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Moving on from Traumatic Events

Jessie had been expecting another ordinary day when she boarded the bus headed for her office. Little did she know that her bus driver drank the night before, and is not in a mental state fit to drive. What was supposed to be an uneventful 15-minute drive downtown became a hard collision with another large vehicle. Eight people died; twelve others were injured. Jessie had to wait an agonizing hour before rescue workers were able to pull her from the debris.

Jessie was traumatized for days after the accident.

Understanding Traumatic Events

In life, you will encounter shocking and even disastrous situations that will tax your ability to cope. It can be a man-made event, such as a motor accident, a building fire or a terrorist attack. Or it can be Mother Nature showing you how powerful she really is. Earthquake, tornado, tsunami: they can come all of a sudden and hit you with losses so extreme, you feel debilitated for hours.

Events: the impact of which is beyond your capability to cope are called traumatic events. What’s considered as traumatic differs from person to person. Some people, for example, will find it easy to move on from an accident like what Jessie experienced. Others, however, will experience extreme stress reactions, including nightmares and respiratory ailments, for months to come. And there will be those who, despite their willpower, will end up obsessing about the intense experience they just experienced.

Tips in Coping with Traumatic Events

Are you coping with a traumatic event right now? If yes, consider the following tips:

Appreciate all the things that are still within your control

Traumatic events can make you feel victimized, like you have no ability to control your life. But while it’s true that many things are outside of our influence, we’re not totally powerless.

There are many things that we still control; we must recall all these things to revive our sense of empowerment. Your home may have been totally devastated by a hurricane, but you’re still more than capable of applying for a government grant or a housing loan. You may have been victimized by a rapist, but you can choose not to let your experience rob you of joy for the rest of your life. Surrender to fate or to a Higher Power all the things that you can’t change, but make sure you still go after the things that you can.

Talk about your experience. Again and again and again

After trauma, it’s not unusual to suffer from persistent and unwanted thoughts about the event. For instance, the sound of people asking for help during a fire you witnessed can intrude on you while you’re busy at work. Or, even without wanting to, every little thing you see can remind you of your ordeal.

Ventilation will help. And in cases of trauma, talking about an event one time is not enough. You may have to share your experiences over and over again, and don’t worry if you’re not sharing anything new each time. The important thing is: you have an outlet for persistent thoughts and emotions. The more you talk about a traumatic experience, the easier it gets.

Learn stress management techniques

Trauma reactions are essentially extreme stress reactions. You’re a normal person placed in a highly abnormal situation, thus, your mind and body are overreacting. It will help, therefore, if you learn stress management techniques you can use to stabilize your system.

Breathing exercises are a good start; by breathing rhythmically you can restore equilibrium every time you experience a panic response. You can also avail of spiritual resources in coping. Visiting a priest, pastor, rabbi or spiritual guru can help you deal with existential issues that tend to surface when one experiences a life-threatening situation. 

Consider the help of a mental health professional

Lastly, it’s important that you watch out if you’re at risk for developing serious mental health conditions associated with a trauma experience. These conditions include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety Disorder, Major Depression and Substance Abuse Disorders. To be sure, consult a mental health professional. A timely diagnosis can prevent trauma from taking over your life.

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