How To Cope With A Traumatic Event Using These 5 Tips

A traumatic event is a mental wound that occurs in response to an overwhelming stressful event. In addition, trauma can leave one feeling hopeless and at a loss for direction and clarity. There is not a one-size-fits-all when we examine how to cope with a traumatic event.

Everyday stressors include family problems, financial stress, minor accidents like a car crash, or significant catastrophes such as natural disasters, near-death experiences, armed conflict, severe illness, or accidents. 

Meanwhile, any of these events can have lasting effects on an individual’s psychological well-being.

At age fifteen, I sustained a Spinal Cord Injury that resulted in complete paralysis from my chest down, including all four limbs.  It’s a long process to overcome a traumatic experience, from my perspective.

The focus of this article is on sudden severe physical traumatic events. It can apply to any emotional, psychological trauma that adds uncontrollable relenting stress.

picture of person with hands on head to cope with a traumatic event

Responses to Traumatic Events

My reaction initially was to deny it happened in the first place. I was dismissive that the accident happened at all, and I would walk out of the ER with just a little bit of rest.  

My denials soon realized that my paralyzed limbs would be the reality for the rest of my life. 

Responses and reactions to a traumatic event vary from person to person. Feelings of fear, anxiety, hopelessness are all common emotional responses. 

Consequently, things can spin out of control and depression take hold, and irrational thoughts can quickly consume your ability to think clearly.

Physical responses can occur, affecting appetite, sleep patterns, and dizziness. In my case, I stopped eating as much. As a result, I lost a significant amount of weight after my accident. 

I want to blame the terrible hospital food. It can’t explain my rapid weight loss, as fear consumed me after my accident.

According to the CDC, most people that experience a traumatic event start to feel better after three months. 

Symptoms lasting longer or get significantly worse may result in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder

This diagnosis is most associated with veterans, but anyone that has lived through a terrifying event is at risk. 

Coping After a Traumatic EventFive Thing To Try

Engage in Meaningful Activities and Relationships

  • Travel or go back to get that degree. After my traumatic event, I felt an urgency to pursue activities I had long wanted to achieve. 
  • Dating, reconnect with old friends. I met my wife in college well after my accident. Trusted friends and spouses lend that emotional support every human being needs.  

Practice Self-Care Strategies: Sleep, Exercise, Eat Well, Reduce Stress Exposure

  1. Practicing self-care strategies is an effective way of managing worry, anxiety, tension, and stress. Consequently, by implementing these strategies into your daily routine, you can gradually build your ability to cope with these emotions on your own terms.

Make Your Own Way: Welcome New Interests and Hobbies

a person working on pottery
  1. I know that it’s sometimes hard to start something new when you’re coping with a traumatic event. You might feel like you don’t have the energy or motivation, but learning how to welcome new interests and hobbies can help take your mind off difficult things. Its difficult at first, but gradually building up your ability to cope with these emotions on your own terms will allow you to sustain yourself positively.
  2. My new hobby was Ham Radio. Going back to the CB days as a kid, shortwave radio facinated me. Listening to stations thousands of miles away brought the world a little closer to me. Given my new disability, it was a perfect match. Now I’m a member of a local club of like-minded enthusiasts.

Provide Support for Others: Join a Support Group.

  1.  The support groups provide emotional and informational services for trauma survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, illness, or injury as long as they are run by professional facilitators. The individual doesn’t need to have experienced these topics to be able to participate in the group. Each session will usually last for about an hour.

Attach Meaning to Your Experience

typing on laptop
Write or Journal
  1.  Write about your traumatic experience in a journal or novel. Writing about your experience allows survivors an opportunity to share their story with others who may not understand it as well as they do themselves. Some people like writing into a journal or creating works of art, while others like speaking out loud. This is a technique I started late in my injury and inspired me to write “The Last Tackle.”
  2. Try new ways to express your traumatic experience that take you out of your comfort zone. Karaoke sounds fun, or maybe a choir. Maybe painting or working with clay. The point being is to try creative avenues to express your feelings that are not harmful.

Breaking up The Funk – Reclaiming your Life

A lot of times, people who experience trauma can feel like they’re stuck on repeat – replaying the event over and over in their head or feeling detached from what’s happening around them.

Sometimes, people talk about being “stuck” because they don’t know how to describe how it feels when their mind drifts to the traumatic event.

Conclusion

Getting yourself back on the road and on the right path is not easy. I wish we could put things in reverse and start over, but we can’t. Recovery is challenging and exhausting all at the same time.

It’s been a lifetime of recovery, 41 years to be exact. I still have challenging days and now, with COVID adds more stress. I’m adapting and coping as I’ve always done.

Coping methods are a way to keep you engaged and not feel isolated. However, it takes work and is sometimes uncomfortable.

Please leave any comments or feedback below.

Disclaimer- The article is not intended to substitute professional and trained medical advice. The advice given is strictly based on my own experience.

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