Strategies for Addressing Trauma-Related Stress
By Amy Tai, Community and Criminal Justice (diploma), Program Assistant
It is typical for a person to experience a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime. As a result, many people will experience severe stress which is a normal reaction to traumatic events. In the days and weeks that follow, it is common for people to experience a whirlwind of unanticipated emotions and physical symptoms, such as, feeling nervous, jumpy, or on high alert, difficulty sleeping, avoidance and dissociation, and irritability or anger (Jeong Young & Halfond, 2019). In the long-term, people may develop acute stress disorder, characterized by severe stress symptoms that seriously impair everyday functioning, academic performance, occupational performance, or social interaction. Others may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which manifests as symptoms that impair day-to-day functioning and persist for longer than a month following the event (Jeong Young & Halfond, 2019).
In can be helpful and appropriate at times to avoid the people, places, and situations that trigger these intense thoughts, feelings, and memories. However, relying solely on avoidance can result in more issues than it aims to fix. You can’t always avoid these triggers, and trying to do so can make you anxious, closed off, and restrained by your traumatic experience (Bank Lees, 2020). Having only one coping mechanism could also be harmful because it may not work every time. Instead, it is preferable to have a variety of tools on hand for when you experience the terrifying reach of traumatic stress (Bank Lees, 2020). The stressful effects of trauma can be treated and coped with in a number of extremely efficient ways. According to research by Jeong Young, PhD and Halfond, PhD (2019), these actions can help:
- Develop and utilize a support system. Choose your family or friends as your source of support. If you’re ready, you could share your experience and your sentiments with them regarding the tragic event. To reduce some of your everyday stress, you can also enlist the assistance of loved ones for household chores or other responsibilities. Sometimes CSA survivors’ families are not a source of support for a variety of reasons. There are community groups, meet-ups and other social supports available in the community.
- Accept and acknowledge your feelings. It’s common to desire to forget about a horrible experience. On the other hand, staying inside all day, isolating oneself from family and friends, and abusing drugs to block out reminders are not long-term coping mechanisms. Avoidance is common, but too much of it might make you more stressed and prevent you from getting well. Try to ease back into your regular routine gradually. As you get back into the flow, assistance from family members or a mental health professional can be quite beneficial.
- Make self-care a priority. Try your best to eat nutritious meals, engage in regular exercise, and get a restful night’s sleep. Additionally, look into alternative constructive coping mechanisms including art, music, meditation, rest, and outdoor activities.
- Be patient. Keep in mind that an upsetting event can cause you to respond strongly. As you heal, take each day as it comes. Your symptoms should start to progressively get better as the days go by.
Bank Lees, A. (2020, October 28). 7 Tools for Managing Traumatic Stress. NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/October-2020/7-Tools-for-Managing-Traumatic-Stress
Jeong Young, S., & Halfond, R. (2019, October 30). How to cope with traumatic stress. American Psychological Association. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma/stress