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A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

Updated: Oct 5, 2023


A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion



One of most common things I hear from clients in my practice is how tired they are. Whether they come because they have been diagnosed with ADHD, are grieving a loss, are going through some sort of crisis, or are working through a specific trauma, they almost always comment on how exhausted they feel, and wonder if that is normal. When clients speak about this deep level of fatigue, I will ask them when it started. Invariably, they are unable to pinpoint this; most of the time, upon reflection, they recognize that they have been living in a state of exhaustion for as long as they remember.



A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

This is very common for survivors of complex trauma. Traumatic experiences can have a significant impact on a person's mental and emotional well-being, often leading to physical and psychological exhaustion. Trauma can disrupt sleep patterns, create high levels of stress and anxiety, and cause intense emotional reactions. These factors can contribute to feelings of fatigue, both physically and mentally.



A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

Trauma-related exhaustion may manifest as a constant sense of tiredness, difficulty concentrating or focusing, decreased motivation, irritability, and a lack of energy or interest in daily activities. It can also lead to disturbances in appetite and sleep, further exacerbating the exhaustion.


Moreover, individuals who have experienced trauma may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which commonly includes symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion. PTSD can involve recurrent intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks, which can be mentally and emotionally draining.


A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

It is important to recognize that trauma affects individuals differently, and not everyone will experience exhaustion as a result. However, trauma, and complex trauma in particular, can have a profound impact on various aspects of our well-being, including our energy levels and overall sense of fatigue. There are several reasons why complex trauma can make us feel tired:



1. Hyperarousal and hypervigilance: Complex trauma can result in a heightened state of alertness and hypervigilance, where our bodies and minds are constantly on edge, anticipating potential threats or danger. This constant state of arousal can be mentally and physically exhausting, depleting our energy reserves over time.



A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

2.Sleep disturbances: Trauma can disrupt our sleep patterns, leading to difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep. Nightmares and flashbacks can also interrupt our sleep, preventing us from getting adequate rest. Sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can significantly contribute to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.



3. Emotional exhaustion: Complex trauma often involves intense emotional experiences, such as fear, sadness, anger, or shame. These emotions can be overwhelming and draining, leading to emotional exhaustion. The constant effort to manage and regulate intense emotions can take a toll on our energy levels.




4. Cognitive overload: Trauma can impact cognitive processes such as attention, concentration, and memory. The constant replaying of traumatic memories, intrusive thoughts, and hypervigilance can consume mental energy and make it challenging to focus on daily tasks. This cognitive overload can contribute to mental fatigue and a sense of exhaustion.

A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

5. Coping mechanisms: Individuals who have experienced complex trauma may develop coping mechanisms such as dissociation, numbing, or avoidance to manage overwhelming emotions or memories. While these coping strategies may serve as temporary relief, they can also contribute to feelings of detachment, disengagement, and fatigue in the long run.



6. Physical manifestations: Trauma can manifest in physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and chronic pain. These physical symptoms can be draining and add to the overall sense of exhaustion.


Let’s face it; when you feel exhausted it is hard to do any of the things you know you need to do to fix your life. All the best strategies in the world are useless if you lack the energy to implement them. Healing trauma takes commitment, effort, and energy, so we must start by overcoming the exhaustion. This can be a complex and individualized process, but there are some strategies we can use to help:



1. Self-care and relaxation techniques: Engage in activities that promote self-care and relaxation, such as practicing mindfulness or meditation, taking soothing baths, engaging in hobbies you enjoy, spending time in nature, or engaging in gentle exercise like yoga. Prioritizing rest and relaxation can help replenish energy levels.



A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

2. Establish healthy routines: Create a daily routine that incorporates healthy habits such as regular sleep patterns, balanced nutrition, and exercise. Consistency and structure can provide a sense of stability and support physical and mental well-being.



3.Connect with support systems: Surround yourself with supportive and understanding people, such as friends, family, or support groups. Sharing your experiences and feelings with trusted individuals can help alleviate some of the emotional burden and provide a sense of validation and understanding.



4.Practice self-compassion: Be patient and kind to yourself during the healing process. Recognize that recovering from trauma takes time, and it is normal to experience setbacks. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your efforts and progress, even if it feels small.



5.Engage in relaxation and stress-reduction techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery. These techniques can help reduce stress levels and promote a sense of calm.



A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

6.Consider holistic approaches: Some people find complementary therapies helpful in managing trauma-related exhaustion. These may include acupuncture, massage therapy, aromatherapy, or other practices that promote relaxation and well-being. It's important to consult with qualified professionals and ensure these approaches align with your needs and preferences.



7. Seek professional help: Consider working with a therapist or counsellor who specializes in trauma. They can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based, trauma-focused therapies like Neuro-Affective Relational Model (NARM) to address the underlying trauma and its effects on exhaustion.



Remember, healing trauma takes time, and the process is unique to each of us. It is crucial to be patient, to prioritize self-care and to be gentle and compassionate with yourself along the way.



For those who choose to seek professional support, trauma therapy can help be helpful in regaining energy by addressing the underlying factors contributing to fatigue and providing tools and strategies to heal and restore well-being. Here's how trauma therapy can potentially increase your energy levels:



A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

1.Processing and integrating traumatic experiences: Trauma therapy aims to help you process and integrate traumatic experiences and the strategies you developed to cope with them. By safely exploring and making sense of your trauma responses in therapy, you can reduce the emotional and cognitive burden associated with them. This process can alleviate some of your mental and emotional exhaustion, allowing you to redirect your energy towards healing and recovery.



2. Stress reduction and relaxation techniques: Trauma therapy often incorporates stress reduction and relaxation techniques. Therapists may teach you specific coping skills such as deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, and guided imagery to help regulate your stress response. By learning and practicing these techniques, you can reduce the impact of trauma-related stress on your energy levels and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.



3. Addressing sleep disturbances: Trauma therapy can help address sleep disturbances that often accompany trauma. Therapists may work with you to develop strategies for improving sleep hygiene and provide techniques to manage nightmares or flashbacks that disrupt your sleep. By improving the quality and duration of your sleep, you can enhance your energy levels and overall well-being.



A trauma-informed approach to healing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

4. Building resilience and coping skills


Trauma therapy can help you develop resilience and adaptive coping skills to manage the impact of trauma on your daily life. This may include learning effective strategies for stress management, emotional regulation, and self-care. By acquiring these skills, you can enhance your ability to cope with the challenges associated with trauma, reducing the drain on your energy resources.



5. Processing and addressing associated symptoms: Trauma can manifest in various symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and physical discomfort. Trauma therapy aims to identify and address these symptoms, reducing their impact on your energy levels. By treating comorbid conditions and addressing their underlying causes, you can experience an improvement in your overall energy and well-being.



6. Building Relationship Skills: One of the most significant impacts of complex trauma is the impact it has on our ability to create and maintain meaningful relationships. Trauma therapy works to reconnect you with your authentic self and help you rebuild the ability to trust your environment and the people in it. When you feel safe and connected to the world, your nervous system can relax, and your body can redeploy all the resources it committed to scanning for danger. This results in a decrease in fatigue and an increase in energy levels.



Trauma therapy is a process


It takes time, and the results may vary, but a trained therapist will work collaboratively with you to develop a personalized treatment plan based on your unique needs and goals. Through this therapeutic journey, you can gradually regain energy as you heal and move towards post-traumatic growth. You do not have to stay in this state of exhaustion forever; there is hope for a refreshing, inspired life full of awe and wonder. You have overcome so much; you deserve all the adventures that are waiting for you.


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