Traumatic events can trigger powerful feelings like anxiety, stress, nervousness, sadness, anger, and more. 

There are many kinds of trauma. It can be personal, like an assault or abuse, or a global crisis, like a natural disaster, a pandemic, or even war. 

Trauma takes an emotional and mental toll. But the good news is that the symptoms tend to improve if we deal with it positively and healthily, and our emotional and mental health is restored slowly over time.

Symptoms Caused by a Traumatic Event

Most of us will face traumatic events during our lifetimes and will suffer what experts call ‘traumatic stress.’

Even if we’re not victims of a traumatic event, merely witnessing it can cause traumatic stress.

Here are some emotional symptoms of traumatic stress:

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Sadness and grief
  • Feeling jumpy and nervous
  • Anger Irritability
  • Shame or guilt
  • Helplessness

Physical symptoms include:

  • Getting flashbacks and intrusive thoughts
  • Aches and pains
  • Cold sweats
  • Increase or loss in appetite
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Feeling dizzy or nauseous

Coping with a Traumatic Event

Some people address the effects of traumatic stress in productive ways, even seeking help if needed, and their symptoms improve with time. 

Others, however, develop acute stress disorder. This is when the symptoms are much more intense, and it’s difficult for them to go away on their own.

Thankfully, psychologists and medical experts have identified healthy ways to cope with the aftermath of a traumatic event.

Acknowledge Your Emotions

After going through something traumatic, ignoring or denying our emotions is tempting because we don’t want to relive the experience. 

However, avoiding your feelings is unhealthy and worsens things because you never really deal with what happened. 

Too much avoidance can be disruptive because it prolongs traumatic stress and delays healing.

You can acknowledge your feelings yourself by writing in a journal. The other option is to talk it out and find support from loved ones, peer groups, or mental health professionals.

One approach is reflective, and the other is more extroverted and involves social connections; maybe you’re the type that might benefit from doing both. Find what works for you; slowly, over time, you will feel your life and emotions getting back in the groove.

Take Care of Yourself 

Traumatic events are disruptive and wreak havoc in your life and routine, especially in the first month or two. Getting good sleep, healthy eating, and exercise can quickly become afterthoughts as you struggle to cope; all you may feel like doing is staying in bed under the covers out of harm’s way.

But the best thing you can do is gently push through this challenging time by making a conscious effort daily to get up and do right by yourself.

Studies reveal that regular physical exercise releases stress and anxiety. It also prompts the brain to release feel-good hormones that improve mood. So, why not start with something simple like taking a 15-minute walk outside?

Other self-care ideas include:

  • Eating well-balanced nutritious meals
  • Getting quality sleep each night
  • Spend time in nature
  • Practice prayer and meditation
  • Do yoga
  • Find a creative outlet, like music or art
  • Become active in a faith community

Establish a Routine

Routine creates a sense of certainty and comfort, so returning to your daily routine is essential.

Some people can get back into the swing of things after a few days, while others need several weeks. 

The important thing is to structure your days so there are set times for certain things.

Even if your work or school schedule is disrupted, you can create and maintain a new schedule to give you a feeling of security and control; you’ll feel grounded and in charge of your life.

For example, form the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. Getting the hang of it may take a few days, but getting quality sleep each night will make you feel less anxious and speed up the healing process.

Creating a schedule for your meals, workouts, and me-time also pays off. 

Creating structure gives you a sense of control that help minimize feelings of helplessness and anxiety.

Final Thoughts

Having a strong emotional response to trauma is normal. The encouraging news is there are healthy coping mechanisms to get you through a traumatic event.

Remember to take one day at a time. And give yourself the love and empathy you need to heal and recover. 

Then, as the days pass, your symptoms will begin improving, and you’ll start feeling comfortable with life again and like your usual self. So show yourself grace and compassion, and be patient with your progress no matter how slowly you think things are going because life does get better; healing comes, and your heart will smile again. 

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