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Helping yourself and others after a traumatic event

The days after a traumatic event can be challenging - here are some ways we can help ourselves and others. 

What can I do to feel better?

  • Know that whatever you are thinking and feeling is okay - there is no 'normal'.
  • Spend time with people who help you feel better.
  • Adjust expectations of yourself. You may not be as efficient as normal.
  • Take care of yourself as you would take care of someone else: good food, lots of rest, gentleness.
  • Focus on short-term goals, e.g. this afternoon, tonight.
  • Open up to someone. Tell them what you think and feel—risk it.
  • Lighten your load, but don’t drop everything. Maintaining some structure can be helpful.
  • Keep a journal, create something, write letters, read.
  • Turn to or develop your spiritual beliefs.
  • Feel and express what you need to feel (in a healthy way).
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Alternate exercise and rest, time with others and time to yourself.
  • Discuss your situation with managers, faculty, peers and family.
  • Make small decisions; but not major ones.

How can I help others?

  • Offer a listening ear.
  • If they have not asked for help, gently offer.
  • Find ways to connect. If not in person, by phone or other virtual means.Listen carefully—seek to understand, not to 'fix’.
  • Assist with concrete tasks where possible—cooking, cleaning, childcare.
  • Encourage time in nature.
  • Help them access resources in the community.
  • Remain patient if the person shows reactions such as anger, irritability or numbness.

Available supports

There are many people who can offer support:

  • Learning Commons 

  • Good2Talk (24/7)

    • Call: 1-833-292-3698 
    • Text: GOOD2TALKNS to 686868
  • Provincial Crisis Telephone Line (24/7)

    • Call: 902-429-8167 or toll free 1-888-429-8167

Common symptoms following a shocking event

  • Physical

    • Fatigue, headache, nausea, dizziness, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle aches, loss or increase of appetite, bowel problems, exhaustion
  • Emotional 

    • Fear, guilt, grief, anxiety, irritability, depression, anger, apprehension, shock/numbness, feeling overwhelmed
  • Mental

    • Confusion/uncertainty, nightmares, blaming , intrusive memories, insomnia
  • Behavioural

    • Withdrawal, inability to rest, increased substance use, change in usual communications, startled easily
  • Spiritual

    • Anger, questioning of basic beliefs, withdrawal from faith practices, loss of meaning and purpose, sense of isolation

In addition:

  • A highly stressful and abnormal event will cause extraordinary symptoms. 
  • After a traumatic, disruptive or critical event, each person will react differently based on their closeness to the event, their perception of the event, their previous experiences, the level of stress they had before the event, and many other factors.
  • Some symptoms will begin immediately; others will occur days, weeks and even months later.
  • Believe it or not, each symptom has a positive role to play in your recovery.
  • Your mind and body will take you through a process of healing. If you feel “stuck”, talk to someone about it.

How long do the symptoms last?

Each person is unique. The early symptoms usually fade away after about three months. Some symptoms can last for a year or more. If symptoms are interfering with your health or your daily functioning in any of these ways, please seek help.

When should I seek help?

  • If your reactions are so intense they are interfering with your daily life
  • If you feel like you can’t take it anymore
  • If you have no person or group you can open up to
  • If you are feeling very down about yourself, life or the world If you are hurting yourself or those around you
  • If you are using substances more frequently

Last updated on: December 10, 2020 05:04 PM