Experiencing, handling and surviving a traumatic life event

Experiencing and healing from trauma can be an extremely difficult, complex, and ongoing personal journey, where it may feel as if you are taking two steps forward and then one step back. There are however, forward-thinking ways and practical, actionable steps that you can take to support yourself through this journey.


Identifying trauma in yourself

Firstly, consider what a trauma looks like, feels like and sounds like to you personally. What types of situations and life events come to mind for you that could have in the past or possibly are right now causing you to experience this? How would you know that you were experiencing trauma? How would this show up in you mentally, emotionally, and physically? Consider the metaphorical lion about to eat you alive, who or what does that lion represent?

The trauma response

Perhaps your trauma response may show up as not sleeping, or waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Perhaps you notice physical sensations in your body that present as high levels of stress and anxiety, for example, palpitations, chest pain, headaches, IBS, muscular pain, or tension in your body. Perhaps you may notice an exacerbation or flare-up of your pre-existing medical conditions. Perhaps you may sink into a deep depression.

Reaching out to a health professional for support can make an enormous difference, particularly if the trauma you are experiencing is going on for months or even several years.

The stress response

When we experience trauma, we produce high levels of three stress hormones - cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine. These are released to help us deal with short-term stressful survival situations such as running from danger. If these hormones are continuously released over a prolonged period however, they can end up causing very real, long-term health conditions.

Our bodies are simply not designed to permanently remain in a state of high alert where our amygdala, the part of our brain that triggers a fight-flight response, stays in a constant state of hypervigilance. It is crucial that you find a way to recalibrate your trauma response through a process of what is sometimes termed as rest and repair or ventral vagal, returning you to a state of feeling 'safe'.

Seeking help

If you're thinking about seeking specialist trauma-informed professional help, what type of professional can you contact?

Consider working with a trauma-informed hypnotherapist or a CBT hypno-psychotherapist who specialises in trauma therapy. They may for example state that they are experienced with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), PTSD, flashbacks, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). You can then feel assured that these specialists will have the full skill set to be able to support you and guide you through your personal trauma and healing journey. They can provide you with appropriate hypnotherapy, CBT, and teach you tools, techniques, and strategies to help you manage your trauma response and symptoms far more easily and effectively than if you were to try it alone.

Practice self-care

If you know that you are going through a major traumatic time in your life, it is essential that you find periods and ways to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. This may involve making time for confiding in friends that you trust and engaging yourself in soothing or fun, distracting activities that you enjoy to take your mind temporarily at least, off of your traumatic experience.

Some examples are:

  • getting enough sleep
  • eating well
  • staying hydrated
  • engaging in relaxation techniques, such as hypnotherapy or using taught self-hypnosis
  • meditation
  • guided visualisation
  • using trauma release techniques
  • journaling
  • somatic awareness
  • gentle physical exercise
  • deep breathing exercises

These are all going to play a key role in getting you through a traumatic period of your life. If there are times when you feel you need to have a good cry, that is actually a good thing too. As they say, better out than in.


There is, of course, the option of using prescription medication by seeing your GP who may well prescribe you with appropriate medication for your anxiety, depression, panic attacks, etc. This may be something that you feel is or will be useful for you in the short term, but you may also feel that being on long-term medication is not the answer for you (due to the side effects and dependency that you can develop on that particular medication).

A trauma-informed therapist will still support you whether you are on medication or not and, with the support of your GP, you can choose at some point to taper off this medication if that feels right for you.

Prolonged traumatic events lasting several years

If your traumatic experience has been going on for several years, building and sustaining a professional and empathic support system around you is particularly crucial to avoid a major breakdown of your health and well-being concerns. Ensure that you surround yourself with trusted, empathic, understanding individuals and professionals who can offer you support and validation.

This may be friends and family but, if you do not feel you wish to share your trauma with those closest to you or you feel you are overburdening them, it can be also beneficial to seek support groups for trauma survivors. Sharing your experiences and feelings with others who are going through or have been through similar situations can be incredibly healing. You may also need to simplify or reduce your working hours so that you do not feel overloaded, particularly if your work involves supporting others.

In your darkest moments

There are also telephone numbers you can use to contact someone at any time such as the Samaritans. These helplines can literally be a lifesaver if you are feeling desperate in your darkest moments and in urgent need of a non-judgemental human ear at any given moment of the day or night. If you are working with a therapist, they have a duty of care to ensure that you are not going to do anything to harm yourself or anyone else so do ensure that you share your feelings with them if these types of harmful thoughts come up for you.

Subconscious triggers

Engage in self-reflection and self-compassion. Take time to understand and process your trauma. Start with the facts. What has developed? What are your biggest concerns? See if you can rationalise these concerns, how likely is it for example that your biggest concerns will come to fruition? What is it that this experience is triggering for you on a deep subconscious level?

Perhaps, for example, there was a time in the past when you felt a similar feeling i.e. a time when you felt you were being unfairly treated and this is now triggering or reminding you of that past experience, layering itself under your current traumatic experience. This is what forms the basis of PTSD, flashbacks or CPTSD.

This too shall pass

The traumatic event will have a beginning, a middle and ultimately an end (although it may not seem like it when you are going through it for an indefinite period). Think of the well-known quotation "This too shall pass."

Practice mindfulness and try to keep your thoughts from running away with you as much as you can, this can be extremely difficult when you are in a high-alert state of panic, so practice escorting your thoughts back to now with your breathing. This will help you if you notice your thoughts are running either too far into the future with "What if" thinking or back to the past with "If only this hadn't happened" or "Why did this happen?" Thoughts like these are not particularly helpful in the great scheme of things.

Instead, try engaging in current creative expression through writing your thoughts down, we call this a process of journaling. This can greatly help you explore the multitude of feelings and thoughts that are swimming around your head causing a sensation of overwhelm. Having the strength to face something that you don't want to face takes a tremendous amount of inner strength, faith and courage. So reminding yourself that you've got this (even if you don't believe it 100%) can help.

Tips on journaling

Be patient with yourself with this as you allow yourself to really feel and express your emotions by writing them down and putting pen to paper. Be as raw with them as you like as they are for your eyes only. In this way, journaling can be an incredibly cathartic practice to do regularly.

Start with the topic of your trauma at the top of your page and then, under this heading, write down your feelings one by one writing something against each of these feelings in turn. These feelings may include anger, rage, frustration, fear, sadness, worry, grief etc.

For example:

  • I feel angry that...
  • I feel enraged that...
  • I feel sad that...
  • I feel worried that...
  • I feel anxious that...
  • I feel fearful that...
  • I feel frustrated that...
  • I feel bereft that...

Always try to end your journal on a positive e.g. I feel grateful that...

Notice what your trauma response is doing over time (as it may show up differently daily), particularly as you begin to see what you can control and what you can't.

After the event

Continue to develop a soothing, healing routine even after the traumatic event is over as you may well feel traumatised and drained. You may often replay in your mind images of the event, recall things that were said, and how that made you feel, etc. Your nervous system is likely to feel a sense of dysregulation for several weeks, months and even years after the traumatic incident is over in some way shape or form and ultimately this will remain with you as a memory. The input of a professional trauma-informed therapist will aim to greatly minimise these dysregulated thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Learn and continue to practice self-care, and integrate healthy coping mechanisms daily if you can. These include daily exercise, getting out in an open space or in the forest, deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, continuing to journal, pacing yourself with work or engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you a feeling of joy and calmness. Stroking a pet for example can be extremely soothing to our nervous system.

Set boundaries

It's important to establish and enforce boundaries in your relationships and daily working life to protect your well-being by simplifying your life at this time. Aim to keep yourself from feeling overloaded whilst you get back to a mental state of rest and repair. It may not, for this reason, be a good time for example to be moving house or involving yourself in anything else that could be seen as a stressful event.

Keep things as simple for yourself as possible, this may include saying "No" when you need to by putting your needs first for a while. You may well choose to permanently remove yourself from situations or people who have caused or triggered your trauma response.

Educate yourself around the fight, flight, freeze and fawn response. Learn about the trauma response and its short and long-term effects on the mind and body. Understanding what you have experienced can help normalise your feelings, if it has been a big ordeal it's OK to not minimise it, or try to bounce back or get over it too quickly by brushing it under the carpet.

You own your experience and the way you feel. No one can get behind your eyeballs and experience things exactly the way you do, but an empathic professional will be able to be with you along this journey to support you whilst you process those experiences. Your feelings, thoughts and behaviour are yours alone and these may well change daily and even from morning to daytime, to evening. It is all perfectly normal as we are not robots and we experience sensations in ebbs and flows, this is all part of the human condition, is that not so?


There are many books and online resources available that provide helpful information on trauma and recovery, a particular favourite of mine is Pete Walker's Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, especially if your trauma response stems from triggered adverse childhood experiences.

Trying to make peace with it all - a cognitive approach

A CBT (cognitive) hypnotherapist will be able to help you with managing your thoughts better, for example letting go of the thoughts that are still evoking the most intense feelings of distress such as rage, anger or hurt. Remember, we do not let go of something because we are forgiving someone for an injustice, but because we deserve to be healthier in our mind and body.

Right now, you deserve to try to help yourself feel more peaceful with it all once the trauma is behind you. You may well struggle with this part, particularly if the trauma has consumed, devastated, and destroyed you for several years of your life. As the famous philosopher Wayne Dyer once quoted, "It is not the snake bite that kills you but the venom that flows around your body." So do ask your therapist to help with letting go as part of your trauma healing journey.

Be kind to yourself

Remember that you've been through a lot. Healing takes time, it is not linear, and each person's journey is unique. Be patient, kind, and compassionate with yourself as you navigate through your trauma-healing process at a pace that feels right for you.

A very wise lady by the name of Rhoda Katz said on her death bed, "Never be afraid of life because it will carry you through", and she was right.

Taking action and reaching out

Having read this article, whether it triggers concerns over a past trauma, a current trauma or a trauma looming on the horizon, take that first brave step and reach out to me using my contact details below and let's work through this together. Don't worry, you'll be OK.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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South Woodford, London, E18 1BD
Written by Louise Levy, Snr Clinical & Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Clinical Supervisor
South Woodford, London, E18 1BD

Louise Levy is a Senior (Acc) Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapist, Cognitive Behavioural Hypno-Psychotherapist, Mind-Body Therapist, Master of NLP and a Clinical Supervisor

Louise consults privately face to face in London E18 and nationwide via Zoom.
treating adults, adolescents and children age 6 plus.

Louise specialises in trauma and CPTSD

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