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5 Steps to Overcoming Trauma When Stuck in a Toxic Environment


healing in a toxic environment

Healing from trauma requires immense inner strength. Unfortunately, not everyone can leave toxic environments right away. Life is complex, and situations happen when we want to heal but can’t change things as quickly as we may wish to. Perhaps you’re stuck in an unfulfilling job, feeling like your skills and passions are going to waste, or you are in a marriage where love has faded. Maybe you are dealing with toxic friendships or balancing caregiving for toxic aging parents.

Toxic situations can be overwhelming, but healing is still possible, even if it takes time. If you are in a toxic situation, I want to give you hope, practical tools, and advice for your healing journey.

*Important: It’s crucial to note that in cases of domestic violence or immediate danger, seeking professional help and prioritizing safety should always take precedence. This blog is focused on environments that are emotionally toxic.

5 Steps to Overcoming Trauma When Stuck in a Toxic Environment

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings:

The first step in healing is acknowledging your feelings. Feeling overwhelmed or trapped in a toxic environment is okay. Your feelings are valid, no matter how often you’ve been told you are [insert gaslighting here] (e.g., dramatic, overly sensitive, demanding, etc.)

When you finally realize you are in a toxic environment, the weight of the situation will feel daunting at first. Recognize that and acknowledge it. Trauma teaches us to force these emotions down, and part of healing is feeling them and letting them out.

2. Set Boundaries:

When you are trying to heal in a toxic environment, boundaries are a huge step. It will feel profoundly uncomfortable and difficult, but it’s critical.

Setting boundaries is essential for protecting your mental and emotional well-being. For example, if someone at work is gossiping at your desk constantly and it’s absolutely draining you, find a way to express to your co-worker that you would like her to take the conversation elsewhere. 

Clearly communicate to those around you what you will and will not tolerate. This can feel scary, especially if you were not allowed to have boundaries as a child. Start small and work your way up; it will get easier. Are there small boundaries you can create to start practicing? Does your husband forget to unload the dishwasher in the morning as promised? Perhaps it’s time to set a boundary with him.

Sometimes, setting boundaries may involve limiting contact with toxic people or establishing safe spaces within your environment. Pay attention to your intuition, as it can guide you towards what you need to do.

3. Practice Self-Care:

Self-care is not selfish; it’s a vital aspect of healing. If you can, ask your spouse for dedicated alone time for self-care. Please put it on the calendar and make it a priority. Self-care is a massive piece of trauma healing because it can help shift your biology. Yet, it has to be part of a bigger picture; self-care alone isn’t enough to create radical shifts in your healing.

4. Seek Support:

You aren’t meant to do life alone. If you’re a survivor of trauma, you might convince yourself that you feel more comfortable being alone because you weren’t supported in childhood. But it’s important to understand that being social is essential for your well-being. You can start exploring social support’s benefits by learning about the science behind it.

Research in neuroscience shows that social connection activates areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. This chemical response helps reduce stress and anxiety. Plus, it promotes feelings of trust and security and enhances overall emotional resilience. I want to emphasize that I’m talking about psychologically safe social support. 

For a long time, I craved connection and would force myself into family gatherings because, for a brief moment, I felt a sense of belonging. That feeling was always fleeting because the toxic dynamics immediately canceled any positive emotions. A safe social connection happens when you can be yourself and feel secure.

If you want social connection, explore The Women’s Healing Collective

5. Focus on What You Can Control:

While you may not be able to change your environment immediately, focus on what you can control. Try your best to find gratitude for things that are going right. Gratitude is a powerful way to rewire your brain and work on your biology. When we practice gratitude, we strengthen neural pathways associated with joy and resilience. 

6. Practice Mindfulness:

Mindfulness can help you stay grounded and present, even in challenging situations. It also directly impacts your nervous system regulation, which is critical to healing. Yes, it’s more difficult to be mindful when you are stressed and anxious. Try to remove yourself from the toxic situation as much as you can and find times to practice mindfulness. The more you practice, the more it becomes default, which can help widen your window of tolerance

7. Explore Therapy Options:

Trauma-informed therapy can be a beneficial tool in recovering from trauma. I highly recommend EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). It has been game-changing for me. Other trauma-informed modalities include somatic therapy, DBT (Dialectical behavior therapy), and brainspotting. It’s important to emphasize the need to find a therapist who is trained in treating trauma. 

Surprisingly, trauma is not traditionally included in therapist training; they get a high-level overview of trauma, but it’s not enough. Read more about how talk therapy can be counterproductive. It’s a good idea to ask your therapist about their understanding of trauma and how they can assist you. Ultimately, trust your instincts.

8. Celebrate Progress:

Healing is not linear, and progress may be gradual. It can sometimes feel more painful, and you may feel absolutely trapped. Celebrate small victories and milestones along the way. Recognize your strength and resilience in navigating healing despite the challenges of your environment. The small steps are leading you somewhere, and some days you may not be able to see it, but the universe has your back.


Healing from trauma in a toxic environment is a journey that requires courage, self-compassion, and resilience. Find safe social support and connections. Remember, by acknowledging your feelings, setting boundaries, practicing self-care, seeking support, focusing on what you can control, practicing mindfulness, exploring therapy options, and celebrating progress, you can empower yourself on the path to healing. Remember, you are worthy of healing and creating a life filled with love, peace, and joy.

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