Recovering From Trauma: 3 Steps to Take Back Your Health

All of us, at some point, will experience trauma that shifts and disrupts our lifestyle.

I recently experienced this in my own life. Less than two weeks after accepting my new job at Paleo f(x)™, I lost my partner in a very unexpected tragic accident. My life was already in an upheaval from moving to Austin from Los Angeles, starting a brand new job in a new city with whole new life. The loss of my partner was the absolute last thing I could have expected.

For six months, I was lost to grief. I was not eating well, barely sleeping, completely stopped working out. All I could do was focus on getting out of bed every day and pour myself into my new job. I had no energy to take care of myself. My whole life went pear-shaped.

Being the new Executive Director of a company, it was very important for me to lead by example. That’s especially true for Paleo f(x)™, where health and wellness takes first priority. I took this job because I’m so very passionate about this lifestyle and how it changed my life, but I found myself struggling to find meaning.

I’m not sharing this story to gain sympathy, but to express that I know the struggle. Many of our team members have, as well. We place wellness at the forefront, but the Paleo f(x)™ Team is not immune to life’s struggles.

Each and everyone of us have had something intense that throws us into a tailspin out of the things that make us feel happy and healthy. Maybe it’s something tragic like the loss of a loved one, or something beautiful like the birth of a child. Significant events like these can completely change our schedule, eating and working-out habits, and, most commonly, our sleep habits. Those three things can really do a number on your system, especially if they all suffer at once.

During my period of grief, I lost almost 15 pounds, I could barely sleep and I did not work out for almost 5 months. Most of me was thinking “ I don’t care, what’s the point?” My feelings were exacerbated by the nature of this loss: my partner was a seemingly healthy, active 33 year old who died from an enlarged heart that was not detected. Working in the health and wellness industry, that really did a number on my psyche.

The bright news is, I’m not alone, and neither are you. I’m not going to get into the direct recovery of grief or loss, because those processes are different for everyone. We all handle things differently. But what I want to address is getting back into the habit of your healthy lifestyle, Paleo or otherwise.

Steps Back to Your Healthy Lifestyle

Step 1: Acceptance.

This is the hardest part of this journey.

Accepting what has happened is the most pivotal action you can take. Without accepting the loss, you’re most likely going to be stuck in a loop in a personal hell. You can only move forward. We don’t ever get over the loss; it becomes a part of us. We can only learn to carry it and make it a part of us in a healthy, non-destructive way.

I can’t tell you how to accept loss or trauma, that is completely up to you. However, I can make some suggestions based on my own experience:

  1. Talk about your trauma with someone who knows you. That person could be a friend, family member, or counselor. Bottling up your emotions and being afraid to talk about them will only make this journey longer than you’d ever wish for.
  2. Allow yourself to feel the loss. ALL of it, no matter how painful it is, I know this too is really hard. If you keep running from your trauma, it will just keep turning up in your life like a bad penny until you accept it, embrace it, and make it part of you.
  3. Listen to your inner-self. This is especially important if you find yourself feeling guilt for this loss. Learn to listen to what your deep thoughts are, and learn to work with them – meditation and journaling are great tools here. Note that there is no time limit on this, it’s completely on your schedule and how you want to continue your life journey.

Step 2: Find Your Purpose Again.

Ok, so you’ve come to terms with your loss…mostly. Now what?

“Why the fuck am I still here? What am I doing here? Why does it matter to eat healthy, get sleep and do some sort of physical activity?”

Finding your “why,” your reason to get back into a healthy lifestyle can be a huge struggle. Most of us already have busy lives and can make the cliché excuses regarding time and resources. Now throw some trauma into the mix. WTF, right? You mostly want to just stay in bed all day and wait for your life to just go by. But the truth is, that’s not going to happen. You have responsibilities to yourself and to others.

Maybe the person you lost motivates you to be healthy again. I found that the single most driving factor for me to keep moving forward and to not give up was asking myself “what would this person want me to keep doing?”  When I lost my mom to cancer in 2003, I asked myself just that. I knew my mom wanted me to finish school, and I happened to get the best grades ever that semester following her death. Was throwing myself into my school the most “healthy” option at the time? Maybe not, but it was better than throwing myself into a cycle of self-destruction. It gave me a purpose and allowed me to honor her.

Your purpose is something that only you can discover. Do some journaling and self-exploration to find what drives you, what motivates you, what answers the question, “why?”

Step 3: Love Yourself.

Loving yourself involves everything we’ve talked about so far, and so much more. Long story short, be gentle on yourself. Our bodies are not out to get us! Like Keith Norris says, “our bodies are a temple for our soul,” and temples are there to guard and honor the light held within.

The key is to do things that make you happy, and not beat yourself up if they’re not 100% “Perfect Paleo.” For me, here’s what it looked like:

  1. Food: I just started eating the things that made me happy. Granted, some of them were not the healthiest option, but I was taking care of myself by getting myself to a place where I would have the desire to eat again. Sometimes that meant a totally Paleo salad. Sometimes it meant a heaping serving of gelato.
  2. Working Out: If I didn’t make it to the gym one day, I’d forgive myself, and set myself up to try again tomorrow. Take baby steps, even if that means just going for a ten minute walk.
  3. Surround yourself with the ones that love you. Sometimes our loved ones can help point out our progress when we can’t see it for ourselves. Do not be afraid to ask for help – the people who love you want to see you succeed.
  4. Get unconventional: I found lots of various “alternative” methods comforting and extremely helpful – float tanks, energy healing, meditation, etc. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something on the non-traditional side.

Six months later and this is all still a daily struggle. I just take it day by day, and find ways to cherish each day I have. I’m finally starting to eat more than one meal a day and sleep most of the night. And a few weeks ago, I even gotten myself back into a workout routine again! I feel a happy and joyful version of myself returning. Do I still grieve? Yes! Do I still have days I don’t feel like eating anything or eating something crappy? Yes! Do I still have nights I don’t sleep because my mind gets the better of me? Yes! But do I let these defeat me? No. I remember my purpose, my self-worth, and I keep moving forward. I will not allow this loss to snuff out my light that I need to continue to share with the world.

Give yourself the time you need. Don’t rush it. You’re not on anyone’s timeline but your own. We are not the same people we were yesterday, and certainly not who we will be tomorrow.

Blossoming image licensed under the Creative Commons.

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Kimberly Pope

Kimberly Pope

Kimberly’s escape from the Standard American Diet to Paleo and journey toards health began in November 2013, when she read Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution. Kimberly submersed herself completely in the Paleo lifestyle. She cleared out the fridge, read blog, and listened to podcasts. Everything she had been taught about health and diet had been […]

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