Resilience And Healing: Transformative Self-Care Strategies For Survivors Of Trauma

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated March 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Experiencing trauma is common all around the world: recent mental health surveys from the World Health Organization spanning 24 countries found that around 70% of respondents had experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. This statistic highlights the pervasive nature of trauma and the urgent need for effective healing strategies.

Trauma can have a profound impact on the lives of those who experience it, leaving scars that run deep and linger long after the events themselves have passed. Trauma can shatter a person’s sense of safety, fracture their trust, and leave them feeling scared and vulnerable. 

But after trauma, healing is possible. A key part of this process of healing and resilience is self-care, a transformative practice of nurturing and reclaiming one's well-being. Often overlooked or dismissed as a mere indulgence, self-care can be an essential part of recovery for survivors of trauma. 

In this article, we will explore the effects of resilience and offer transformative self-care strategies for trauma survivors. We’ll dig into the profound effects trauma can have on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being and examine how self-care can act as a catalyst for growth and renewal. So, whether you are a survivor seeking solace or someone supporting a loved one on their healing journey, we invite you to explore how self-care can equip you with the tools to help you reclaim your life.

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Understanding trauma and its effects on well-being

Trauma can result from disturbing, terrible experiences such as accidents, abuse, rape, natural disasters, or violence. Trauma's effects can ripple through many different aspects of a person’s life, influencing thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships.

After experiencing trauma, people often experience a mix of intense emotions and thought patterns. Anxiety, nervousness, grief, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and vivid memories of the event can all be common for survivors of trauma. Physically, trauma survivors may experience symptoms like headaches, sleep disturbances, nausea, and chest pain. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an extreme consequence of trauma that may occur in some people, often characterized by intrusive thoughts and memories related to the traumatic event. The effects of PTSD can be devastating and life-altering, and it can lead to depression, isolation, difficulties at work and in relationships, and increased alcohol and drug use. 

However, there are ways to effectively cope with trauma and its effects. Evidence-based therapies and early treatment can make a tremendous difference in how survivors respond and heal.

The role of self-care in trauma recovery

Self-care can become an effective recovery tool for survivors who are overcoming trauma.

Contrary to popular belief, self-care is not a luxury or selfish indulgence. Instead, it is often a necessity. As an act of love and compassion towards oneself, self-care can help survivors to reclaim their lives and restore their sense of agency. 

Caring for oneself can be a transformative journey that nurtures the mind, body, and spirit, allowing for gradual healing and growth.

By prioritizing their needs, survivors can begin to strengthen their coping mechanisms and forge a path toward post-traumatic growth.

Every survivor's journey is unique, and so are their self-care goals. When establishing an effective self-care routine, it can be important to identify personal triggers and stressors. By recognizing the specific elements that exacerbate trauma response, survivors can tailor their self-care strategies to address those triggers directly.

Self-awareness and self-reflection also play a pivotal role in this process. Taking the time to understand one's emotional landscape, thought patterns, and physical sensations can help survivors to pinpoint the areas that require attention and healing. This gentle exploration of one's inner world, guided by empathy and compassion, can also contribute to healing itself. 

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo

Transformative self-care strategies for survivors of trauma

Self-care can take many forms, and individuals can experiment with different strategies to find what practices best suit their needs. Included below are several self-care strategies to consider in a range of categories:  

Physical self-care

Physical self-care can be a key part of healing from trauma and cultivating resilience. Engaging in regular exercise and movement not only enhances physical health but also brings mental health benefits, such as boosting mood and reducing anxiety. There are many different types of exercise you can try, so you may consider experimenting to find something you enjoy, whether that’s walking, jogging, dancing, weightlifting, swimming, or another activity. 

Getting adequate sleep and rest is also beneficial for the body's restoration and replenishment. Eating nutritious, well-balanced meals can also be important as you heal. Sensory grounding techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or engaging with the natural environment may help survivors reconnect with their bodies and find moments of calm.

Emotional and mental self-care

Emotional and mental self-care routines involve nurturing our psychological well-being. Mindfulness practices can cultivate present-moment awareness, reducing stress and promoting emotional balance. Journaling and expressive writing can also serve as useful outlets for releasing pent-up emotions and gaining clarity. Engaging in creative outlets such as art, music, or dance often allows for self-expression and catharsis.

For additional help, seeking professional therapy or counseling can provide a safe space to process trauma, develop coping strategies, and gain valuable insights.

Social self-care

Social connection can play a significant role in healing from trauma. Leaning on a strong support system of trusted individuals who offer understanding, empathy, and validation can be beneficial in cultivating resilience and moving forward. Setting healthy boundaries in relationships can also be important to protect one's emotional well-being and foster a sense of safety. 

Joining support groups can provide an opportunity to connect with others who have experienced similar journeys, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing feelings of isolation. Engaging in social activities or hobbies that bring joy and fulfillment can cultivate a sense of hope beyond the trauma.

Spiritual self-care

Spiritual self-care involves nurturing the essence of our being and finding meaning in life. Exploring personal beliefs and values may help survivors to connect with their inner selves and find solace. Engaging in practices such as meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, or prayer can help establish a sense of calm and inner peace.

Connecting with nature and finding solace in the beauty of the natural world can also provide moments of respite and rejuvenation. Engaging in acts of kindness and volunteering often allows survivors to extend their healing journey beyond themselves, finding purpose in helping others.

Overcoming barriers to self-care

Get help incorporating transformative self-care strategies

While self-care is often essential to our well-being, it's not always easy to prioritize. Survivors of trauma may encounter various barriers on their path to self-care. Feelings of guilt or self-blame may surface, making survivors believe they don't deserve care or happiness. Societal stigma and misconceptions around self-care can lead to self-judgment or resistance. Time constraints and competing responsibilities may also make it challenging to carve out dedicated self-care moments. 

In such instances, seeking professional guidance from a therapist can provide valuable support in the healing process. Help is available in person or online, and if you are experiencing some of these barriers such as feelings of guilt or time constraints, online therapy can be a convenient and comfortable option, as you can have sessions wherever you have internet and feel most at ease. 

With the support of an experienced mental health provider, survivors can gain valuable insights about themselves while learning effective strategies to manage symptoms of PTSD or other trauma-related conditions.

If you or a loved one is living with PTSD, there is hope. Recent research has shown that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for mental health concerns, including PTSD. One such study evaluated the effectiveness of prolonged exposure—a type of therapy commonly used for PTSD—delivered via telehealth as compared to in-person and found that the telehealth program was just as effective as in-person treatment in reducing PTSD.  

Creating a personalized self-care plan with a mental health expert can be a vital step in the healing journey. Self-care is a process of discovery and understanding, and it often takes time to find an approach that works best for you. As survivors take steps toward reclaiming their lives, resilience can be realized, enabling them to live life once again with purpose and joy.


In the aftermath of trauma, the path to healing may seem like an overwhelming process. However, when you take the time to practice self-care, it can be an effective tool for reclaiming your life. By engaging in self-care strategies that aim to nurture physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being, you can rebuild the safety and comfort that may have been lost.

The journey after trauma does not have to be a solitary one. There is support available every step of the way. Online therapy can be a beacon of hope for those who have experienced trauma, providing a safe space to explore thoughts and feelings while developing practical coping strategies for the road ahead. The healing process can begin by making a choice to prioritize self-care, and it's never too late to start.

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