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Self-Care After Trauma

If traumatic events have not actually increased in frequency, it certainly can feel that way with all of the media coverage. Shootings, robberies, automobile accidents, plane crashes, assaults, and natural disasters are just a few of the traumatic events we can be exposed to either directly or indirectly as a witness. Different kinds of traumatic events may affect you in different ways and they can have a compounding effect in that the reaction from a previous event can reveal itself after a more recent trauma. Also, it is important to note that while an event may be traumatic for some it may not be for others. People react to trauma in a variety of ways and that is normal.

Reactions to a traumatic event may appear immediately following the experience, a few hours later or can only occur after some months have passed. The duration of the responses can vary as well. A good sense of your typical behavior will help you determine to what extent you have been affected since individuals vary so much. For example, sleep is generally used as a measure of how an individual is functioning. Sleeping ten hours a night is not problematic if you have always slept ten hours a night. However, it is a problem if you ordinarily sleep six hours a night. Being aware of how you ordinarily function will help you determine whether or not any changes that have occurred since the critical incident are relevant.

Common Reactions

  • Flashbacks and/or intrusive thoughts reliving the event
  • Anger and irritability
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Changes in daily behaviours (eating, sleeping, socializing, etc.)
  • Feeling numb or detached
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Feeling guilty, fear, and powerless

How to Take Care of Yourself

If you feel up for it talk to loved ones and friends. If not, write down what you are thinking; keep a journal. Just be careful to not isolate yourself too much.

Be mindful of your physical health. Eat regular and well balanced meals. Try to avoid fast-food. Stay hydrated. Alternate exercise and relaxation.

Limit the use of substances for a little while (alcohol, coffee, drugs).

Rest is important. Use relaxation techniques to manage stress. Limit a busy schedule and give yourself more time to complete tasks.

Consider having someone close to you keep an eye on you. Let them know that your behaviour may change over the next few weeks and that you would appreciate their support.

If possible, get back to your routine. Do you normally go for walks after supper? Spend weekends at the cottage? Do not forgo the activity if you think it will be a healthy coping strategy.

Do what you can to eliminate unnecessary stress. It may not be the best time to babysit for your sibling. It may not be a good idea to take on additional projects at work or around the house.

Avoid making life changing decisions until you are feeling better. Even then, reflect on the decision for a few days prior to taking action.

Have there been other difficult times in your life that you can reflect on? How did you cope with that situation? What worked? What did not? This may generate ideas for what could help you now.

Have compassion to allow yourself the time to recover. Although there is no set time frame, after a few weeks you may want to seek out professional support. Our clinicians are trained in trauma therapy and we are here to help. You can reach us at 514 223 5327.

Written by: Robin Jolivet M.A.



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