you need to do something about it and you can start with journaling, 5-5-5 breathing, and practicing active self-care.
My challenge for you today is to spend 5 minutes max doing some kind of active self-care for yourself that makes you feel better and release some of the drama and trauma you’ve walked through today.
5 minutes before bed is perfect.
You’ve got this, lovely.