How to cope with traumatic events
Posted: September 7, 2011
Last Updated: September 7, 2011
A traumatic event can change a person’s life. In that moment the world can change to an unpredictable, dangerous and frightening place. The impact of such an event can cause lasting and powerful changes to everyone involved in the event.
A traumatic incident is “any event that has a stressful impact sufficient enough to overwhelm your usual coping strategies.” Examples include car accidents, violent assaults, rape, house fires, sudden death of a loved one, suicide attempts or suicide, and natural disasters. The strong emotional effects associated with a traumatic event are called “a normal response to abnormal events.” These responses are unique to each person. However, there are some common reactions among people who have recently experienced a traumatic event:
· Shock – including disbelief at what is happening, numbness causing the event to seem unreal, or be slow to comprehend what has happened.
· Fear – sudden fear of death or injury is common, fear of a recurrence of the event, fear of personal vulnerability, panicked or irrational feelings, or sudden unrelated fears can appear.
· Anger – outrage at what has happened or who is perceived to have cause it to happen, anger at the injustice and senselessness of it all, upset at medical personnel or police for not acting quickly enough.
· Helplessness – the traumatic incident can show us how powerless we are to prevent unexpected things from happening.
· Sadness – upset at human destruction and losses of any kind, or the lose of the belief that the world is safe and predictable.
· Shame - feeling exposed as helpless to others or perhaps not having reacted as you would have wished to the situation.
The most important thing to recovering from a traumatic event is for people to openly share their thoughts and feelings after the incident. According to research, discussing the traumatic event within 72 hours of an incident can help insure that people recover and don’t experience permeate psychological harm. Adults and children need to be shown that their feels are accepted and understood. It is also important to reassure people suffering from a traumatic event that they are safe and secure.
Also, expect to experience some common stress reactions after the traumatic event. Symptoms may come and go. Be ready to recognize and discuss these emotional and physical reactions, as it can help you to cope with them: difficulty sleeping, emotional numbing, nightmares or daydreaming, exhaustion or mental fatigue, change in appetite, disbelief, dwelling on or reliving images of the traumatic event, neglecting or avoiding responsibilities, episodes of crying or sadness, headaches, stomach aches, indigestion, increased frustration or impatience
To help recover try some of the following:
o Take time to talk with family or friends- you might consider having someone stay with you for a few hours a day to offer support.
o Try and maintain a normal schedule and routine as much as possible. Traumatic events can turn your life upside down. Though you may need time off work to recuperate and recover, don’t allow yourself shut down completely.
o Spend extra time with children – Sudden loss can make children feel unstable. Give children extra attention and affection to reassure them after a traumatic event. Try spending extra time with children at bedtime when they are likely to need more reassurance.
o Engage in physical activity to help clear your mind and the endorphins from exercise can lighten and regulate your mood.
o Eat regular meals even if you aren’t hungry to keep your blood sugar normal. Low blood sugar can cause mood swings in a time you are already emotionally vulnerable.
If your symptoms are interfering with usual activities, change your living behaviors in significant ways, or they persist for more than two weeks you might consider getting additional counseling. Also, if you can’t escape the feelings of panic, guilt, depression or stress you should consider seeking advice from a mental health professional. Definitely seek help if a child or adult begins feeling suicidal.
If you would like more information on coping with traumatic events call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174. For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.