Employee Benefits

Coping After a Traumatic Event

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Most people will face traumatic events during their lifetime – the diagnosis of a serious medical problem, a serious accident involving family or friends, the sudden death of someone close, the unexpected loss of employment or severe weather that damages property. Traumatic experiences can be debilitating both physically and mentally, often creating scars that last throughout life, reinforcing the importance of knowing how to cope after a traumatic event.

Medical professionals offer the following tips for responding to difficult experiences:

  1. Recognize shock – Upon receiving bad news or experiencing a traumatic event, many people go into a state of shock for at least the first five minutes; take deep breaths and focus on the next step, such as requesting a phone number to call after processing the information or scheduling an appointment for a follow-up discussion
  2. Seize control – Avoid snap decisions; ask for more information or recommendations if needed; take notes so you can review the details with a family member or friend
  3. Keep a journal – Many people find it cathartic to maintain a journal of their thoughts and emotions during a traumatic experience
  4. Be kind to yourself – Psychologists have discovered that people with high levels of self-compassion respond more quickly to traumatic situations and are better at managing emotional distress
  5. Lean on family and friends – Openly discuss your feelings and decisions with family and friends who will provide objective feedback to help you sort through the experience
  6. Ask for help – Don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance from a social worker or psychologist
  7. Watch for signs of depression – Medical professionals emphasize the importance of emotional authenticity in the midst of a traumatic experience; recognize and embrace emotions, but if the feelings linger for more than a month, contact your physician to see if you are experiencing clinical depression

Learn more about coping with traumatic experiences:

9 Things You Must Do After a Diagnosis

Why We Need Emotional First Aid

Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering From Disasters and Other Traumatic Events

Coping With Traumatic Events


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