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Coping After a Traumatic Event

Sadness, grief, and anxiety are normal after a traumatic event. Focusing on your strengths and getting help can help you recover.

People who witness a natural disaster, serve in combat, or fall victim to violence often struggle with emotional or psychological trauma. They may experience anger, hopelessness, confusion, withdrawal, or numbness for weeks or months afterward.

Fortunately, you can take steps to feel better, including these:

  • Spend time with other people. Being alone can make you feel worse. Instead, maintain close relationships with family and friends who can help you heal.

  • Seek support. Speaking with a clergy member, trusted family member, or counselor about your emotions can help you feel better. So can joining a support group for trauma survivors.

  • Stick to a daily routine. Doing so can help you feel grounded and in control.

  • Adopt healthy habits. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and drugs can help you cope with your mental stress.

  • Spend time doing things you enjoy. Activities such as gardening, reading, taking photographs, going fishing, or doing crafts can be restorative.

  • Live in the present. Being mindful—not regretting the past or worrying about the future—can help you feel better. Focus on what you’re doing, seeing, and feeling in each moment.

  • Learn and practice relaxation exercises. Deep breathing, meditating, or listening to relaxation recordings can help you relax.

  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you find yourself thinking you’ll never get over your trauma, replace that thought with “I am feeling better every day.”

When to Get Help

Speak with your doctor or a mental health professional if, despite self-help strategies:

  • You continue to feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, depressed, or disconnected from others.

  • You have trouble functioning at work or home.

  • You are experiencing flashbacks or nightmares.

For more information, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at www.samhsa.gov.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC
Online Medical Reviewer: Watson, L Renee, MSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
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