Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

A journey to healing from complex trauma.

Skills & Tools To Manage Symptoms Of (Complex) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ~ Lilly Hope Lucario

skills and tools

At the beginning of my journey to healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – I first learned how to manage symptoms.

There are symptoms common in these trauma-induced disorders including: anxiety, hypervigilance, dissociation, emotional dysregulation, re-experiencing symptoms – flashbacks (visual, somatic, emotional), intrusive memories.

One of the first aims in therapy – is to learn how to manage these symptoms. I know not everyone has access to therapy, so I share what I’ve learned.

The following are skills I developed and still use today:

Breathing Skills

A tool and coping skills in learning to control breathing, helps reduce anxiety, hypervigilance and helps during times of stress and overwhelm.

Why do deep breathing? Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Deep breathing relieves stress and anxiety due to its physiological effect on the nervous system. And deep breathing activates specific neurons that detect blood pressure. These neurons signal to the vagus nerve that blood pressure is becoming too high, and the vagus nerve in turn responds by lowering your heart rate.

  1.  Get into a comfortable position, sitting or lying down.
  2.  Relax your body, arms and legs as much as possible.
  3.  Big breathe through the nose, for a count of 4.
  4.  Hold for a count of 3.
  5.  Breathe out through the mouth, exhaling for a count of 3.
  6.  When breathing out, try to exhale as much air out of the lungs as possible.
  7.  Repeat and continue for a few minutes, or as long as you can.
  8.  Try to this as many times a week as possible, and utilise this while in stressful, anxiety activating situations.
  9.  Practise and integrate this into your daily life and it will become easier over time.
  10.  The more you integrate this, the more you automatically start to control your breathing at times of anxiety, stress and overwhelm.

There are great resources to help with this on YouTube. Phone apps are useful and I personally recommend Smiling Mind.

Grounding Skills

Grounding is a coping tool and skill for staying present in the current moment, and helps with dissociation, flashbacks and emotion regulation.

Using the 5 senses, we can ‘ground’ ourselves to keep the attention on the here and now. The following list is excellent from Living.well.org.au 

  • Remind yourself of who you are now. Say your name. Say your age now. Say where you are now. Say what you have done today. Say what you will do next.
  • Take ten breaths, focus your attention on each breath on the way in and on the way out. Say number of the breath to yourself as you exhale.
  • Splash water on your face.
  • Sip a cool drink of water.
  • Hold a cold can or bottle of soft drink in your hands. Feel the coldness, and the wetness on the outside. Note the bubbles and taste as you drink.
  • As you wake, during the night, remind yourself who you are, and where you are. Tell yourself who you are and where you are. What age are you now? Look around the room and notice familiar objects and name them. Feel the bed your are lying on, the warmth or coldness of the air, and notice any sounds you hear.
  • Feel the clothes on your body, whether your arms and legs are covered or not, and the sensation of your clothes as you move in them.
  • If you are with other people, and you feel comfortable with them, concentrate closely on what they are saying and doing, and remind yourself why you are with them.
  • If you are sitting feel the chair under you and  the weight of your body and legs pressing down onto it.
  • If you are lying down, feel the contact between your head, your body and your legs, as they touch the surface you are lying on. Starting from your head, notice how each past feels, all the way down to your feet, on the soft or hard surface.
  • Stop and listen. Notice and name what you can hear nearby and in the distance.
  • Hold a mug of tea in both hands and feel its warmth. Don’t rush drinking it, take small sips and take your time tasting each mouthful.
  • Look around you, notice what is front of you and to each side, name first large objects and then smaller ones.
  • Get up, walk around, take your time to notice each step as you take one then another.
  • Stamp your feet notice the sensation and sound as you connect with the ground.
  • Clap and rub your hands together, hear the noise and feel the sensation in your hands and arms.
  • Wear an elastic band on your wrist (not tight) and flick it gently, so that you feel it spring back on your wrist as it
  • If you can, step outside, notice the temperature of the air and how much it is different or similar to where you have just come from.
  • Stretch.
  • Notice five things you can see, five things you can hear, and five things you can feel, taste, or smell.
  • If you have a pet, spend some time with them. Notice what is special and different about them.
  • Run your hands over something with an interesting texture. Describe it in your mind, as if you have never felt anything like it before.
  • Get a sultana, a nut, or some seeds. Focus on how it looks, feels and smells. Put it in your mouth and roll it around, noticing how it feels. Chew it slowly and mindfully, before noticing how it feels to swallow.

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When your children & a puppy, run around a garden.

How can you be sad, when your children and your puppy, are running around the lawn. It’s so precious and cute. I love to see my boys laughing, running around, having fun. Hearing my 13 year olds voice break and sound all high as he laughs. Hearing my 7 year giggling, in that cute way younger children giggle.

Even in times when it’s painful…. there are amazingly wonderful things I cannot fail to smile about.

happiness is a warm puppy

I am someone who can hold different emotions, at the same time. So I can be happy with what’s happening right now, and feel the joy in it. Whilst also having that underlying pain and grieving. I’ve had a lifetime of practise at being sad and in pain deep down, whilst trying to focus on the present and seeing the good in the here and now.

This doesn’t mean I believe in avoiding dealing with the pain, grieving. But, I now have times I allow myself that, and times when I focus on the here and now.

I know this is why mindfulness, is needed. And when I’m with my children, is a time when I try the hardest. And it works.

This is why I advocate for learning coping/management strategies, that help Continue reading


Gardening, soothes my soul :)

Spent a few hours out in the garden today. Gardening soothes my soul. Reminds me of all the beauty around me and keeps me mindful of the here and now. It is a part of my healing journey.

I love taking pics in the same spots, showing the plants growing over time.

And then jumping in the pool, to cool off after being in this Aussie summer sun 🙂


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Loving the results, of all the effort :)

My gardens are looking so beautiful. They are worth all the effort. They have been cared for, fed with what they need, maintained and loved.

It all takes continual effort, learning what is needed, seeing how different plants need different care. And how continual love and attention, brings beautiful results.

I see the similarities to caring for self and others.

Why ‘buy’ stuff for my inner child, when I can make it.


I love sewing, although only very basic stuff and one type of clothing I do know how to make, is pillow case dresses and tops.

As I was wandering around Spotlight earlier, looking at material to stretch over canvases, I was admiring all the Christmas materials, thinking how beautiful some would be as little girls dresses and suddenly realised, I can ‘make’ dresses for my inner child.

I picked some beautiful material and some co-ordinating ribbon and will make a pretty dress for Christmas for my inner little girl.

This will incorporate some mindfulness, as I have to really concentrate when sewing, creativity and inner child healing, all at the same time.



Today, was a good day, considering how my days normally go…


Good days need to be acknowledged, appreciated, and they matter. They really matter.

I went out…..and any day where I get out of the house willingly, without too much anxiety and with a desire to do something good….is a pretty good day.

I bought myself a latte and a magazine and chilled in a fairly quiet coffee shop. Then bought some crafty stuff and inner child stuff. Anxiety wasn’t too bad in the shopping centre and my hives made no appearance, so that was nice.

Had fun with my son, making puppets, chatting and doing what he loves, while taking care of my inner child needs too.

And my mood has remained fairly level, not turning into a ‘high’, or descending into depression…

So, based upon how I feel most of the time……this is a really good day! Even my husband commented that I seemed in a better state of mind.

I haven’t felt emotional, or upset, or thought much about trauma stuff. My mother came into my head today a few times, and I just decided I was not giving that/her headspace today. I guess mindfulness capacity kicked in today, which is also very hard for me. But when I can do it, I do it. Continue reading


How a day can turn from a crappy start – to truly wonderful!

My day started pretty badly, but improved considerably. I realised people have their different opinions on what I do, and that does not have to have any impact on me, or my mood, or my understanding of situations. My self esteem is not tied to anyone else’s opinion of me. I choose to reject any hurt ego/trigger issues and embrace self esteem and be secure in my intentions and capacity to do right. No matter what you do, there will always be critics and that only has to bother me, if I let it.

After that, I felt great!

In the afternoon, spent some quality time with my husband and my boys. We only went for a walk, with the boys on their bikes and to the park, but it was a lovely day, sun shining, watching my boys have fun, getting out and having some fresh air. I started off with hives, but they weren’t too bad and didn’t detract from enjoying watching my family have fun and just having quality family time.

I am increasingly finding the simple, free things in life, more and more to be all I need. I know what God already provides for is, is enough. Continue reading


Nothing of human capacity, will undo, or fix the unmet childhood needs, or psychological damage, of severe childhood complex trauma.

Last night, was a bad night. Deep realisations, hurting like being beaten up, hurting every part of me. Depths of pain and emotions, that put me back into a fragile and dark place, that is only ever just below the surface. Dark thoughts, wanting the pain to end, fear of another 40 years, or however long I live, of being where I am now.

I nearly phoned my husband to come home, as he is on night shifts. Which is good self care and a need in my life that he is there in an emergency if I need him. Good to acknowledge now, that I can think appropriately – whilst also having highly unsafe thoughts. An inner strength and desire to survive. A hazy awareness of my children and my need to live for them and Jesus’ presence.

Today, within a whole range of emotions and exhaustion, coming to terms with the following.

Healing complex trauma – in any human capacity terms, I don’t believe this exists.

Children have needs, emotional, psychological, mental, developmental. If these needs are not met, they will never be healed, and they cannot be met, within adulthood.

I truly understand this now. It makes sense.

The only way the wounds can be healed, is by the needs being met, and that can only happen within childhood, by the people who were supposed to meet them, at that time.

The following do not ‘fix’ these unmet needs, do not heal the wounds;

i) Intellectual understanding of the deep consequences of prolonged severe neglect.

ii) Intellectual understanding of the reasons why people abuse.

iii) Intellectual understanding of the severe damage of not having one adult to rely on, trust, and being surrounded by danger, harm, abuse, severe emotional neglect, severe abandonment.

iv) Intellectual and deep insight of complex trauma.

v) Deep self awareness of the consequences to myself.

vi) Compassion for abusers.

vii) Forgiveness for abusers.

viii) Deep insight and understanding of the abusers personality and traits and how they formed. Continue reading