10 Tips for Coping With Trauma

coping with trauma

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Is it ever going to stop? Turning on the news lately it seems like there’s an endless stream of random and violent tragedies from public shootings to terrorist attacks and hate crimes happening every week. Since 2011, there’s been a mass shooting in the U.S. every 64 days, according to a study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The odds of being caught up in random violence are very low — Americans are much more likely to be felled by heart disease, alcoholism or suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But after listening to news coverage and seeing alerts on your email, it’s easy to start thinking what if it had been me at that night club, movie theatre or holiday party?  

So how do you deal with what you’re feeling and get past it?

Sometimes the tricky part is realizing that what you’re feeling is even related to what you’re seeing on the news, since people react to trauma in many different ways.

Don’t miss: Helping Children Deal With Trauma

Life may feel “off” for a while, so think about being like a good parent to yourself: pay kind attention and notice what you’re going through.

Some people eat or drink more; others will lose their appetite. Some people have trouble sleeping afterwards, while others want to sleep much more than normal. Here are some other typical reactions:

AnxietyDifficulty concentrating
Crying easilyTrouble sleeping
Feeling lonelyHopelessness
More desire for sex, alcohol or drugsTiredness
IrritabilityUpset stomach

Sometimes our bodies react when our minds can’t. It can feel like you ran a marathon. Or people say I’ve had a headache for four days.

In the short term, it’s OK to let yourself take a break from your normal daily routine — and take it easy as you process what happened and let your mind and body recover.

Here are 10 ways to take care of yourself while you’re getting over a trauma:

  • Take it easy.

Try to slow things down and dial down the pressure to perform at the top of your game — and try to resist judgment if things aren’t perfect. It’s okay to have a one weekend Netflix binge, but you don’t want to turn self-care into social isolation.

  • Take it one day at a time.

If your mind is spinning about what this awful event means about the world, the future, etc., gently remind yourself “one step at a time.”

  • Eat healthy, nutritious meals and snacks.

. During periods of stress we may crave starchy or sugary comfort foods like macaroni and cheese or chocolate cupcakes. It’s OK to indulge a little, but don’t make it a habit. High-fat and high-sugar foods activate the same reward centers in the brain as drugs like cocaine. In the moment it makes you feel better, but just like cocaine, in the long term it doesn’t help anything.

  • Go outside.

Go for a walk and get some sunlight. A lack of vitamin D can feel like a depressive episode, so soaking up nature’s antidepressant — sunlight — might make you feel a little better.

  • Exercise.

Whether it’s gentle or vigorous, getting your body moving will lift your mood.

  • Listen to your body.

If you’re tired earlier than usual this week, get more rest. Emotional distress takes its toll and your body may need to recover.

  • Do something social.

Being around other people – especially loved ones — can be good. And isolating yourself can cause other problems.  If you think socializing would be good for you, make some low-stress plans.

  • Consider talking about your feelings.

Some people like to talk about what they’re feeling, but it’s OK if you don’t feel like talking about it too. Journaling can be a good way to release pent up emotion.

  • Get back on track.

Return to your regular routines as soon as possible. Structure and activity helps. But carve out special time with loved ones, too.

  • Reflect on if you’re living the life you want to live.

Events like these make a good time to reassess our priorities and think about whether what we’re doing in life really matters or is making us happy or honoring our talents.

Most people will get over the effects of a traumatic event and feel like themselves again after a few weeks. But if you’re still feeling sad, or using drugs or drinking more than before, please reach out to your primary health care provider or a counselor or therapist trained in cognitive behavior therapy.

Just remember you’re not alone and there’s someone who can help.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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