Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by single-blow, one-time events, such as a horrible accident, a natural disaster, or a violent attack. Trauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress, such as living in a crime-ridden neighborhood or struggling with cancer. It is very normal for people to experience many emotional and physical aftershocks or stress reactions following a traumatic event. Sometimes these aftershocks appear almost immediately after the event but sometimes it may take a few hours, days or even weeks before any type of negative stress reactions appear. Individual responses may include intense fear, shame, helplessness, or horror. Depending on the severity of the event, the signs and symptoms of trauma may last a few days, several weeks or months, or even longer.
When bad things happen, it can take a while to get over the physical and emotional pain and feel safe again. The way someone deals with trauma depends on his or her own history and prior experiences.The most common reaction include shock and denial. Someone in shock may feel stunned, dazed or numb. They may find it easier to cut off from your feelings and from what is going on around you. When a person is in denial, they are unable to accept what happened so they behave as though it didn’t. It may take several hours, days or weeks before the denial gradually fades and other feelings and thoughts take place.
What happens next?
People react differently to trauma and it may take different amounts of time to come to terms with what has happened. Even so, you may be surprised by the strength of your feelings. It is normal to experience a mix of feelings. You may feel:
- Frightened that the same thing will happen again, or that you might lose control of your feelings and break down.
- Helpless that something really bad happened and you could do nothing about it. You feel helpless, vulnerable and overwhelmed.
- Angry about what has happened and with whoever was responsible.
- Guilty that you have survived when others have suffered or died. You may feel that you could have done something to prevent it.
- Sad particularly if people were injured or killed, especially someone you knew.
- Ashamed or embarrassed that you have these strong feelings you can’t control, especially if you need others to support you.
- Relieved that the danger is over and that the danger has gone.
- Hopeful that your life will return to normal. People can start to feel more positive about things quite soon after a trauma.
What Can You Do for Yourself?
There are many ways you can help yourself deal with a traumatic event. Some are healthy and some are not. It is important to try to take each day at a time and to do what you know is right for you. Everyone has their own way of coping with trauma. These are some general suggestions about what can help.
- Recognise that you have been through a distressing experience and give yourself permission to experience your reactions to it. Don’t be angry with yourself for being upset. Remind yourself that you are not abnormal and that you can and are coping.
- Don’t use alcohol or other drugs to cope and avoid making any major decisions or big life changes.
- Do not try to block out thoughts of what has happened. Gradually confronting what has happened will assist in coming to terms with the traumatic experience. It may help to share your feelings and experiences with others when opportunities arise. Although this may be really hard at times, talking to people you trust is helpful in dealing with trauma.
- Allow yourself time to rest if you are feeling tired, and remember that regular exercise is important. Let your friends and family know what you need. Help them to help you by letting them know when you are tired, need time out, or need a chance to talk or just be with someone.
- Make time to practise relaxation. You can use a formal technique such as progressive muscle relaxation or just make time to absorb yourself in a relaxing activity such as gardening or listening to music. This will help your body and nervous system to settle and readjust.
- It’s not unusual for the trauma to stir up other memories or feelings from a past unrelated stressful occurrence, or even childhood experiences, If you need help dealing with the memories, that’s ok.
- Express your feelings as they arise. Whether you discuss them with someone else or write them down in a diary, expressing feelings in some way often helps the healing process.
When bad things happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again. But with the right treatment, self-help strategies, and support, you can speed your recovery. Whether the traumatic event happened years ago or yesterday, you can heal and move on.
- Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events (wisewolftalking.com)
- How Parents Can Help Children Through Traumatic Events (drkaytrotter.wordpress.com)
- PTSD And Manifesting A Healing (yourbodyisperfectintelligence.com)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Brief (realtruthnews.wordpress.com)
- Recovering From Military Trauma (psychologytoday.com)