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Tips for dealing with trauma

Common responses to disasters and traumatic events include:

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Disorientation, apathy and emotional numbing
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sadness and depression
  • Feeling powerless
  • Extreme hunger or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Crying for “no apparent reason”
  • Headaches and stomach problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive drinking or drug use

Most of these reactions will decrease as time passes and you focus attention on daily activities. Because everyone experiences stress differently, don’t compare your progress with others around you or judge other people’s reactions and emotions.

What you can do

•Talk about it. Expressing your feelings will allow you to be able to work through what happened. By talking with others, you will relieve stress and realize that other people share your reactions and feelings.

•Get plenty of rest and exercise. Remember to eat well. Avoid excessive drinking and risk-taking activities.

•Spend time with your family. If you have any children, encourage them to discuss their concerns and feelings with you.

•As soon as it feels comfortable, go back to your usual routine.

•Do things that you find relaxing and soothing.

•Recall other times you have experienced strong emotions and how they were resolved.

•Do something positive that will help you gain a greater sense of control (for example, give blood, take a first aid class or donate food or clothing).

•If you feel overwhelmed by the disaster, ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. Talk with a trusted relative, friend, social worker, minister or rabbi.

If you have strong feelings that won’t go away or if you are troubled for longer than four to six weeks, you may want to seek professional help. People who have existing mental health problems and those who have survived past trauma may also want to check in with a mental health care professional. Being unable to manage your responses to the disaster and resume your regular activities may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a real and treatable illness. Help is available.

Mental Health America (formerly, the National Mental Health Association) has several resources available to help you and others cope with the disaster, including Time for Reassurance, Talking with Kids, and fact sheets on post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, coping with loss and other topics. To obtain this information, go to www.mentalhealthamerica.net or call our toll-free line 800-969-NMHA (6642).

Contact Mental Health America of Illinois (MHAI) for resources and more information at 312-368-9070 x10 or www.mhai.org.


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