Spotlight on healing and recovery

Most of us have undergone some sort of healing or recovery process in our lives. There are many scenarios where we may need to recover afterward including physical or mental illness, trauma (past or present), a break-up, a bereavement or burnout, to name just a few instances. It seems a relevant topic right now considering what has been happening in our country and in the world, including the pandemic, the ongoing effects of inequality, and even the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Sometimes, we may not even go through the healing process in an intentional way. For instance, for some minor illnesses, it may not be necessary to be intentional about our recovery. Other times, however, we aren’t very intentional about our process, either because it doesn’t occur to us, or because we think that we don’t have time for it,  and then we can find that the process takes much longer than we might have anticipated.


The realities of modern life

It is a modern reality that it is very difficult for some of us to find the time and space for true recovery and healing. Sadly, the need for recovery and healing time is not supported by many of the constructs in our society. This was reflected by COVID: it very quickly became, not about whether people were well enough to go back to work after they were infected, but whether they produced a negative COVID test.

We are programmed, in many ways, to put our jobs and other people ahead of our own wellbeing. There is a need to acknowledge that in the long term, this does not serve us. Of course, it is extremely difficult to navigate because we need to earn a living, and there are people in our lives who might rely on us for care. However, if we don’t consider ourselves in the equation, it can have serious repercussions on our health and wellbeing which, in turn, will not help our employers or anyone we care for.

The link between mind and body

I have experienced my own healing journey over the past couple of years due to a medical trauma. What I found most striking is the strong link between mind and body. The initial problem might be physical, but often it will also affect us mentally or emotionally and vice versa. We do need to look after the whole of us, not just the mind or body on its' own.

Furthermore, as mind and body are so connected it can be difficult to pinpoint if we have an ongoing medical issue or if it is part and parcel of our healing journey. This is particularly the case if we have a chronic condition or if events trigger past trauma (which in turn can affect us physically).

Add to the mix that if an adverse experience has put our nervous system on high alert, it is increasingly difficult to tell where our pain or discomfort is coming from because this can cause physical symptoms. Bearing these factors in mind there is rarely a golden bullet when embarking on a healing journey. During my recovery process, I found myself looking for the golden bullet but, instead, discovered it was necessary to try a mixture of approaches to increase my feeling of well-being.

Furthermore, we are all different, so what may work for one person might not work for another. Although it can be tedious there may need to be trial and error as well as mix and match to find the interventions that can work for us.

As such, a three-pronged approach to healing might be helpful:

  • Medical intervention or advice may be necessary. Of course, this isn’t the focus of this article, but if this is a requirement for you, I hope that you can readily find the support and advice that you need. Please remember that you deserve the treatment and care you require. It is also important to say that the other two approaches may also be helpful for you alongside support from a GP or other medical professional.
  • Physical measures that we can instigate ourselves or with some sort of therapist. These interventions can be beneficial physically, emotionally, and mentally. 
  • Emotional or cognitive measures can have an impact on our physical as well as mental health. Although it is good to work with a professional if you can, it is understandable that this isn’t always possible straight away, particularly considering the reality of waiting lists. There are things that can be done independently, therefore, that might be helpful.

For some people, they don’t realise how unkind to themselves they are until they need to embark on a healing path, and then it can be an important lesson for life. 

Here are some different approaches from the physical and emotional or mental perspective that might help you to move forward. (Some of these may fit into both sections):

Physical interventions

  • Exercise may help to increase both physical and emotional well-being. It doesn’t need to be hardcore exercise. It should just be something that you enjoy such as walking or dancing around your living room.
  • Breathing exercises as advocated by Wim Hof may help to calm your nervous system if it is on high alert, as may cold water therapy, also advocated by Wim. There are many resources online including on YouTube.
  • Massages, aromatherapy, and other forms of alternative therapy may be helpful to help relieve tension and bring us into the here and now, something very important for recovery. It is worth bearing in mind that these things are often possible on a sliding scale of expense. If we can’t afford a masseur or an aromatherapist, perhaps we can investigate self-massage or aromatherapy oils that we can use at home.

Emotional and cognitive interventions

  • Simply talking things through with a friend or family member can be helpful for many.
  • Writing in a journal is helpful for a lot of people. You could start by talking about your feelings. You can express how you are feeling emotionally and how this feels in your body which will help you process things. You could ask yourself ‘what is my sore neck trying to tell me?’ or similar. You can vent about the things that are bothering your and ask your inner wisdom for guidance.
  • Talking therapy (either individual or group).
  • Safe place visualisation. When we are feeling overwhelmed, it can be helpful to have a safe place in our minds that we go to, whether it is for five minutes (because that is all the time we have) or longer. This safe place can be somewhere we know or somewhere imagined such as a beach, a forest, a mountain, a lovely garden, or a beautiful room.
  • Grounding exercises can be very helpful including focusing on your senses. If you go for a walk, for instance, you can focus on what you see, hear, smell and touch. If you are sitting in a room, you can notice what you can see and hear next to you, in the middle of the room and in the periphery of your awareness.
  • Music can be profoundly useful in healing. Find music that speaks to you and helps you to relax or express yourself.
  • Meditation or relaxation exercises.
  • Get in touch with your inner child. It may be that your inner child has been triggered by events and they may need some TLC. Perhaps it would be nourishing to watch something your inner child would enjoy or to eat some particularly comforting food. Perhaps you could do some journalling around your inner child.
  • Laughter is a great medicine. Seeking out films, programmes, books, or people that make you laugh can be hugely helpful.
  • Most importantly, perhaps, it is important to find ways to be kind to yourself. For some people, they don’t realise how unkind to themselves they are until they need to embark on a healing path, and then it can be an important lesson for life. Acknowledge that you have been through a tough time and allow yourself some space. Even if you have a multitude of responsibilities, it is important to find some time each day to look after yourself. It is also important to take note of your self-talk. If you beat yourself up for not healing more quickly, be aware and replace the talk with something more helpful and positive.

We may be encouraged to go on as if nothing has happened, to grin and bear it whilst our well-being levels take a dive. Unfortunately, this will only serve to make things worse and make the healing process longer. It is so important to listen to our bodies and to our weary minds regarding what we might need. Then it is possible to heal.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX3
Written by Beth Roberts, Integrative Counsellor and EMDR Therapist MBACP (Accred).
Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX3

I am an integrative counsellor and I work online. I work with a wide range of issues including trauma, depression and anxiety.

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