HEALTHY WAYS TO COPE WITH A TRAUMATIC EVENT
Every year traumatic events occur around the world. Terrible crimes. Mass shootings. Acts of terror. Wars. These acts of violence can be frightening and heartbreaking, even for those who are not directly affected. Just seeing or hearing about these events in the news may upset you. And it may even have harmful effects on how you think and feel.
It’s common to feel shaken up, sad, or worried about a frightening event. You may find yourself still dwelling on the event days or even weeks later. That’s normal. But trying to cope with those lingering feelings can be a challenge. And you may be tempted to turn to unhealthy or harmful habits to try and dull the anxiety, fear, or sadness you feel.
Try to avoid drugs and alcohol. It may seem like a quick fix—a way to numb the pain. But it doesn’t solve anything. And, in fact, it can create more problems. Even caffeine and nicotine are not ideal. They can stimulate you and make you more anxious. But there are things you can do that may help you deal with your feelings in healthy ways. You can:
- Reach out to loved ones. You may be tempted to withdraw. But that might make you feel worse. Instead, try to spend time with friends and family members. They may help raise your spirits and remind you of the good in the world.
- Care for yourself. It can be easy to overlook the basics when you’re worried about something else. But it’s important to take care of yourself. Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Make time to exercise. Get plenty of sleep. And try to stick to your normal routine.
- Stay active. Working out is a great way to relax and destress. Along with regular exercise, it can also be helpful to just keep busy. Go to work. Do chores and errands. Even volunteer. It might help take your mind off your problems for a bit.
- Get support. You could join a support group, either in person or online. Or talk with a therapist or a counselor or a health coach. Being able to talk about your concerns may help you better manage your emotions.
These are all positive, healthy ways to cope with stressful feelings. Choosing healthy habits like these and avoiding unhealthy methods of coping may help you feel better. And in time, you will likely move forward. You may not forget the event, but it will likely occupy your thoughts less and the feelings it evokes will likely be less painful as well.
But some people may find it hard to move on. They may struggle for months or more. Rather than getting better, they seem to get worse. Their feelings may start to get in the way of their daily life. Here are some other signs of a more serious problem:
- Crying and worrying a lot
- Acting irritable or angry
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Feeling anxious, scared, and sad
- Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating
- Having a hard time making decisions
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
Are you or someone you love having trouble coping? If so, you may need additional help. You can talk with your doctor. He or she can refer you to a mental health provider. You can also visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website at http://www.samhsa.gov/. You can find a lot of helpful resources. You can look up treatment centers. And you can even talk with a professional.
When terrible events occur in the world, it’s normal to feel affected. Try to manage your emotions in healthy ways. Time and a little self-care are often the best healers. But don’t be afraid to seek further help if you are struggling to cope.