How To Cope With Traumatic Stress

Over the course of a lifetime, it’s common to be exposed to a traumatic event, whether it is a violent act, a serious injury, a sexual violation, or other shocking event. In response, many will experience traumatic stress—a normal reaction to an abnormal event. People may even experience traumatic stress by just witnessing a highly distressing event or having a close family member or friend experience such an event.
In the days and weeks following such a trauma, it’s common for people to have a flurry of unpredictable emotions and physical symptoms. They include:

  • Sadness
  • Feeling nervous, jumpy, or on high alert
  • Irritability or anger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Relationship problems
  • Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares
  • Trouble feeling positive emotions
  • Avoiding people, places, memories, or thoughts associated with the traumatic event

Usually, these symptoms get better with time. But for some people, more intense symptoms linger or interfere with their daily lives and do not go away on their own. Some people may develop acute stress disorder in which they have extreme symptoms of stress that significantly interfere with daily life, school, work or social functioning in the month after a traumatic event. Others can develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms that interfere with daily life and last for more than a month after the trauma.

Coping with traumatic stress:

The good news is that there are very effective ways to cope with and treat the stressful effects of trauma. Psychologists and other researchers have found that these actions can help:

  • Lean on your loved ones. Identify friends or family members for support. If you feel ready to discuss the traumatic event, you might talk to them about your experience and your feelings. You can also ask loved ones to help you with household tasks or other obligations to relieve some of your daily stress.
  • Face your feelings. It’s normal to want to avoid thinking about a traumatic event. But not leaving the house, sleeping all the time, isolating yourself from loved ones, and using substances to escape reminders are not healthy ways to cope over time. Though avoidance is normal, too much of it can prolong your stress and keep you from healing. Gradually, try to ease back into a normal routine. Support from loved ones or a mental health professional can help a lot as you get back in the groove.
  • Prioritize self-care. Do your best to eat nutritious meals, get regular physical activity, and get a good night’s sleep. And seek out other healthy coping strategies such as art, music, meditation, relaxation, and spending time in nature.
  • Be patient. Remember that it’s normal to have a strong reaction to a distressing event. Take things one day at a time as you recover. As the days pass, your symptoms should start to gradually improve.

If you need additional information or would like to speak with a counselor, please call KGA at 800-648-9557 or visit us at We are available 24/7 to assist with your concerns.
Posted by KGA, Inc.
KGA is a Human Resources services firm that helps organizations create and sustain a healthy, engaged and productive workforce. Our services are tailored to each client’s distinct needs and include a robust Employee Assistance and Work-Life Program (EAP), professional development, crisis management, stress management and other essential HR solutions.