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Holistic Approaches to Self-Care in Trauma Recovery

According to “Taking Time for Yourself” from Mental Health America (MHA), on average people only spend 15 minutes on health-related self-care a day. While any engagement in self-care is good, 15 minutes a day does not support long-term positive health outcomes. Moreover, the little time taken for physical health-related self-care does not account for other areas of self-care like mental and social well-being. Therefore, understanding holistic approaches to self-care can support whole-person healing.

At The Guest House, we know difficult life events that cause trauma, grief, and stress are deeply connected to self-defeating behaviors. Your understanding of yourself, others, and the world has been disrupted by trauma. With the loss of your sense of self and safety, it is difficult to dismantle self-defeating thinking and behaviors like substance misuse and abuse. However, access to holistic approaches to care can support you in addressing overwhelming distress. In particular, engaging in holistic approaches to self-care in trauma recovery can support healing in mind, body, and spirit.

Yet, you may question what are holistic approaches to self-care. What makes a self-care technique holistic? Expanding your awareness of holistic approaches to self-care can be particularly beneficial for addressing trauma recovery needs.

Defining Holistic Approaches to Self-Care

Self-care can be difficult to pin down because it has many broad definitions and numerous interrelated terms. For example, terms like self-efficacy, self-management, self-monitoring, and self-help are used interchangeably or in conjunction with self-care. Moreover, as noted in the International Journal of Nursing Sciences, the concept of self-care has also been broadly related to autonomy, responsibility, and self-direction. Despite its broad nature, at its core, self-care encompasses nine key attributes:

  • Awareness
  • Self-control
  • Self-reliance
  • Cognitive level
  • Readiness
  • Self-efficacy
  • Health literacy
  • Social support
  • Resources

Yet, the three defining attributes that commonly overlap in different areas of self-care include:

  • Awareness: Coupled with knowledge and skills, self-awareness empowers you to motivate your behaviors and quality of life
    • Without awareness, you cannot engage in self-monitoring, measurement, symptom interpretation, and symptom recognition and evaluation to trigger self-care behaviors
  • Self-control: Your ability to act as a whole person and engage in the regulation and control of yourself and your emotions
    • Without regulation and control of the self, you cannot achieve cognitive approaches to prevention, regulation, and self-care
    • Self-control is also reinforced with awareness and self-reliance
  • Self-reliance: Your ability to do things, use resources, and make decisions by yourself, without needing the help of others
    • Without self-reliance, you may not take responsibility for your actions and decisions or feel motivated to do the necessary work for personal growth and development

Thus, the three core attributes highlight self-care as your ability to care for your self-awareness, self-control, and self-reliance. The ultimate goal of self-care is your engagement in an active decision-making process to achieve, maintain, or promote your health and well-being. Further, understanding holistic approaches to self-care means fully recognizing the interconnections between domains of wellness. As stated in “Holistic Wellness and Self-Care” from Colorado College, holistic approaches to self-care understand that each domain of wellness intersects with and impacts each other.

Listed below are the domains of wellness and their intersecting characteristics and self-care components:

Physical Domain

  • Characteristics:
    • Fitness
    • Nutrition
    • Healthy sleep routine
    • Preventive care
    • Medical self-awareness
  • Examples of self-care:
    • Regular exercise and physical activity
      • Going for a walk, dancing
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Eating nutritious foods and eating routine
    • Taking a break from your devices and stepping into nature

Emotional Domain

  • Characteristics:
    • Emotional expression
    • Stress management
    • Assertiveness
    • Intimacy
    • Balancing interdependency and independence
  • Examples of self-care:
    • Feeling comfortable expressing your emotions
    • Comfortable sharing your feelings with others
    • Practicing self-compassion
    • Making time for play and laughter
    • Self-reflection in journal writing
      • Reflecting on your feelings in different situations
    • Practicing daily gratitude and affirmations
    • Cuddling with pets
    • Setting boundaries with yourself and others

Spiritual Domain

  • Characteristics:
    • Engaging in a belief system to support your sense of purpose
    • Hope and optimism
    • Fostering a sense of belonging
  • Examples of self-care:
    • Self-reflection
    • Spend time in nature
    • Finding a spiritual community
    • Meditation and yoga
    • Prayer
    • Dancing
    • Giving back to your community with volunteer work
    • Fostering self-forgiveness

Intellectual Domain

  • Characteristics:
    • Engaging in lifelong learning
    • Creativity
    • Critical thinking
    • Supporting academic engagement and success
  • Examples of self-care:
    • Reading
    • Trying new things
    • Teaching someone how to do something you enjoy

Socio-Cultural Domain

  • Characteristics:
    • Engaging in multi-cultural respect and competence
    • Fostering healthy and respectful interpersonal relationships
    • Recognizing the value of community for individual and community wellness
    • Finding value in acceptance, fairness, and justice
  • Examples of self-care:
    • Spending time with trusted loved ones
    • Model mutually respectful and supportive interpersonal relationships
    • Setting boundaries by learning to say no
    • Standing up for yourself and others
    • Engaging in volunteer work for a social justice cause

Career and Financial Domains

  • Characteristics:
    • Engaging in a purposeful and rewarding career
    • Building financial stability
    • Planning for your career and financial needs and wants
    • Household management skills
  • Examples of self-care:
    • Learning financial literacy
      • Saving money for the future
    • Practicing hard and soft skills you enjoy to help you in your chosen career
    • Reflecting on and pursuing the activities that give you a sense of purpose

Environmental Domain

  • Characteristics:
    • Being aware of and connected to your surroundings
    • Understanding how your choices impact you, others, and your environment
    • Taking stewardship of resources
  • Examples of self-care:
    • Taking time to be in nature
    • Connecting with nature through touch, smell, sound, and sight
    • Watching the sunrise and sunset
    • Volunteering to pick up trash, do beach cleanup, tree planting

Thus, the domains of wellness and self-care showcase that recovery and reintegration into your community are made possible by healing the whole of your parts. As a result, holistic approaches to self-care are integral to fostering long-term recovery.

Benefits of Holistic Approaches to Self-Care for Trauma Recovery

Holistic approaches to self-care are particularly valuable to healing trauma because trauma impacts every part of you. As the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes, trauma can overstimulate your fight-or-flight response, which leads to a variety of distressing physical and psychological symptoms. Physical and psychological symptoms of trauma like difficulty thinking, avoidance, and a racing heart can impede your ability to function in your daily life.

Therefore, holistic approaches to self-care cannot only help with trauma symptoms but also help you manage life stressors in recovery. However, building self-care in your daily life starts with fostering a solid foundation of support. By seeking support through treatment, you can access holistic approaches to self-care with a variety of modalities.

Some of the therapeutic modalities that utilize holistic approaches to self-care include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Meditation
  • Breathwork
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness
  • Expressive writing
  • Art therapy
  • Dance or movement therapy
  • Music or sound therapy
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Nutritional counseling

There is a wide range of holistic approaches to self-care that can be utilized to meet your specific needs for healing. Not only do specific modalities work as general self-care tools but they also work as invaluable tools for trauma recovery. Thus, deepening your awareness of the benefits of foundational holistic approaches to self-care can support long-term recovery.

Understanding Modalities for Holistic Approaches to Self-Care

Holistic approaches like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and nutrition are particularly valuable to trauma recovery as access points. Addressing trauma can be challenging when you are overwhelmed by your distress. Moreover, trauma adds another level of difficulty when you are unaware of it as the root of your self-defeating behaviors and psychological distress. Thus, holistic approaches like yoga and mindfulness give you a foundation to expand your self-awareness and self-understanding to dismantle self-defeating behaviors and heal trauma.


When you think of yoga, you may associate it with classes at your local YMCA or as an exercise for strength and weight loss. As noted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), yoga does have many physical health benefits including:

  • Weight loss
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Alleviates menopause symptoms
  • Relieves acute and chronic pain
    • Neck pain
    • Lower back pain
    • Knee pain
    • Osteoarthritis
  • Alleviates migraine or tension-type headaches
  • Improves symptom management associated with chronic diseases

However, as a member of holistic approaches to self-care, yoga is a modality that can support multiple domains. In the United States, yoga often emphasizes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana). Whether the yoga type is gentle or demanding, any form can promote physical and mental well-being.

According to the International Journal of Yoga, yoga can support a variety of mechanisms but is well-known for supporting mental health through regulation of the autonomic nervous system. The physical nature of yoga’s relationship to mental health showcases the bidirectional mind-body connection that exists in yoga. Thus, as stated in another article from the International Journal of Yoga, as a mind-body practice, yoga can combine muscular activity and mindful focus. By focusing on the external activity of movement and the internal focus on self-awareness, breath, and energy, healing can take place.

Listed below are some of the ways yoga can support mental well-being:

  • Manage anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Support healing of substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Help reduce stress

Meditation and Mindfulness

The practices of meditation and mindfulness can be practiced separately, but some forms of meditation incorporate mindfulness. However, on their own, each practice offers some impactful benefits for supporting self-care and trauma recovery. As the NIH notes, meditation is one of the effective holistic approaches to self-care because it is a variety of practices that focus on mind and body integration.

Working as another mind-body practice, meditation is used to calm the mind and enhance well-being. Some forms of meditation are designed around mental focus on a specific sensation like breathing, a sound, an image, or a mantra. Whereas, other meditation practices that include mindfulness focus on maintaining attention or awareness of the present moment without judgment.

Looking at meditation itself as a practice, some of the ways it can support whole-person healing include:

  • Reduces difficulties with high blood pressure
  • Helps alleviate acute and chronic pain
  • Improves sleep, mood, and focus
  • Helps with managing withdrawal symptoms from SUD
  • Reduces post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms
  • Helps manage depression and anxiety symptoms

Similarly, mindfulness is another member of holistic approaches to self-care that support healing multiple domains like physical and mental well-being. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), mindfulness is the act of purposefully paying attention to the present moment. The hustle and bustle of life itself makes it difficult to stay present. In addition, to common life stressors, the distress of trauma often leaves you feeling trapped in the past or the imagined future.

Moreover, mindfulness is also deeply rooted in the practice of reserving judgment and expectations of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Thus, through mindfulness, you learn to be present without judgment as you deepen your awareness of your inner and outer self and the world around you. Further, there are many ways to practice mindfulness, from meditating in a quiet space to taking in all the sensations on a walk.

The calming, present-focused, and judgment-free elements of holistic approaches like mindfulness make it effective in recovery, fostering the following benefits:

  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduced stress
  • Better management of depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Reduced symptoms of PTSD
  • Effective coping for chronic pain
  • Increased awareness of the thoughts and feelings that trigger cravings
  • Better management of withdrawal symptoms from SUD
    • Nicotine, alcohol, opioids
  • Reduced SUD cravings
  • Increased tolerance to psychological distress
  • Reduced high blood pressure
  • Better management of unhealthy eating behaviors
    • Binge eating, emotional eating, and restrained eating


The presence of nutrition as one of the foundational holistic approaches to self-care is sometimes met with questioning about its value. Nutrition is often overlooked as an important self-care tool for recovery because the human relationship to food is misunderstood. Food is not only a collection of physical substances that satiate your basic survival needs; rather, food is deeply intertwined with other aspects of the self like your mental, emotional, and social well-being.

What you eat not only impacts how you feel physically but also how you feel mentally and emotionally. For example, you may feel happiness when you eat a particular food not only because it tastes good, but because you associate it with your grandmother and her cooking.

Some of the ways good nutrition can support whole-person recovery include:

  • Reduces symptoms of depression
  • Helps alleviate the consequences of a poor diet
    • Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Can support addressing challenges with disordered eating
  • Supports addressing nutrition challenges related to SUD

Looking at some of the foundational holistic approaches to self-care highlights the importance of interconnectedness for long-term recovery.

Fostering Strategies for Holistic Self-Care at The Guest House

At The Guest House, we believe in taking a holistic approach to care to support your healing in mind, body, and spirit. We are well-versed in the intersecting relationship between trauma, SUD, and mental health disorders. Challenges with SUD, other mental health disorders, physical health issues, and impaired relationships often intersect at the root of trauma. Therefore, we are committed to providing whole-person care that addresses your specific experiences and needs to recover from trauma and other co-occurring disorders.

We have built our treatment model steeped in whole-person care. Through a multidimensional and personalized treatment plan, we focus on treating the whole of your parts rather than one aspect of you. You are more than your trauma and or SUD, so you deserve a treatment program that meets you where you are on your journey to recovery. With our evidence-based and holistic approaches to care, you have access to a wide range of therapeutic modalities. Together, you can work with your clinician to explore and build a plan of care that makes sense for you.

Here at The Guest House, we give you the space you need to engage in self-discovery and healing. You can discover or rediscover yourself as you work in collaboration with your clinicians to discover the therapeutic modalities that support your long-term wellness. Some of the therapeutic modalities we have for holistic approaches to address your trauma include:

  • Meditation and yoga
    • Mindfulness
  • Nutrition and exercise
  • Conscious connected breathwork

With a variety of therapies and modalities, you can customize, mix, and match your treatment plan to fit your life and needs. Thus, with our holistic approaches to self-care, you can build mental fortitude, physical strength, and spiritual well-being. Combining the whole of your parts gives you the foundation you need to lead a fulfilling and purposeful life in recovery. No matter where you are in your journey toward recovery, there is a plan of care for you. With love, kindness, and compassion, we provide a safe space where you can uncover the right path for you to heal in mind, body, and spirit.

Trauma can impair your mental health, physical health, relationships, and overall functioning. Moreover, trauma can disrupt your ability to engage in self-care to support the domains of wellness for whole-person healing. However, with holistic approaches to self-care, you can dismantle self-defeating behaviors like SUD and repair healthy functioning in your daily life. With holistic approaches like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and nutrition, you can build a foundation of self-care. Through holistic approaches, you can recognize the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, at The Guest House, we are committed to providing access to a wide range of holistic modalities to address the value of the mind-body connection to support long-term trauma recovery. Call us at (855) 483-7800 today.