When a person is exposed to people who may have been traumatized themselves, secondary trauma can result. Hearing disturbing accounts of traumatic events retold by trauma survivors or experiencing people inflicting cruelty on each other can also lead to a person needing to cope with secondary trauma. None of us, no matter how compassionate, can be supportive 24/7/365. Compassion fatigue sets in when we don’t set healthy boundaries and fail to practice much-needed self care. When caring for others, it is vital we take care of ourselves. Otherwise, we soon become unable to help those in need around us.
It is also crucial to remember that we do not have the power to fix anyone. We can nurture, love, and validate. But at the end of the day, we are not responsible for making someone else feel better. Only they can choose to do that.
Symptoms of secondary trauma align with those of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and include intrusive re-experiencing of the traumatic incidents, avoidance of trauma trigger and emotions, negative changes in beliefs and feelings, and hyperarousal. Secondary trauma has been researched and found to exist in first responders, nurses, physicians, mental health care workers and children of traumatized parents. (Secondary trauma – Wikipedia)
What is self-care?
Witnessing human trauma is exhaustive and mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually consuming. It’s important to make time to recharge and practice self-care. Self-care is tending to your needs holistically, focusing on all the components that make YOU you. Naturally, this includes eating right, physical exercise, mental rest, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and doing things to nurture and nourish your spirit and soul.
For me, that encompassed catching up with a good friend for breakfast Saturday morning and going out to dinner with my wife, Sweet T, to meet some new friends. Much like my Mom, spending time with people energizes me. While I spend time around people every day, the context in how I spent time engaged with others allowed me to free my mind of the burdens I carry from a week of ministry.
I spent Sunday outside piddling around in the backyard, tending to the garden, going for a walk with Sweet T, and enjoying some quiet time listening to the Lord. The Holy Spirit graciously supplied me with encouragement and refreshment.
Below is a list of some healthy relaxation strategies that I found researching how to cope with secondary trauma. Life is hard. We all need to take care of ourselves. Jesus modeled this in His ministry, taking time to withdraw from the crowd to spend time with the Father and focus on His disciples. Prayer, meditation, solitude, and enjoying time with friends are all key factors in living a healthy, balanced life. And as my Father-in-law Gary always says: “You need a hobby.”
10 Key Strategies for Coping with Secondary Trauma
- Deep breathing
- Guided visualization
- Creative expression (drawing, journaling, photography, cooking, playing a musical instrument)
- Spending time with pets (dogs, cats, horses)
- Walking, hiking, and spending time outside
- Massages, baths, saunas, manicures, and pedicures
- A nap
10 Bible Verses Focused on Healing:
1. “For I am the Lord who heals you.” – Exodus 15:26
2. He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. – Psalm 147:2
3. “My wayward children,” says the Lord, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” – Jeremiah 3:22
4. O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone! – Jeremiah 17:14
5. Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29
6. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. But his wounds you are healed. – 1 Peter 2:24
8. But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. – Isaiah 53:5
9. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. – Psalm 103:2-3
10. “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 30:17
Fortunately, at my work we are provided access to a variety of counseling and care ministry services. We are intentional about addressing the secondary trauma that can happen as a result of the things we hear, see, and experience through our ministry to the Dallas homeless. Our search and rescue teams and care ministers encounter a good deal more trauma than I do dealing with the food-side of our ministry. Yet, I am not immune. Odds are, neither are you. Be sure and take care of yourself. You are the only YOU there is.
May the Lord shine His favor on your week.
The Devotional Guy™