Post-traumatic growth: How adversity can make you stronger

Adversity and trauma come with significant consequences, many of which are negative. However, it may be possible to heal and strive beyond your trauma.

Many people have observed and experienced significant growth and development after unfortunate suffering, trauma and pain. What if survivors of traumatic events not only can heal from their trauma, but may actually grow into stronger, more driven, and more resilient people because of their trauma?

What is post-traumatic growth?
Post-traumatic growth or resilience is positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning. Ultimately, post-traumatic growth highlights the benefits of emotional growth, stronger relationship bonds, and a different perspective on life. These three things do not happen without effort. These benefits are not guarantees, but they are possibilities.

How does one grow from trauma?
Understanding that this ability to transform your pain into power is possible is an important element that contributes to fostering hope and opportunity. The trauma that people experience does affect our emotions, thoughts and actions. Too often, this impact results in unhealthy and harmful outcomes.

However, this is not always the case. Sometimes individuals are left at a point of uncertainty and emptiness. This uncertainty or emptiness is not a place that should cripple one or stunt our ability to move forward. It can actually be an opportunity to inform ourselves, empower ourselves, and overcome the trauma we have experienced.

The importance of coping skills
We will struggle to overcome any traumatic situation without the appropriate coping skills. Many of us do not learn coping skills as we grow up. Coping skills are not a requirement in school, and in most families and communities we are often not taught what we can do to feel better in the face of adversity.

When we do learn various methods to deal with our trouble and pain, we typically learn these things through observation. We rarely get a clear explanation of to us why we should do this and what it will do for us. Coping skills need to be intentional in order for them to have the kind of impact that leads to resiliency and empowerment.

Do not allow trauma to hold you back
Ultimately, trauma does not need to defeat or define you. It may be a reality in your life. It may have been a significant factor in the decisions you have made. It may still have an active role in your daily experience. However, it does not have to determine who you are as a person.
Much of the adversity that people experience is devastating. Yet being a survivor of the situation is often itself a sign of resilience.

Coping strategies
A few coping strategies that I recommend practicing are learning Cognitive Behavior Techniques (CBT), practicing mindfulness exercises, and physical activity. Find a therapist or other resources in CBT that will assist you with getting your thoughts and emotions together and aligned. Mindfulness exercises allow you to give your mind a rest. Physical activity provides you with the ability to maintain good health while instilling better habits in your life.

Post-traumatic growth does not occur without you taking action. Sometimes taking the initial step is the hardest. You must have faith in yourself and a desire to change for your healing journey to begin.