The Right Steps To Take After A Traumatic Experience

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Today’s blog post is about a serious topic that has affected my life since 2018: a traumatic experience. I can’t get into details for my own safety (and mental health), but I have spent the majority of this year trying to recover and become myself again. I’ve been frustrated about not feeling ‘okay’, and having to set boundaries for my mental health. It’s a long process.

Unfortunately, traumatic experiences are more common than you might think. If you’re struggling, make sure to seek professional help, whether that be through the NHS, talking therapies, or the police if this relates to any crime against you.

My university tutor was incredibly supportive by organising essay extensions and deferring my exams following the traumatic experience I endured, which was honestly life-saving. I am lucky enough to have a very supportive friend group and family, for which I’m eternally grateful.

I hope the advice in the guest blog post below helps even a single person, and make sure to remember that recovery is not linear. I had a panic attack only two days ago, after feeling much better for months…  I’m still not 100% myself. However, I have learned some coping strategies while I wait for counselling. Today I’ll be sharing some steps to take after a traumatic experience, I hope they help.

The Right Steps To Take After A Traumatic Experience

Creative Self-Care for Self-Improvement

Any traumatic experience can lead to emotional overload. That overload can then cause very intense feelings that are often confusing and frightening. Knowing how to cope with a traumatizing event or experience is one thing, but implementing those coping strategies into your life can be very challenging.

If you have suffered a traumatic event and you’re struggling to cope, there are some steps that you can take to help you. Make sure that you treat your trauma seriously, and the journey to recovery will be much smoother.

Your initial response to trauma

For many people, the negative thoughts and emotions caused by a traumatic event can fade over time. Not everyone copes in the same way though, and it’s essential that you bear that in mind at all times. Your recovery from trauma may be a slow process. Remember the following:

  • There is no right way – While advice is always well-meant, remember that everyone copes in their own way. Don’t allow anyone to tell you how to think or feel.
  • Avoid obsession – Trauma can be very difficult to forget, which is why you may need distractions. The more that you can keep your mind occupied, the less you will obsess over your trauma. Personally, I enjoy playing cosy video games for mindfulness, and getting lost in good fiction books. Self-care is absolutely essential, which can be anything from taking a relaxing bath to practicing meditation.
  • Resume your routines – We all find comfort in familiarity. Returning as much as possible to your usual routine is highly recommended. Minimize the life disruption as much as you can. This is often easier said than done, but making sure I take myself out for a daily walk in nature has really helped me.
  • Ignoring your feelings – Bottling up your emotions is never healthy. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling, and don’t feel guilt over negative emotions. It is impossible to be positive all the time, and it’s perfectly normal to feel upset or angry after a traumatic experience. I found it difficult to open up about what happened to me, but once I did, it was a huge relief to talk it through with a trusted loved one.

Focus on your security

Experiencing a traumatic event can make it difficult to return to work, and that can make it very difficult to keep yourself financially secure. Remember that there are avenues to explore that can safeguard your bank balance.

Remember that you can take time off work if needed, and sick days aren’t just for physical illness! Telling your doctor about what you’re going through can help if you’re having trouble with work: make sure to get sick notes for your HR department.

If you suffered a traumatizing accident at work, speak to legal professionals, such as The-compensation-experts.co.uk, who have the experience to fight for any compensation you may be entitled to.

Trauma comes in many shapes and forms, and even if there are no physical consequences of your ordeal, you can still be entitled to financial compensation.

Tips and coping strategies for trauma recovery

The more that you develop your coping strategies, the easier your recovery from trauma will be. This checklist is a good stepping stone to working out just what you personally need in order to move on from your trauma.

  1. Reduce your exposure to media. It is hard to regain control of your emotions after suffering trauma, and sometimes seeing negative news stories can cause you to re-experience the same feelings as the trauma itself. Avoid watching distressing media stories or entertainment. If you need to take a total break from the news, that’s fine too. Have you considered taking a social media break?
  2. Be patient. You need to have time to heal, especially if there is any loss involved. Take the time to mourn and process your emotions. Never try to rush your recovery. Remember that you will have ups and downs, recovery isn’t linear.
  3. Get professional help. Your first point-of-call should be your GP. They will be able to give you advice, provide any sick notes for work or university, and put you in touch with a counselling or therapy service. While you wait for counselling, you might want to try medication. Make sure you tell your doctor about any ongoing symptoms like panic attacks, insomnia, or low mood. If these symptoms present for longer than a month, you may have PTSD.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of the most useful coping strategies after a traumatic event is to take action. Taking positive steps that helps others is a common way to deal with feelings of hopelessness and fear. Consider volunteering at a local charity, donate blood, and connect with others.

Trauma Recovery Resources

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Here is a list of mental health and PTSD resources that have helped me since my traumatic experience. If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it’s a mental health emergency.

  • Mind, a UK mental health charity. Their website has a lot of guidance for all mental health conditions, and you can call 0300 123 3393 (9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) for advice.
  • Samaritans. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.
  • You can find international helplines for mental health and wellbeing on Checkpoint.
  • This detailed article from HelpGuide all about trauma, recovery and symptoms of PTSD.
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk.

Your recovery is going to take time. Make sure to learn healthy ways to cope with stress, it’s really important for your wellbeing.

Get support wherever you can and remember that whatever the trauma, you can recover. Your traumatic experience does not have to be the defining moment of your life.

All the best,

- Emily

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