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How to Help Each Other Through Traumatic Times

Hint: It’s not patronizing, blaming, or shaming.

Key points

  • The grave state of the world and myriad fears can lead to experiences of feeling trauma-logged.
  • Conscious, caring relationships can help mitigate stress and trauma.
  • Small, strategic acts can help enact a process of healing, growth, and recovery.
When we are trauma-logged, reaching out can help
Source: Shutterstock/Andrey_Kuzmin

You’ve been marinating in trauma for the past two years and it feels nothing short of a miracle bestowed by the Patron Saint of Resilience that you’re not permanently locked in fetal position texting your therapist and clutching a Costco-sized supply of Kleenex. Life has become a feat.

To say we are oversaturated is likely a gross understatement.

During those rare milliseconds when you’re not utterly devastated about the grave state of the world and officially worried about every last person in your life, you realize that you’re also feeling completely trauma-logged.

Being trauma-logged is that heavy, water-in-lungs, up-to-eyeballs feeling after steeping in deep, toxic waters for what feels like forever.

Parents are heartsick over their kids' mental health. Atrocities continue. The Great Resignation haunts the workforce. Economies are crumbling. We are searching for normal, even though normal was never a thing.

It can feel like too much—that we will never feel lighter. Yet, research repeatedly reveals that we are wired to heal from trauma, especially through conscious, caring relationships. This starts with shifting how we talk to ourselves and one another during traumatic times. Here are some ways to maximize the potential for healing:

1. Think small.

Big problems warrant big solutions, right? Not necessarily. Plus, they might not be in reach when feeling trauma-logged. Grand gestures and poetic interventions may seem ideal, but consistent, kind micro-gestures can go a long way, providing benefits for the giver and receiver. If we are hyper-focused on doing something big to help ourselves and one another, we may not be able to pull it off, with all the extra weight we are carrying. Small acts add up, just like stress and trauma can.

2. Validate, don’t judge.

Make telling safe. I’ve yet to find a research study or relationship expert that reports shaming as an effective mechanism for healing. Minimizing and oversimplifying pain with retorts like "suck it up" or “it’s not that bad” only compounds things. Listen and respond with a non-judgmental lens, one of curiosity and compassion. Consider using phrases such as “I believe you," “I’m glad you had the courage to tell me this," and “This sounds really hard” to demonstrate empathy and spur healing.

3. Avoid pity and patronization.

Recognize human strengths. We are not irreversibly damaged goods even when we feel completely trauma-logged. Healing is within reach. We are humans having proportionate responses to life. It is not a moral failing or lack of strength when we don’t feel strong. Growth is nourished through empathy, not pity and hyper-focusing on deficits.

4. Increase trauma literacy.

Understand that recovering from trauma is a process. Much has been written and broadcasted to help inform and uncover pathways forward. Read Judith Hermann’s Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. Read Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Check out the V-A-R tool by Active Minds to learn additional strategies to build connection and camaraderie.

5. Optimize resources.

Know and share the many forms of support. Professional help can be found through primary care physicians, insurance companies, human resource departments, school and university resource centers, along with referrals from places like Psychology Today, National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Psychological Association, AAKOMA Project, and National Association of Social Workers. Modalities like EMDR and neurofeedback, amongst many integrative health practices, are demonstrating promise in helping heal trauma.

The heaviness of today’s times isn’t to be taken lightly. Trauma is erosive. Patronizing, shaming, and blaming ourselves and one another only makes things worse. By leveraging communication savvy, we can take small, strategic steps to strengthen our relationships, heal, and grow.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


Lee, K. (2022). Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World, Boulder: Sounds True.

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