Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

New growth
A few weeks ago, we experienced some of the coldest temperatures in many, many years. During this cold spell, most plants outside withered away. Now that the coldest temperatures have passed, I have noticed some things sprouting from among the dead leaves of the plants. New life! How can something that was so battered by such cold still have life and be willing to try to grow again? Reminds me of trauma survivors who choose to overcome and thrive.

When someone is in the midst of a traumatic experience, survival is the focus. However, once out of danger, there’s an opportunity to settle down from the stress, catch your breath, and dig deep inside for a reservoir of strength, adaptability, and toughness you may never have used before. Sometimes we sell ourselves short by not believing in ourselves. We feel weak and helpless. We get comfortable and slip into a routine and convince ourselves it’s too hard to try to change or start over. The truth is we all have the ability to stretch ourselves and grow again.

In the past 3 years we have had much change just from living during a pandemic. We were forced to learn new ways to manage daily life. Wearing masks, social distancing, having to cook our own meals with restaurants closed, not being able to gather with friends and family, learning to be content with staying home more, etc. We stretched ourselves by learning new things and we adjusted well. There has been a resurgence of interest in things such as baking, cooking, food preservation, make-it-yourself crafts, self-sufficiency, and gardening. We became comfortable with that which at first was foreign. Surprisingly, we adapted and we realized that we could do without some things we had thought important. By the time restrictions eased, many no longer wanted to return to the old.

So once we are on the upside of a traumatic experience, how can we spur new growth? Just like with plants, it is a good time to fertilize and cultivate for even more healthy growth. You already did the first step! Recognizing that you are more resilient than you knew is a great place to start. Now time to “fertilize”.

Coach Eileen Chadnick gives us the following “fertilizer” tips:

1. Connect with others. In any time, connecting with others is a huge well-being and resilience booster. Now, in times of physical distancing, we need to find new ways to connect and it’s ever more crucial. Do it safely, but do it. Reach out and connect with your people (work and personal) and reap rewards for yourself and in being there for others too.

2.  Nurture a growth mindset: Every day presents new challenges and new opportunities to grow and learn. Try not to resist these moments. Rather, stay in a mindset that invites learning, adaptation, and healthy stretch. This is a fabulous way to build yourself up and create healthy new resources to meet the challenges of the seasons ahead. You can learn along the way (lessons abundant); take a course, webinar, follow some videos (more of mine to come); and countless other ways.

3. Tame the Inner Critics: Just like there are pests that can ruin a garden, our negative self-talk can get in the way of cultivating our resilience reservoirs (or garden). Notice when self-talk gets in the way. Try on a more empowering and encouraging conversation with yourself and see what happens.

Trauma causes so much heartache but it doesn’t have to be the end. Looking at what appeared to be dead plants sprouting new growth, it reminds us that even when we don’t see life, strength is hidden underneath it all. We are molded by life experiences and often we encounter the most growth through difficulties. Pain hurts but hope is powerful. And hope is already there, deep in the roots, even if you don’t see it.

If you are struggling to regrow after experiencing trauma, don’t face it alone. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault Call our Jackson County office for an appointment at 256.574.5826. You may also speak with a trained crisis counselor at our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. We are here for you.

-Teresia Smith

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