Sam Radford

April 15, 2021

Acknowledging and recovering from the trauma of the last year

How many of us would acknowledge that we’re suffering from trauma as a result of this last year? And that we need a recovery plan to address what we’ve been through?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll answer with something like, ‘It’s been tough, but I’m fine. It’s not trauma though. That’s something other people who have had it far worse than me are dealing with’.

But might we be in denial?

John Eldridge, the author and counsellor, thinks we are.

Speaking to Luke Norsworthy on the Newsworthy with Norsworthy podcast, he asks people to consider this question:

If another pandemic were to suddenly roll through the world next month, how would you do? 

He then goes on to say:

It’s not meant to be [a depressing question], it’s meant to show that we’ve got nothing in the reserve tank. I think people have rallied, we’ve done our best, tried to live and love, work from home, and school the kids at home, and get on Zoom, and all that. We’ve done our best. And yay us. Well done. But in terms of the reserve tank, we’ve got nothing. If a major a crisis were to roll into our personal lives, we would be very hard tapped to respond to that. So all I’m saying is, if we’ll just admit this has been an experience of global trauma, that has all the same effects on the human brain, the human soul, then we can say, ‘I need a recovery plan’. Don’t just say, ‘It’s over, I’m going to bounce back’. We need a recovery plan. 

I find the idea of the reserve tank helpful. But how do we know when our reserve tank is low? John mentions several things. 

  1. You hit the wall each day sooner than you used to (and find yourself wanting to go to bed earlier and earlier). 
  2. Your capacity to dream and imagine is diminished. 
  3. You go to self-comforting behaviours more (binge watching TV, drinking, etc). 

Ouch! Numbers one and two definitely resonate with me. 

This is a time, he says, to be kind to our souls. And this is what he proposes: 

What I’m suggesting, is that it’d be a really good idea to make some plans [for the coming summer and autumn months] to treat it like recovery, to treat it like rehab. You go, ‘You know, as much as I want to travel as much as I can, that’s not what my soul needs. My soul needs beauty, play, joy, rest, and room to recover’. 

He then adds: 

Don’t do a home renovation right now! Don’t do crazy stuff that requires other reserves that you don’t have. 

As to what healthy rehab might look like, he offers this advice:

You back off. You require less of yourself than you normally would. [If you have vacation time] don’t blow it on dumb stuff. Pull the throttle back on your usual daily output. If you typically are go, go, go, until 6pm, don’t do that. Stop at 4pm. If you are involved in a bunch of different things, like, ‘I gotta get to my group, and then I got to get to this study, and I’m doing this online course, and I’m training for a triathlon’, a couple of those need to go. Back off the throttle on your normal daily output. Because the basic idea is, on a soul level, you need more coming in than is going out in order to replenish reserves.

You need more coming in than is going out in order to replenish reserves.”

That sounds so simple, obvious even, and yet I doubt I’m alone in needing the reminder.

Even if we think we’re fine, this is wise counsel. After the year we’ve all been through, this is a season to replenish, not to be productive.

I’m going to spend some time in the coming days thinking about what my recovery plan might look like.

Does this resonate? Have you, like me, been somewhat in denial? What might your recovery plan look like? I'd love to hear from you – just hit reply or drop me a note

About Sam Radford

Husband, father, lover of books, writer, tech geek, sports fan, and pragmatic idealist from Sheffield, England.