Making Sense Of The Traumatic Event
Once the distressing event is over, you may find yourself trying to make sense of the event. This can include thinking about how and why it happened, how and why you were involved, why you feel the way you do, whether feelings you are having indicate what kind of person you are, whether the experience has changed your view on life, and how.
Simple And Positive Ways To Cope With Traumatic Stress
There are plenty of ways to cope with traumatic stress. Did you know that 76% of Canadians have reported experiencing some type of trauma in their lives? A number of sufferers this substantial should not be taken lightly.
Traumatic stress is often a result of dealing with trauma, and it can cause severe problems for those who suffer from it. And depending on the level of trauma, the stress can last for years.
While traumatic stress can be crippling, it doesnt have to be. There are a number of healthy ways a person can cope with their trauma and move forward. If you are suffering from traumatic stress, here are five tips to help you cope and get the help you need.
How Is Ptsd Treated
The sooner you seek treatment, the faster you can begin to feel relief and not be burdened by the symptoms of your trauma.
Two specific treatments are effective in treating PTSD: medications and psychotherapy. Both can be beneficial on their own, and combining the two types of treatment often is helpful.
Psychotherapytalk therapycan take place in one-to-one meetings and/or group meetings. Talk therapy helps people with PTSD in many ways.
Talking about the traumatic memories with a trained therapist can provide the patient with education about their symptoms so they dont feel so alone and out of control.
Talking can desensitize people to their memories, which gradually allows them to stop avoiding reminders of the trauma. It can help them build skills for re-evaluating the thoughts and feelings that surround the memories. Most importantly, talk therapy can allow people to feel supported and safe.
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Ask For Support From Your Employer
If you experienced the traumatic event as part of your job, your workplace might have support systems in place to help you. If you experienced the traumatic event outside of work, you may want to let your employer know so that they can support you. This could be as simple as telling them what has happened so they can be aware of how you are feeling. You could ask them to make adjustments to how you work, like ensuring you are not exposed to further trauma or intense stress, or adjusting your hours. See the section for employers further on in this resource.
Educate Yourself And Others
People who struggle with PTSD often do so in isolation, finding it hard to reach out. In fact, they might not even realize that they are struggling with PTSD until the symptoms become nearly unbearable. In addition to educating yourself on the symptoms and treatment, it is important to seek out safe people to connect with who can support you in your recovery journey. By learning about the condition, you can have the words to more clearly explain to others what is happening for you and ask for what you need.
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How Long Will It Take For These Feelings To Go Away
It can take a few days, weeks or even months to recover from a traumatic event.
If someone is still experiencing some distress after a month, but these feelings are improving slowly, they will probably get better and not need treatment.
However, if they are experiencing significant distress that is not improving at all after a month, or is still present after more than three months, this might be a sign that they have developed PTSD.
Here are some things you should try and do after experiencing a traumatic event:
Potentially Unhealthy Coping Strategies
Horsley cautions that not everything that technically qualifies as coping leads to positive outcomes. Comfort foods may help us get through a difficult time, for example, but excessive reliance on food as a sole coping mechanism may lead to other negative long-term health consequences. Similarly, Horsley says, individuals who turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medicating for trauma are technically coping but creating more problems for themselves down the road.
Alcohol is a depressant it will make you more sad and upset, she says.
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Supporting Someone Who Is Experiencing Emotional Trauma
If your friend or loved one has experienced a disturbing event and you are concerned about them, dont ignore your instinct to help. Remember to come from a place of support and understanding. Its not your job to diagnose whether or not they may be struggling with PTSD.
As we said above, trauma can make existing mental health conditions worse. If your loved one who experienced a traumatic event also struggles with other mental health issues, look out for signs that they are using drugs or alcohol more than usual or that they may be feeling hopeless.
If you or worried about yourself or a friend, you can text START to 741741 or call 1-800-273-TALK for a free, confidential chat with a trained counselor anytime.
Coping With Trauma Carefully
Parents will do anything to keep their kids safe. Unfortunately, traumatic events can still happen. With proper supports, parents can help their children process, cope, and heal.
The National Child Trauma Stress Network defines a traumatic event as the experience of a frightening, dangerous, or violent situation that poses a threat to a childs life or their bodily integrity. Witnessing a traumatic event that threatens the life or security of a loved one can also be traumatic. Even infants and toddlers can experience traumatic stress.
Reactions to trauma in kids can be wide ranging. In most cases, it is the body and minds normal reaction to a very abnormal experience, says Lindsay Woods, director of clinical services at New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults and Families.
So, parents may see some, many, or few symptoms of traumatic reactions after an incident or experience. Some of the symptoms may reflect adaptive attempts to cope, says Woods.
In responding to trauma, the body releases cortisol, explains Lise Milne, assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina. Children are especially vulnerable to repeated, prolonged stress activation, as their brains and other organs in their bodies are in a critical and sensitive period of development.
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Practice Mindfulness Or Meditation
One act that’s well proven to support healing is mindfulness. It’s a method of experiencing life where you make a point of paying attention to each moment. You stay present for everything from your thoughts and feelings to how things are for you physically. This can help you relieve stress.
Additionally, meditation and breathwork, which are natural offshoots of mindfulness, can improve stress levels and help you to feel more relaxed and settled in your life. These are all helpful for healing.
Exploring Other Options For Treatment
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Seeking Help From A Health Professional After A Traumatic Event
Traumatic stress can cause very strong reactions in some people and may become chronic . You should seek professional help if you:
- are feeling very distressed after the event
- are unable to handle the intense feelings or physical sensations
- dont have normal feelings, but continue to feel numb and empty
- feel that you are not beginning to return to normal after three or four weeks
- continue to have physical stress symptoms
- continue to have disturbed sleep or nightmares
- deliberately try to avoid anything that reminds you of the traumatic experience
- have no one you can share your feelings with
- find that relationships with family and friends are suffering
- are becoming accident-prone and using more alcohol or drugs
- cannot return to work or manage responsibilities
- keep reliving the traumatic experience
- feel very much on edge and can be easily startled.
Talking To Kids When Talking Is Tough
Wars, shootings in schools, natural disasters, deaths at sporting events, terrorists attacksas adults we hope that these and other tragic outcomes will never happen anywhere and definitely will not impact the children and youth we care about. We would like to protect those young minds from the pain and horror of difficult situations. We would like to ensure that they have happy, innocent and carefree lives. So what is a parent, teacher or other caring adult to do when disasters fill the airwaves and the consciousness of society?
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General Disaster Response And Recovery Information
- Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event: Managing StressThis SAMHSA tip sheet gives stress prevention and management tips for dealing with the effects of trauma, mass violence, or terrorism. It lists tips to relieve stress, describes how to know when to seek professional help, and provides accompanying resources. This tip sheet is also available in Spanish.
- Psychological First Aid Developed jointly by the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, PFA is an evidence-informed modular approach for assisting people in the immediate aftermath of disaster and terrorism: to reduce initial distress, and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning.
- Be Red Cross Ready: Taking Care of Your Emotional Health after a Disaster This fact sheet from the American Red Cross explains normal reactions to a disaster, what a survivor can do to cope with these emotions, and where to seek additional help if needed.
Look For Feelings Beyond Fear
After reassuring kids, don’t stop there. Studies have shown that children also may feel sad or angry. Let them express that full range of emotions. Support the development of caring and empathy. Be careful not to encourage the kind of response given by one child: “I don’t care if there’s a war, as long as it doesn’t affect me and my family.”
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Family Involvement In Treatment
In addition to a patient receiving medication and/or psychotherapy, it is helpful to have family members involved. Family members should be taught to recognize the symptoms of PTSD so they can understand what is happening to their loved one. They need to know that PTSD is a treatable condition so that they can lend support to relatives by reaching out and providing encouragement.
While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for those living with PTSD, many treatments have been successful in helping people live with fewer symptomsallowing them to live healthier, happier lives.
What Professional Help Is Available
If you have experienced a traumatic event, and have persistent difficulties, your GP might refer you to a professional who specialises in helping people cope with traumas.
There are a number of different treatments to help treat PTSD. These include psychotherapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy and Eye movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing . You might also be offered antidepressants if you have found other treatments arent working.
You can find out more about all of these treatments in our PTSD resource.
Medication can sometimes be helpful following a trauma, but it is still important to see your doctor regularly to check how you are doing.
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Why Friendships Are So Important For Health And Well
If youre unsure whether the people in your social network would be supportive, Naturale says, it never hurts to err on the side of caution and speak to a licensed therapist. A few educational sessions to focus on what to expect after trauma and how to cope may go a long way to promote recovery.
While she does not believe therapy is necessary for everyone who experiences a traumatic event, survivors should seek professional help if they feel as though they cannot connect with others and must isolate themselves if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide or if they find ongoing depression or anxiety is interfering with their day-to-day life months after a traumatic event, Naturale says.
If you are actively in crisis and need immediate support, call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text 741-741 to reach a trained counselor with Crisis Text Line.
Helping Children And Youth Cope With Stress
Children and youth often struggle with how to cope with stress. Youth can be particularly overwhelmed when their stress is connected to a traumatic eventlike a natural disaster, family loss, school shootings, or community violence. Parents, caregivers, and educators can take steps to provide stability and support that help young people feel better.
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Symptoms: What Trauma Feels Like
A strong emotional response in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event is not only normal, its to be expected, Naturale says. Many people will experience what she calls an acute stress response, so severe that they may become unaware of their surroundings or act out of character or inappropriately. The fight, flight, or freeze response, she says, will suppress the brains ability to think and function normally for a short period of time as a means of coping with a crisis.
Reach Out For Professional Help If Necessary
Consider reaching out for help from a doctor or therapist for symptoms that occur or persist 4 weeks following the traumatic event.
Keeping a support system of trusted family, friends, and trained mental health professionals can ensure there are people around you when you need them.
We do not want negative feelings or behaviors to become ingrained into our everyday lives, says Feibel, adding that, when possible, finding a therapist who can help you process your feelings should always be one of the first steps you take.
In addition, many people can benefit from medications prescribed by a psychiatrist that can help to alleviate symptoms, she adds.
Feibel also recommends keeping a diary of possible triggers to share with your doctor or to help you avoid triggers and prevent future panic attacks, if it applies to you.
Trauma and subsequent PTSD can cause people to have panic attacks, which can be traumatizing in and of themselves. Sometimes, panic attacks can come out of the blue, but others have a definite trigger. If you notice a certain pattern of triggers, write them down so you can work on them with your therapist.
If youre experiencing panic attacks, consider reaching out for professional help. Psychotherapy is considered a first-line treatment for panic attacks resulting from traumatic events. Your therapist can help you develop coping skills and offer essential care to guide you toward healing.
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What Does Processing Trauma Feel Like
Processing trauma feels like you are fighting an uphill battle. You must dig deep within yourself to discover the source of your trauma and find a healthy coping mechanism in order to move past the traumatic event. Oftentimes the initial reaction to processing trauma can include symptoms such as exhaustion, anxiety, sadness, numbness and many others. Experts say that everyone has different experiences when processing trauma, and that it is normal for survivors to feel numb, depressed or agitated. Those processing their trauma are more sensitive and delicate as they are more prone to seek alternatives such as drugs or self harm as their coping strategies for their trauma.
Stay Away From Alcohol
A drink to bring on sleep or to take off the edge is one way some choose to go through the stress of a traumatic event. Theyâre trying to numb the emotions or forget things. It may feel like itâs working in the short term, but it can do damage in the long run. The problem is, if the stress continues, alcohol use may continue, too. That could lead to mental and physical problems and long-term dependence.
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Recognise It: What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
This condition is typically marked by the development of a particular set of stress symptoms, emanating from a moment when our lives or inherent safety felt vulnerable and threatened. For example:
- Serious accident or injury
- Complete exhaustion or shellshock
- Emotional dysregulation or irregular outbursts of anger
- Physical pain, increased heart rate or shortness of breath
- Panic attacks, sudden anxiety, chronic feeling of fear or vulnerability
For most people, the motivation for seeking support happens when their emotions begin to have a lasting negative impact on their sleep, work and relationships. If you feel youre paralyzed into a state of emotional crisis thats hard to get out of, we can help.
An important reminder: Post-traumatic stress takes time to heal and for many it’s an ongoing journey. This is nothing to feel ashamed of! Learning to cope after trauma requires patience but even more so self-compassion.