Dealing with everyday stress has become a normal part of our daily lives. Sometimes, we are put into situations that are more stressful than what we usually encounter. How are we to cope with such traumatic events?
If you or any of your loved ones are experiencing this or have experienced this, then these tips should be helpful in your recovery.
Common Reactions to Traumatic Events
A traumatic experience commonly results in having distressing thoughts and feelings long after the event has passed. These reactions are common and may include the following:
- Anxiety or fear of danger to self or loved ones
- Avoiding situations or thoughts that remind you of the event
- Always thinking about what happened
- Anger at what happened
- Feeling doubt or guilt for not being able to do something about it
- Being easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements
- Sudden flashbacks of the event
- Physical reactions such as tense muscles, trembling, nausea, headache, tiredness, etc.
- Withdrawing from the usual activities
- Feelings of sadness, loss or loneliness
- Sleep problems, sleep walking, nightmares
- Problems with concentration or remembering things
How to Cope with Traumatic Events
Acceptance, communication and being around supportive people are important in the recovery process. Here are some tips to help you deal with your anxieties.
1. Understand that It’s Not Your Fault
Most people end up blaming themselves for causing what happened or for not being able to prevent what happened. You have to understand and realize that the only thing you have control of is your own reaction. So you can’t blame yourself for what other people did that resulted in the event.
If you think you did something wrong which resulted or aggravated the event, understand that you did the best you could in that situation. People’s reactions to your action are not under your control. You all might have misunderstood each other’s intentions and that’s how things got out of hand.
Accept that you and everyone involved did what they did because it was how they coped with the situation at that time. Realize that things are not always under your control or anyone else’s.
BONUS: It is good to remind yourself that there are things that you cannot control. Things will keep happening even without the intervention of us human beings.
2. Continue Communicating
Another common reaction is to withdraw from social interactions. It’s okay to give yourself time to calm down and rest after the situation. However, don’t completely shut yourself off from communicating with your family and friends.
It is during this time that you need the presence of other people most. They can help you get out of your head so you don’t dwell too much on thoughts and feelings of blame, shame, guilt and self-doubt. They can also help you assess whether you need to seek professional help if your trauma is negatively affecting your life and those around you.
Communicating with your inner self is also helpful during this period. Write down your thoughts and feelings throughout the day when you are feeling anxious. Try to review what you wrote when you are in a calmer state of mind. You can also review this with someone, whether a loved one or a professional, so they can help you figure out how to manage your anxious thoughts and reactions.
BONUS: Meditation is a helpful way to calm your thoughts and relax your body so you can communicate with yourself and with others more effectively.
3. Learn to Care for Yourself
We often forget that our mind and body are connected. If we are anxious and stressed out with negative thoughts, our body also suffers. Taking care of your body is an important part of your recovery. Focusing on good health is one way on how to cope with traumatic events.
Try to listen to your body. It always knows what it needs. Feed it when it feels hungry, drink to hydrate, go out and enjoy the sunshine as you walk to warm up and energize. You may even try to use your body to help improve your thoughts. For example, you may dress differently so that you feel more confident about yourself.
Part of caring for yourself is to have fun instead of dwelling on your anxious thoughts. You can do fun things at home or have some fun in your backyard. A simple activity such as writing down the things that you are grateful for can greatly help ease your negative thoughts and make you feel better.
BONUS: Practicing mindfulness is one way to become more connected and be aware of how you can care for yourself more.
4. Start Looking Forward
How are you to cope with traumatic events if you keep looking back at it? You have to accept that what happened is all in the past now and that you can move on from it. Try replacing your anxious thoughts with more pleasant ones.
Play the “what if” game with yourself or with family members and friends. Focus on pleasant scenarios such as finding your dream job, buying your dream house, getting yourself that car you’ve always wanted. What if you got your dream job? What’s the first thing that you will do? How will your life change for the better?
Try to come up with fun and positive scenarios to answer these questions. No matter how ridiculous the answers are, the point is to have fun imagining the future and to imagine a fun future instead of dwelling on the past.
BONUS: You can even create a vision board as your answer.
5. Give Yourself Time to Recover
Recovering from a trauma is a healing process and it is a long process. Just like healing from a broken arm takes time, proper care, some sacrifices (not being able to do your regular activities), and help from others for some activities; emotional traumas need a lot of time for healing too.
While it is easier to see that a broken arm is completely healed; it is hard to tell when it comes to emotional traumas. They are like hidden wounds in the body that we think are already healed and have turned into scars. But once in a while, when we think we have gone back to our normal lives, something triggers the scar to open up again.
Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. So don’t rush yourself but don’t dwell too long in the negative thoughts and feelings that may come up when your memories about a past trauma is triggered. Although your aim is to completely recover, no one can tell when this will happen. So focus on dealing with it as it comes along.
As you learn more from your experience, you will be able to identify what triggers your traumatic anxieties. This will help you to manage your thoughts and reactions when such situations come up again. Trust that one day you will wake up having completely recovered from your traumatic experience.
BONUS: During the process, you will have mastered your own thoughts and reactions to deal with regular events in your daily life so you feel less stress and anxiety.