Traumatic events occur in everyone’s life. It may be the loss of a loved one or surviving a natural disaster. Perhaps your home is destroyed in a fire or you’ve been involved in a car crash or another accident. Whatever the event might be, recovering from the experience can be just as difficult as enduring the event itself. Feelings of shock or denial are common, and it’s not unusual to feel the effects for years afterward in the form of irritability, guilt, shame, anger, helplessness and depression.
Coping with trauma isn’t easy. Everyone deals with it in a personal and unique manner. Keep in mind that there are no “right” or “wrong” ways to cope. It may be necessary to try several different approaches before finding the ones that are right for you.
Traumatic events frequently have the power to throw schedules completely off kilter. Irregular meal times and disturbed sleeping patterns are common, and we may discontinue doing certain routine things that may be quite helpful to recovery. That’s why re-establishing routines is so important to anyone suffering from a traumatic event. Get back to eating healthy meals on a predictable schedule. Commit to a reasonable bedtime so you’re getting enough sleep at night. Go back to the gym or restart that jogging program. These small adjustments back to normalcy can be immensely comforting.
Make Connections with Other People
In the aftermath of trauma, many people become depressed and withdrawn. Resist this impulse by resolving to spend quality time with family and friends. At the beginning, you may not feel like doing much, but just being with someone who cares can provide the support you need. Connect with people who are not involved in the disaster that touched your life, trying “normal” activities with them. It can also be helpful to connect with other people who shared in the trauma with you or have experienced similar circumstances. Join a support group or attend memorials and other rituals associated with the trauma. This can have a dramatic impact on your ability to successfully recover from the events.
Trauma is often associated with events that are far outside of your control. It’s not uncommon to feel utterly without power or the ability to control your own life in the wake of disasters. Set aside a little time to help others, as this is often an effective technique for helping you re-establish a sense of control in your life. Consider becoming a volunteer or donating to a favorite charity. Even giving blood can have the effect of helping you feel less vulnerable in the world.
This can be one of the most difficult parts of the coping process. It can seem easier and more expedient to ignore the feelings that are typical after trauma is experienced. You may have a tendency to simply push aside thoughts of the events in favor of getting on with life. While this is important to some degree, it’s equally as important to acknowledge the feelings that attend trauma. Accept that feeling anger, anxiety and fear are all normal, and give yourself time to feel these things. Allow yourself to think about the events, but resist dwelling upon them. There’s a healthy balance between reflecting on the events and also turning your thoughts in new directions.
Give Yourself Time
Sometimes when you’ve experienced a traumatic event, you think that there is a deadline for recovery. The truth is, there is no deadline. You may be able to recover from trauma within a few weeks. On the other hand, years may be required. Accept that everyone will cope differently and that there is no coping schedule to which you must adhere. Don’t feel frustrated at six months, one year or other lengths of time. Instead, give yourself permission to go through the healing process at your own pace.
Whether you meditate, watch a favorite comedy or indulge in a hobby, spending some time focusing on stress reduction is vital. Allow yourself a little extra time to enjoy the things you love. This gives a necessary boost to the healing process.