Many of us will face unexpected stressful and traumatizing events at some point in our lives. These events can be in the form of extreme weather conditions, earthquakes, fires, rapes, sudden death of a loved one, crime, etc.
The stress we experience from traumatic events can be disruptive and even overwhelming depending on the severity of the situation. We may find ourselves:
• Becoming anxious, depressed, and fearful while feeling isolated and alone
• Unable to sleep, experiencing emotional outbursts, relying on alcohol or drugs to deal with the pain and uncertainty
• Awakening old wounds with flash backs to previous traumas
• Feeling unable to cope with our normal everyday tasks
Our children may become needier, withdrawn or hyperactive, placing even more stress on our already diminished emotional resources. Relationships with our spouse or partner may be disrupted and the need for alone time becoming more pronounced.
It’s very important to look after ourselves during and immediately after a stressful event. Learning to deal with difficult life situations enables us and our families to get through the rough times and establish a new level of coping.
Here are some ways to move forward when events seem to be overwhelming us:
• Connect with others. It’s generally been found that those who reach out for support do recover better during hard times. Don’t become isolated. Reach out to friends, family and neighbors. It’s recommended that people take advantage of general practitioners, clergy, 24 hour hotlines, counseling and local support services.
• Take care of your body. Try and get sufficient sleep, remain physically active. Exercise, if possible. Have meals as regularly as you can and eat wholesome food. Stay away from drugs and alcohol to help you cope. They can make matters worse.
• Take care of your mind and emotions. Make every effort to express what you are feeling about your experiences and what your needs are. Communication helps. Whenever possible, participate in things you enjoy. Keep an open and positive mind. Set realistic goals.
• Manage your stress. Pray or meditate to reduce your stress. Attend church, temple or mosque services. Listen to your favorite music. Even better, get people together to sing, dance and share their stories. Keep informed about what’s going on in the community but don’t act on rumors. Stay informed.
• Take care of your family. Spend quality time with your family. Keep normal routines as much as possible. Listen to the stories of family members. Their experiences may be very different from yours, especially the children. Be available.
The author of this blog post is Dr. Robert M. Oliva. Read more about him on Our Team page.