Coping techniques: Trauma

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Recognize that you have been through a traumatic event and allow yourself to have your responses to it.
  2. Reach out and make contact with people with whom you feel safe. Talk about the event in whatever way you’re ready to. Talking about the events and about your feelings has been correlated with decreased severity of trauma.
  3. Remain active. Maintain your daily activities. Help a neighbor or family member. Become involved in a volunteer opportunity.
  4. Increase your knowledge of trauma, to know what to look for in order to better support yourself, and to normalize your experience. Literature review can be very helpful in letting you know that your responses are normal.
  5. Consider decreasing use of alcohol or drugs in this period.
  6. Practice relaxation techniques. These can include mediation, prayer, yoga or tai chi; progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing or listening to soothing music; reading an uplifting book, spending time in nature or playing with your pet. Physical activity such as swimming can be effective as well.
  7. Keep yourself safe. For example, limit your presence in high-crime areas as much as possible, spend time in places where you feel safe and with people who respect and positively value you. Take all reasonable steps to ensure your safety.
  8. Make use of healthy distraction in moments of acute stress, but don’t use it to avoid processing the painful events you’ve gone through. When the moment subsides, consider that avoidance is not effective in decreasing negative responses to trauma, but has been linked to further problems.
  9. To decrease the impact of flashbacks or disassociation use grounding techniques. For instance, focus on your current surroundings and say the names of every blue object around you, out loud so you can hear the sound of your voice. Then every green object. Or describe five things that you can feel, such as the warm air, your feet inside your shoes, the chair you’re sitting in, etc.
  10. To decrease arousal after nightmares tell yourself that you were having a dream, that the events are not currently happening, and that you are safe.
  11. To decrease the impact of intrusive memories, remind yourself that these are just memories and not happening now, that it’s normal to have memories of these kind of events, and that you can interrupt them.
  12. Consider that the event which you have survived and which you are healing from may eventually be seen as an initiation that will enhance your ability to cope with life and your ability to help others heal from similar events.