Do you find yourself having angry outbursts for no particular reason? Jumping at loud or unexpected sounds? Withdrawing from the world and the people around you? Sinking into sudden bouts of sadness and despair? You may be coping with the effects of a traumatic event you experienced.
I can remember driving toward a traffic light after a shopping trip. A young man ran out into the street in front of the car right in front of me and was launched into the sky before hitting the inner median. I still am not sure how witnessing this tragedy may have affected me. It was all so sudden.
Being constantly teased and bullied as a child can be traumatic for many—even when they have reached middle age!
Kids who have been subjected to school shootings often struggle with the after effects of these traumatic events. Adults have difficulty coping, so imagine what trauma does to a young, not-yet fully developed mind.
Women who experience divorce sometimes struggle with trauma and shock at having to adjust to life without their significant others.
And after the shock of experiencing the beginning of a global pandemic in the year 2020, it is difficult to find someone who isn’t dealing with some level or form of trauma. Families are struggling with grief due to the loss of loved ones, watching them slowly or suddenly pass away, friends losing friends, and nervousness about even being around others in public.
Media reporting doesn’t make things much better, constantly publishing fear stories that can cause anxiety to ripple through communities. Not to mention the recession that took root in 2020, causing many to lose their jobs and sense of stability.
A trauma is a shock to the system that can affect the mind, body, and sometimes even a person’s spirit or set of beliefs. The American Psychological Association defines it as “an emotional response to a terrible event.”
There are numerous studies about how trauma can affect the body and the brain. One day you are cruising through life, with everything going as you think it should, and the next you are hit with a whammy. In major cases, you might eventually become completely confused as to why you’re even here on this planet called Earth. You may get caught up in your thoughts of the past, instead of living in the present and looking forward to the future. Trauma and anxiety are linked because it can cause a person to live in constant fear of experiencing that situation again.
Trauma can come in many different forms, from losing someone close to you, to going through some type of combat (PTSD), to witnessing an accident or tragedy (like 9/11). And sometimes you don’t even realize that your mind and your body have been affected by this trauma until there is some type of trigger.
Potential Effects and Symptoms of Trauma
How do you know you are struggling with the effects of trauma? These are some of the possible symptoms:
- Physical reactions, like nervous gut, headaches, nausea, and/or insomnia.
- Making rash decisions, or choices that aren’t beneficial.
- Withdrawing from the world; pushing people away; social anxiety.
- Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
- Angry outbursts or mood fluctuations.
- Random flashbacks to the traumatic event.
Ways to Deal with Trauma
Finding a therapist who specializes in treating the effects of trauma, one that you feel comfortable with, is ideal. There are a few different trauma therapy options, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy. But what do you do to cope when you can’t find a therapist who can help you at the moment? Here are just a few suggestions:
- Acknowledge that you are experiencing trauma, and recognize that it is not your fault.
- Counteract a negative thought with a positive one. For instance, as soon as a negative remembrance or flashback comes to mind, attempt to picture yourself in your favorite place, somewhere peaceful, or remembering a fun time you had with friends.
- It sounds cliché, but meditation can help. All it requires is shutting off outside influences for at least a few minutes and taking a moment to concentrate on you. It helps get you centered. Yoga and other forms of exercise can also help.
- Stay busy with something that interests you, whether it’s a hobby or a business goal.
- Talk to a professional about sleeping aids that will be right for you if you’re having trouble getting to sleep at night. It is so important to get your proper rest.
Hopefully, if you’re coping with trauma, you’ll be able to find the help that you need to heal. Understand that you are not to blame, and that you’re not alone. Reject guilt and shame. Take care of yourself because you matter.
* This information is partly based on personal experiences, and is not meant as a substitute for the advice and counseling of a professional.
Lynn Gilliard is the author of a popular relationship guide entitled Let Him Chase YOU. Her latest book Sing While You're Single offers advice to women who want to remain single for the time being while still maintaining their belief in the power and possibility of love.