Tips on How to Cope With a Crisis or Trauma
All change brings stress as a by-product. Sometimes, however, events in our lives are traumatic enough to constitute a crisis, and stress levels are nearly unmanageable. Such crises include being diagnosed with a serious health condition, dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, or being personally affected by a human tragedy, although events of lesser severity can also constitute a crisis.
Healthy Ways to Cope With a Crisis
What are some healthy ways to cope with a crisis and get through to the other side? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when coping with a crisis.
Focus on What’s Important
When dealing with the aftermath of a crisis, it’s important to focus your resources. Just getting through the day is an accomplishment, so paring down your responsibilities in order to just do that should be key.
Order take-out so you can cut down on shopping and cooking, put unnecessary commitments on hold, and just focus on what really needs to be done, so you can conserve your physical and emotional energy.
If others know about your trauma, chances are they will be offering to help; now is the time to take them up on it. Let your loved ones lighten your load by helping with tasks or providing a supportive ear. You can repay the favor later when you’re up to it and they need something.
You can feel better from receiving support, and others will probably feel better by being able to do something to help. That’s what friends do best.
Lessen Your Stress Response
When you experience a crisis (or even when someone close to you experiences a crisis), your body's stress response may become triggered and stay triggered, keeping you in a state of constant stress.
It may be difficult to feel "relaxed" in the midst or aftermath of a crisis, but you can practice stress relief techniques that can reduce the intensity of your stress levels, help you reverse your stress response, and feel more resilient in the face of what comes next.
Process Your Feelings
Whether you write in your journal, talk to a good friend, or consult a therapist, it’s important to put words to your experience in order to better integrate it.
As you move through the crisis, you may be tempted to ignore your feelings for fear that you’ll ‘wallow’ too much and get ‘stuck’, but processing your feelings allows you to move through them and let them go.
Take Care of Yourself
In order to avoid adding to your problems, be sure to eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and do other things to keep your body functioning at its best.
Also, try to do some things you normally enjoy, like seeing a movie, reading a good book, or gardening in order to relieve some of the stress that you’re going through.
Be Patient With Yourself
Sometimes people who are dealing with a crisis or trauma wonder if their negative reactions are a sign of weakness, or if they’re handling things the ‘right’ way. While there are more and less healthy ways to handle troubling situations, be patient with your feelings and reactions to things.
It’s natural to feel ‘not yourself’ after a major—or even minor—trauma, and accepting yourself and your reactions will help you feel better and process things more easily.
Seek Help When Needed
If you experience intrusive thoughts and feelings, have recurrent nightmares, or are unable to move through your life the way you need to because of your reaction to the trauma, even after several weeks, you may want to talk to a professional about your situation to be sure you’re getting the support you need.
Even if you have no major problems but just feel that it might be a good idea to talk to someone, it’s better to err on the side of having extra help. It’s a smart and responsible way to take care of yourself.
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