A traumatic experience can be life changing.
You are not alone in your journey to healing.
Trauma is defined as an experience that occurs in a person’s life that is physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening. Examples include child abuse, sexual or physical assault, witnessing violence, disasters, serious accidents, scary medical procedures or the sudden or violent death of a loved one. Traumatizing experiences shake the foundations of our beliefs about safety and can shatter our assumptions of trust. Because the situation is far outside our normal experiences, these events provoke reactions that feel strange and “crazy”. How a person responds is as much about the internal processing of a stressful and difficult situation as it is about the circumstance that resulted in the trauma. What might traumatize one individual might not affect another as deeply.
To help you determine if you may be struggling with trauma, we have provided a short questionnaire to check your symptoms. Click on the button below to take the Trauma Symptom Checker:
Six ways to care for yourself after a traumatic event:
Minimize media exposure: Excessive exposure to images of a disturbing event, such as repeatedly viewing video clips on social media or news sites can further traumatize and increase stress reactions. Don’t watch the news or check social media just before bed, and refrain from repeatedly viewing disturbing footage. If watching certain media make you feel overwhelmed, take a break until your traumatic stress symptoms ease up and you’re feeling better.
Get moving: Research has shown that physical exercise can burn off adrenaline and release feel-good endorphins to boost your mood. Physical activity performed mindfully can also rouse your nervous system from that “stuck” feeling and help you move on from the traumatic event. Taking control of your situation through exercise and activity is also a way to help you battle the helplessness that can sometimes occur after a traumatic event.
Reach out: We are wired for social connection. You may be tempted to withdraw from friends and social activities following a traumatic event but connecting face to face with other people is vital to recovery. The simple act of talking face to face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve traumatic stress. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm your nervous system. Do “normal” things with friends and loved ones, things that have nothing to do with the event that triggered your traumatic stress. Getting professional help through counseling can help you address your trauma in a safe and accepting environment.
Establish a routine: There is comfort in the familiar. After a traumatic event, getting back to your normal routine as much as possible will help you minimize stress. Even if your work or school routine is disrupted, structure your day with regular times for eating, sleeping, exercising, and spending time with friends. Do things that keep your mind occupied (read, watch a movie, cook, play with your kids), so you’re not dedicating all your attention to the traumatic event. This is another way to take control of life and combat the feelings of helplessness that are so prevalent after a trauma.
Practice self-compassion: Beating yourself up for experiencing the difficult emotions connected to trauma will only serve to make you feel worse. Research has shown that those who treat themselves with kindness tend to heal more quickly and experience less on-going symptoms than those who continue to blame or abuse themselves. It’s so important to be patient with your pace of recovery. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up without judgment or guilt. Take good care of your physical body and treat it gently. Think about some self-care activities that you can do for yourself and work to speak to yourself compassionately, as you would a good friend who was suffering.