Traumatic events cause some of the most intense emotions that can be experienced, in both victims and observers. This type of event may shatter a person’s worldview and make them feel vulnerable and hopeless. Many people find that dealing with the memories and feelings following the event can be more difficult than living through the event itself. One common experience is having negative, destructive emotions afterwards—being ashamed of surviving, for example, or feelings of anger towards a fellow victim.
Let Yourself Feel
Experts urge victims to simply accept and experience what they are feeling and discard all notions of “good” and “bad” ways to feel. Talking about the emotions and memories to a supportive person can be helpful for some; others find it helpful to express their feelings through art, journaling, or other creative avenues. Experts also urge victims to try not to obsessively think about the event over and over again in a repetitious fashion. Being unable to stop imagining the event repetitively may indicate that post-traumatic stress disorder is beginning to develop. If you think this could be the case, seek professional help immediately.
Just the Facts
When thinking about the event, try not to embellish what happened or imagine “what-ifs” or “what might-have-beens.” If possible, try to avoid assigning blame. Just remember what actually happened. If the memory becomes overwhelming, try to focus on the here and now and center yourself. Some experts suggest studying your surroundings and observing the details. Others suggest thinking about your feet, or concentrating on your breathing, or counting the number of red objects in the room. Use whatever technique works for you.
Develop Constructive Habits
Sometimes, having something to take your mind off of things on a regular basis is the best way to relieve trauma-induced anxiety. Make an effort to resume your normal routine as soon as possible, to the extent that your unique circumstances will allow. Seek comfort and safety in an active manner by wearing comfortable clothing, taking time to appreciate your surroundings, and keeping friends close. Staying busy is a great way to alleviate—if not outright prevent—stress. To do this, try a new hobby like cooking or learning a musical instrument.
Reclaim Your Power
Trauma reveals our vulnerabilities. In daily life we use coping mechanisms to block out and ignore our vulnerabilities. After a trauma, people often feel anxious, fearful and deeply helpless. Experts suggest trying to embrace uncertainties, and at the same time try to re-claim your sense of power over things you have control of.
Author Bio: Emma is a freelance writer living in Boston. When not writing, she enjoys reading, baking, and indoor rock climbing. Informational credit for this article goes to Tony Zuber & Paul Brioux, an Ottawa law firm with experience working with injured and traumatized clients.