Trauma + Self-Care

Updated: Aug 17

Trauma and self-care go hand in hand, but complex trauma can make achieving moments of self-care a real challenge. When someone has struggled with trauma there are likely feelings of inadequacy, and oftentimes, the internal narrative is something along the lines of, “I am undeserving.” Shame, rage, anger, fear, inadequacy, enoughness, self-respect, and negative self-talk are all characteristics of trauma. When self-care is not prioritized it is common to experience burnout or emotional instability. When trauma has gone unnoticed or unacknowledged, self-care can begin to feel anxiety inducing, or undeserved. These feelings indicate the need for self-care but let's face it, getting started is the real challenge.


Self-respect and self-care go hand in hand. Self-care helps to fill your cup and it is impossible to run on empty. Consistently running on empty, and chronically participating in negative narratives with yourself, or others, can cause irreversible damage. Trauma can start with poor family dynamics, but can also stem from an abusive relationship, a poor social construct, and/or a subpar job or work environment.


Trauma leads to negative self-concepts, negative world views, and less self-value. When a person is made to feel “bad” or shameful, thinking gently about oneself becomes a hindrance. Pathways of self-hate, people pleasing, and overworking are hard to break free from, and when these pathways have been consistently traveled, the road less traveled is that of self-care. Incorporating self-care requires rewriting the narratives that have been the norm for an extended period of time, or maybe even someone’s entire life. When dealing with serious trauma, self-care may not immediately feel good, creating another challenge.


When taking care of yourself takes precedence, it always results in a more healthy way of life and the narrative begins to shift. Self-care has a chain effect of positivity, and has the power to become corrective. Self-care can change the way you feel physically and mentally, and can also change the way you show up for others.


When treating yourself with love, kindness, and respect you can start to retrain yourself to feel and experience things you were missing, or did not know you needed.


Self-care is not selfish, but instead incredibly restorative. Everyone deserves to feel nourished, secure, and forgiven. Reclaiming your worth is an act of defiance against your trauma.


Self-Care Defined


Self-care is an intentional act that serves to fulfill one’s physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. Self-care can include small acts like enjoying a cup of tea or coffee, eating a snack, sleeping in or taking a walk. Self-care can also include more elaborate actions like setting healthy boundaries, finding a new job, or asking for help. No matter how profound the self-care, it is worth it, and a requirement for healing. Start small, and remember, that is starting somewhere!


10 Ways to (Simply) Practice Self-Care


Check in on your basic necessities. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Need to go to the restroom? When feeling low, check all of these off of your list.


Take a short nap. A 20 minute nap can serve as a shot of espresso. Lack of rest can contribute to many problems. A little rest goes a long way.


Listen to an audio book. There are so many incredible audio books available for your listening pleasure. Choose something spectacular to listen to, and let it carry you away.


Enjoy your favorite snack. What snack do you love but do not get to enjoy very often? Give yourself permission to treat yourself.


Put your phone on silent. All of those notifications will be there, and you might even consider turning most of them off. It is okay to be unavailable. Another great practice is keeping your phone out of your bedroom. Again, give yourself permission.


Stretch. Movement is medicine. Move, breathe and create a stronger connection to your body. A gentle stretch each morning is a great way to give thanks to your body.


Wear something you love. When you look good you feel good. Wearing clothes you love is an act of self-expression, and can help you to build confidence.


Showing up and getting started is the hardest part. This is just a friendly reminder.


Declutter. Decluttering is destressing. Choose just one drawer, a cabinet and on a day you are feeling motivated go for a closet. It will feel so satisfying to lighten your load, it will also keep your mind from wondering.


Go for a walk. Head over to your favorite park, kick your shoes off and let your feet touch the ground.



© 2020 by Markesha Miller, Ph.D.