How to deal with traumatic and highly stressful events
During our trip we have experienced some highly stressful events that has got me thinking about how we can best deal with traumatic events so they don´t transform into something bigger.
Traumatic events or events that attempt against your safety have the potential to create traumatic stress in many forms.
Your sense of security can shatter and leave you feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. This is absolutely normal, even if you have just witnessed the event.
For days, weeks or even months, you might be left feeling anxious, angry, fearful, responsible, guilty for what happened, irritable, preoccupied and constantly having thoughts about the event.
You can experience difficulty concentrating, sleeping problems or physical symptoms such as headaches, tiredness or muscle tension . Also, you can feel relief, thinking that the worst is over and hopeful that your life will go back to “normal”. Those and other reactions are common and can be a sign that you are recovering from severe stress.
During our experience on the road, I chose to concentrate on how lucky we were. Not before thinking about lots of different endings and feeling angry and shocked. However, we were ALIVE and HEALTHY.
Today, I want to share with you 5 tips to deal with highly stressful events and how to avoid them from evolving into major problems.
Traumatic symptoms may last longer than 3 or 6 months, potentially becoming Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, if you don't deal with the initial trauma.
Bear in mind that we all respond differently, so make sure you find what works best for you. Do not get caught in the trap of “what you HAVE TO think, feel or do”.
#1 MAKE SURE YOU ARE PHYSICALLY SAFE
The first thing, after the potential initial rage or shock, is removing yourself from potential danger.
Please make sure you get some help and you make yourself safe. Especially if the situation is ongoing.
Call the police, share your experience with someone who cares about you and can support you. Whatever you do, try not to stay on the situation and fight to change your circumstances.
#2 REACH OUT TO THOSE YOU TRUST
Talk to someone you trust about what happened, accept help.
Some of us have difficulties with accepting support because we want not to be a burden to others or we feel we need to sort things out ourselves (“we are strong and independent”). This could complicate things and slow down your healing.
We decided to say yes to the kind offers we received and stay with some friends for a couple of days (as we have no house in UK anymore). This helped us to feel safe, recover some comfort, feel connected and process the event by taking things a step at a time and sharing our experience with people that love and understand us.
This does not necessarily mean you have to speak about the event if you do not feel ready.
You don't have to face it alone. If it feels there is no one you can really trust, there are support groups you can connect with to help you understand and work through events.
#3 ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS AND GIVE YOURSELF TIME
Allowing yourself to deal with feelings without judgement is crucial. Those reactions are totally normal to the loss of safety and security in a traumatic event.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Understand that difficult and uncomfortable emotions may arise and it is OK if they do.
By taking time to connect with the way you feel, you are already dealing with your emotions.
You are letting them be processed and attended.
By managing your fears and making space for your emotions, not getting caught up too tightly in your thoughts, you will be able to recover naturally.
#4 GET MOVING AND FIND WAYS TO RELAX
Spend time doing nice things and, if you can add some physical activity even better.
Mindful physical activity will support you to boost your mood and move on from traumatic events.
Things like going for nice mindful walks and exercising, noticing how it feels as you move, will focus you on the here and now. This will bring motivation and a sense of moving forward.
Choose what you would like to do, what you would enjoy more or what could make you feel a bit better.
What could it be? Is it dancing, climbing, swimming or long walks?
Going for long walks in beautiful places and Yoga have been my favourite choices.
You can also practice relaxation techniques.
Finally, don't forget to schedule some ME TIME into your, most likely, busy calendar, for activities that bring you joy.
#5 BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE TO YOURSELF
This is one of the most important pieces of advice, especially if you are experiencing guilt or overly responsible for what happened.
You do your best with the information you have at the time.
Once you have been through it, it is easy to look back and see all the things you could have done differently, right?
If this is the case great, you have learned something in case you need to act in a future event, but , if dwelling on it while being harsh on yourself is not helping you, what could you do instead?
Keeping an eye on your self-talk and reframing what you say to yourself is vital.
Would you say to your loved ones what you are saying to yourself? If it is not the case, change the story. You deserve the same compassion. It is not easy going through a highly stressful event.
Again, we were extremely lucky as it could have bee worst, but it made me think about how to best take care of myself after an extremely stressful event, which prompted me to share some of my key learning.
We decided to continue our journey. As my partner says, if you dare to step out and do things you love, you will encounter risks, risks you will have to face and manage, but you will also find wonder.
If you have been through a traumatic event and the symptoms persist, or get worse, seek professional and specialist advice on the matter. There are various therapeutic approaches that will support you with this. Don´t forget that there is hope and help.
If you want to learn about how to manage stress and increase your well-being by developing self-confidence and self-belief join The Confidence Hub. Here several challenges and prompts, together with a beautiful community of like-minded people, will support you to keep growing and develop confidence.