Managing Traumatic Stress

To help manage stress from a Traumatic Event:

  • Keep the balance: structure your time with periods of rest, exercise, eating nutritious foods, talking, and quiet time. Take control of your time. Keep up with current events, but don’t overdose on repetitive coverage of traumatic events. Turn off the TV and listen to music instead.
  • You may experience anger, sadness, guilt, or anxiety. You may or may not have digestive problems, headaches, concentration problems, or you may get the “shakes.” You are normal and having normal reactions – don’t label yourself crazy. If you have chest pain or breathing difficulties, see a physician immediately.
  • Talk to people–talk is the most healing medicine.
  • Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol; you don’t need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out–most people do care. Spend time with others. Remember that they cannot read your mind. Tell them how you feel and what you need.
  • Return to as normal a schedule as possible as soon as you are ready.
  • Realize those around you may also be under stress. Help your friends, family members, or co-workers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing. By helping others, you can help yourself.
  • Don’t fight it. Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
  • Keep a journal; write your way through those sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you, i.e. a hot bath, meditation, a walk on the beach, a massage, etc.
  • Don’t make any big life changes. Wait a few weeks or months to make major decisions.
  • Consider what has helped you deal with stress in the past. How can you access and energize your natural coping abilities or support systems?
  • Prioritize: overcome confusion by focusing on what is most important right now.
  • Make as many daily decisions as possible. This will give you a feeling of control over your life, i.e., if someone asks you what you want to eat – answer them even if you’re not sure.
  • Recurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are normal – don’t try to fight them – they usually decrease over time and become less painful.
  • If symptoms persist or feel overwhelming, see a counselor or your physician.


For Friends and Family Members

  • Listen carefully and spend time with the affected person. You don’t need to offer solutions or know exactly the “right thing” to say. Your caring presence is enough.
  • Reassure them that they are safe. If this is not the case, help them take steps to make it so.
  • Help them with everyday tasks like shopping, cooking, and babysitting. Remember, victims will usually not ask for help. “Just do it” is a good motto, i.e. bring food, mow the lawn, etc.
  • They may need some private time. Attend to the cues.
  • Don’t take their anger, moodiness or other feelings personally. This is a normal part of a recovery process.
  • Don’t tell them that they are “lucky it wasn’t worse” or “it is God’s will” – traumatized or bereaved people usually do not find these statements helpful. Instead, tell them that you are sorry such an event has occurred and you want to understand and be there for them.
  • Often family and friends are hesitant to call or stop by to visit someone who has been deeply affected by a tragic event. They are afraid of being intrusive. Typically, however, trauma victims or the bereaved feel encouraged by knowing others care about their pain. Supportive calls or brief visits, usually, are deeply appreciated.


If you would like to meet with a counselor to talk about your experiences,
call 401-874-2288 to schedule an appointment.

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