A Playbook for Post-Traumatic Growth
Post-traumatic growth happens when individuals resist being debilitated by trauma and lean into their strengths. Follow these steps to overcome adversity.
How is it that two parents of children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre were able to turn their heartbreak into something positive by founding Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing gun violence? It’s difficult to imagine at a time of tragedy, but life-altering trauma can give way to meaning, spurring people to create enduring, beneficial outcomes for the greater good.
This is what psychologists call post-traumatic growth (PTG) — positive psychological changes that occur as part of a healing process. Researchers discovered that people who experience profound difficulties are more likely to experience PTG than they are to face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which often brings intense anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, or intrusive thoughts.
After a traumatic situation, people need time to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. The process of rebuilding changes how people perceive the world around them. PTG happens when people resist being debilitated by trauma and lean into their strengths. By shifting their baseline perceptions of self and others, they allow something beneficial to develop.
Developing PTG begins with managing PTSD symptoms. Start by learning about trauma and seeking effective treatments for mind-body healing. You can’t focus on growth if you’re sleepless, depressed, or suffering from physical pain. Follow these five steps to foster PTG:
Post-Traumatic Growth: 5 Steps
- Start by working through your feelings. Talk with a caring, licensed mental health professional and, if needed, get assistance in setting realistic goals for daily living, for recovery, and for moving forward.
- Avoid the temptation to withdraw or use substances to cope with your distress. Find reputable support groups; sharing your experience with other trauma survivors offers comfort. Spend time with family and friends who support you.
- Choose healthy self-care options. Manage intense emotions by noticing and naming them while practicing mindfulness and other interventions.
- Spend time doing activities that bring you joy. Your goal is to build physical and mental well-being now and in the future.
- Design a life that feels consistent with your changed self. Examine how your priorities have shifted. Your new narrative not only benefits you, but it can help others. Consider how to use your experience to serve others. Join an organization dedicated to a cause that moves you or start one of your own.
Post-Traumatic Growth: Next Steps
- Watch: “Mental Health Out Loud: How Stress & Trauma Affect Brain Development”
- Download: 5 Mindfulness Exercises
- Read: ADHD & PTSD: Fear Circuit Deficits Link Conditions
- Treatment: Somatic Therapy – Understanding the ADHD Brain, Body & Trauma
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