Coping with traumatic events: the path to recovery

Whether it’s an accident, an assault, a natural disaster, or the loss of a loved one, traumatic events and difficult experiences can leave deep and lasting emotional scars. Unlike physical wounds which are visible and usually heal with time, emotional traumas remain unseen and can linger on for years, leading to all sorts of mental and physical symptoms such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, high blood pressure, insomnia, addictive behaviours, and so on. 

More often than not, these types of issues don’t go away on their own when ignored or suppressed, but continue to manifest in numerous and sometimes unpredictable ways, interfering with one’s routine and preventing people from living a full life, until the healing has taken place.  

Dealing with emotional trauma can be a daunting and challenging process, but it’s important for sufferers to know that the painful occurrences they’ve experienced and the symptoms they bring along don’t define them, nor are they destined to suffer in silence and struggle with the consequences forever. 

While it’s normal to feel vulnerable, helpless, and hopeless after going through or witnessing a disturbing event, it’s important to keep in mind that recovery is possible, even if the journey may be long and bumpy, depending on its severity and impact. 

Acknowledge your feelings

Sweeping everything under the rug and pretending as if nothing happened is a common defence mechanism that many people consciously or unconsciously use in the aftermath of a disturbing event. Your brain is trying to keep you safe, so this serves as a shield and numbs you out in the moment when the emotional burden is too big and overwhelming to deal with and it feels safer to completely ignore the whole experience. Avoidance may also give you room to breathe and allow you to carry on with your life, giving you a semblance of control.  

But denying the existence or minimising the severity of an issue won’t erase the pain and trauma and can even make things worse in the long run. When you bottle up your emotions and avoid dealing with reality, you simply postpone the inevitable and delay the healing while dragging along the emotional burden with you and amplifying it. Sooner or later, you’ll have to come to terms with the occurrence and work through your trauma, and that starts with acknowledging your feelings, as uncomfortable and painful as they might be. 

As always, the first step is always the most difficult one, but you have to allow yourself to feel all your emotions so you can process what happened and move on with your life. You should take time to be alone with your own thoughts, let yourself feel the pain and not force yourself to act normal when you’re not yet healed. 

Focus on self-care 

Trauma can also cause you to overlook your fundamental needs. When you’re in the midst of it all, caught between intense emotions and the daily struggle to stay afloat, you may forget to take care of yourself properly and that can take a toll on your mental and physical health, making it harder for you to get back on track. 

For instance, after you experience a traumatic event, you may have trouble getting a good night’s sleep or even deal with acute sleep disorders. This, in turn, might become an obstacle in coping with traumatic stress, stopping you from going back to your normal routine and keeping you stuck in a vicious cycle. Similarly, having a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle can also hinder your healing process. 

That’s why you need to prioritize self-care, focus on your well-being, and do things that bring you comfort and joy. Living a balanced, healthful life may not instantly solve all your issues, but it’s an important part of your recovery as it can smoothen the path to healing. 

Reach out to friends and family 

While you may feel reluctant to share your traumatic experiences with others and talk about what you’re going through, opening up to the people you love and who are close to you can become a source of comfort and strength.  

You don’t have to go into detail about your trauma and discuss it with all your friends and family members. Sometimes, simply being in their presence and interacting with them is enough to make you feel better and give you a sense of ease. 

Having a support system that you can turn to in times of need is truly invaluable as it has been shown to have a profound positive impact on one’s health and well-being, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your loved ones when going through a rough patch. 

Keep yourself busy 

Avoidance and denial may not help you heal but neither will being stuck inside your head, replaying the traumatic events over and over again and overanalysing them to the point of exhaustion. Unfortunately, trauma sometimes manifests through intrusive thoughts, bringing back images, sounds, and even smells related to that disturbing occurrence.    

So, how can you escape these thoughts and sensations, and get a bit of respite from your problems? You keep yourself busy. This doesn’t mean you should run away from your problems, but you can engage in activities that keep your mind occupied so you can stop your racing thoughts and keep them from overwhelming your nervous system.  

Seek professional help

Although certain people can cope with emotional trauma on their own, it's definitely easier when you have someone by your side who can provide professional guidance and support. If you’re finding it difficult to deal with the symptoms of emotional trauma by yourself and your situation doesn’t seem to improve, you might want to consider talking to a therapist about it. 

Besides, traumatic events can also lead to financial issues, so you may also benefit from hiring a lawyer who can help you navigate the legal implications and teach you how to sue for compensation for the damages and losses you’ve suffered.  

In the end, you have to keep in mind you are not powerless and there are many things you can do to facilitate and speed up the healing process and regain your emotional balance. The journey looks different for everyone, so there’s no wrong or right way to deal with emotional trauma.

Read more: Childhood trauma is the biggest factor in mental and physical health.

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A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in life, combined with a sense of reduced emotional well-being Full medical glossary
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The system that gathers and stores information and is in overall control of the body. The brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system. Full medical glossary
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A physical injury or emotionally painful event. Full medical glossary