Trauma Advice - How you can help yourself

If you have read my page on acute stress, you will know that the brain is equipped to deal with trauma very well, however usually straight after being exposed to something traumatic, the event may seem dream-like, almost surreal. You may be in shock and experience everything slowing down.

I have seen many police officers over the years who have been exposed to difficult and upsetting incidents and often they describe not feeling quite their normal self.  For example, going to the supermarket on the way home to grab some milk and bread and feeling as though they are out of sync with the rest of the world... not quite connecting with the environment and people around them. This is very normal and does not usually last for long. You need to allow a couple of days for feelings to begin to emerge...your brain is still processing the trauma.

There are things you can do to help yourself cope better in the first few days after exposure to a traumatic event.

Trauma Advice - Helpful Hints For You

  • Accept your reactions - you are not immune to the effects of trauma.
  • Spend time with friends, family and colleagues - people you trust. 
  • Talk if you wish about how you feel but remember you do not have to tell everyone everything.
  • Intrusive and re-occurring thoughts, dreams and flashbacks are normal at first.  Try not to fight them as they will reduce over time and be less problematic.
  • Maintain/re-establish your routine if possible.
  • Keep yourself occupied and fight against boredom but being careful not to 'overdo' it.
  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals (even when you don't feel like it) and ensure you are staying hydrated.
  • Try to keep a reasonable level of activity as exercise is helpful for the reduction of unused adrenaline and good for your mental health.
  • Take greater care whilst driving and be more careful generally as your concentration levels may be affected for a few days.

Managing in the long term...

  • Seek help if you are feeling unwell
  • Eat regularly and healthily
  • Take regular exercise to keep adrenaline levels more manageable to help keep stress away
  • Ensure you are getting enough sleep
  • Use your annual leave/holiday entitlement
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol
  • Pay attention to your work/life balance
  • Ensure you are spending time with family and friends
  • Take up a hobby or have a healthy social life
  • Stretch yourself physically and academically
  • Try not to avoid problems...they probably are not going to disappear on their own

Click here for some helpful hints for family, friends and colleagues

Click here for information on TRiM (Trauma Risk Management)

If you work in environments that are potentially traumatic, click here for detail of four characteristics of traumatic events that sometimes make it more difficult for your brain to process.

Look at how the brain reacts to potentially traumatic events - the role of the Amygdala and Hippocampus.

Click here for general stress advice.

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