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3 Most Neglected Areas of Self-Care During Trauma, Stress, and Loss

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When thrust into survival mode, self-preservation dominates all we think and do.  The mandate is to simply do whatever it takes to survive! 

Self-care, on the other hand, is considered just a luxury, a thing of the past. Or could it potentially be even more crucial in the long run than basic self-preservation? 

I have a master’s degree in counseling, but I too have personally experienced grief, loss, and trauma. I am also the wife of a combat veteran who battles PTSD, and I suspect that many people around the world are feeling as if they are suddenly thrust into a similar fight, flight, or freeze survival mode. Posttraumatic stress disorder can result from exposure to a traumatic or life-threatening experience, and when the whole person gets permanently programmed into emergency survival mode, it affects them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives. (Find more information and resources at 

Self-preservation is an instinct granted by God to much of His creation. But is there more? Are we destined to be consumed with the challenges of merely surviving, or can this fundamental self-preservation be enhanced and enriched?

Some find the current shortage of bathroom tissue amusing. When in all of history has bathroom tissue become the iconic symbol of survival?!? This phenomenon is evidence that, when we are in basic survival mode, we may not be making the most rational choices. 

The good news is that our Creator has gifted us with the privilege of making choices. Beyond mere instinct lies the rich realm of self-care. Not a luxury, but perhaps of greater long-term value than simply surviving. We have the option of thriving! And emerging on the other side of this devastating season with far more than we had when we entered it.

My wake-up call came one morning in the kitchen after a restless night where my mind was preoccupied with how to effectively kill germs and shrewdly get food (and of course, TP). I was tired, depressed, and felt like I was shriveling up inside. Then looking out the window at the rising sun, budding trees, and blooming tulips, it was as if they said, “You too can come alive in this season!” 

That was the moment I chose to not just survive, but to thrive!

So, I put on a Christmas CD, and before I knew it I was singing and dancing in the kitchen! I had begun to reclaim my joy and peace. 

It took a conscious effort to activate the self-care I desperately needed. But the payoff has been so rewarding! The following are three areas, with some specific suggestions for starters, that many of us tend to neglect when we are in survival mode. As you survey your own life, I encourage you to choose to implement what may be lacking.

1. Emotional Care 

__Process your feelings in a healthy way (journaling, talking, crying…)

__Set boundaries when needed

__Stay connected to good people

__Take a break from negative social media and news
__Keep your sense of humor

2. Spiritual Care

__Soak up Scripture 

__Fill your mind with other uplifting truth

__Pour out your heart to God in prayer

__Be still... and listen

__Thank the Lord for the blessings you do have

3. Physical Care 

__Nurture yourself via all five senses 

__Allow yourself plenty of sleep and rest

__Continue necessary medical care

__Focus on quality nutrition

__Get regular exercise and fresh air

These steps will not only prove to be a lifeline in times of crisis, but valuable habits to incorporate in everyday life. When we intentionally cultivate our relationship with the Lord, and take care of ourselves in many other ways, we actually grow. We learn. We benefit. And we emerge stronger and more resilient than we would have if we just picked up where we left off.

The best news of all is that when we choose to trust our Creator and Savior by receiving His gift of salvation and eternal life, He will preserve us and care for us forever.

When the current crisis is behind us, I think there will be a marked difference between those who merely survived instinctively, and those who chose to thrive intentionally. I hope to be part of that victory!

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About The Author


Welby O’Brien holds a Master’s Degree in counseling from Portland State University and a teaching degree from Biola University, and based on her own life journey she has authored LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD (, Goodbye for Now (grief support/preparation), and Formerly A Wife (divorce recovery). She is also a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America, as well as Shepherding Women in Pain. Welby initiated and continues to facilitate the spouse and family support