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Posted: Thursday 11 February, 2016 at 10:16 AM

Dealing with trauma

By: LifeLines, Commentary

    "LifeLines is a monthly column dedicated to addressing issues of mental, behavioural, and social health. The column is written by professionals in the field of social work, mental health, and community medicine".        


    What is trauma? A traumatic event or trauma, is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress or harm, and is usually perceived and experienced as a threat to one's safety or to the stability of one's world (MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia). The unfortunate experience of being raped, assaulted, shot at, trapped in a burning building, or witnessing the tragic death of a loved one, can all be described as traumatic. These events are often sudden, unexpected, and upsetting, and leave people feeling ‘traumatized’ or suffering symptoms of severe emotional distress. Victims may feel shocked/confused, panicked, jittery, emotional, and unable to concentrate. Later symptoms may include sadness, anxiety, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances (nightmares or thoughts ‘popping up’ of event), loss of motivation, hopelessness, irritability, and social withdrawal.  


    Children who experience trauma may also show symptoms, including sadness, confusion, clinginess, fear or being alone, lowered appetite or interest in usual activities (such as playing), and poor school performance.  
    These symptoms, though uncomfortable, are normal reactions to trauma and may continue for days, weeks, or months, depending on the severity of the incident. Fortunately, coping strategies can be used to ease traumatic stress and help persons feel more ‘like themselves’ in a shorter time span.  
    Below are some suggestions for coping with trauma:

    Coping with Trauma 
    • Express yourself- Let out your feelings to someone you trust, e.g friend, family member, counsellor.  Talking about a traumatic event allows you to process the experience and release pent-up tension.  Writing out your feelings is also a good outlet.
    • Get support from positive people around you – spend time with those you love, especially persons who can strengthen you and lift your spirit during this difficult time.
    • Take care of your self -  Try to keep a regular sleep/eating schedule, even though it may be difficult. If it is challenging to fall/stay asleep, consider visiting your doctor for medication to help you rest.  A well-rested and nourished mind/body helps you to fight off stress.  Limit the use of caffeine, alcohol and other drugs – these can heighten feelings of anxiety/depression, and create dependence.
    • Keep yourself safe – is there anything you can do to help yourself feel more secure/safe? e.g changing your route, installing locks, having someone stay with you? Make needed changes to enhance your sense of security – this will give you a greater feeling of control and lessen feelings of fear, anxiety, and helplessness.
    • Request help if needed – don’t be afraid to ask for help or support from family, friends, or loved ones, as you focus on taking care of you.  Take time off if needed, but do try to return to a normal routine as soon as you feel able to. 
    • Partake in activities that soothe and relax you – e.g watching a favourite show, listening to music, talking to a friend, going to the beach, or worshipping at Church.  Enjoyable activities may help lessen anxiety and depression, while encouraging relaxation and healing. 
    • Try to keep things in perspective – while unfortunate events do occur, remember that there are many good things about life and many good people around you. Focus on the positive- take any lessons learned from the experience and focus on moving forward with a spirit to overcome. 
    Helping Children
    • Be reassuring.  Comfort children and let them know and that you will do your best to protect them.  Offer extra support and affection at this time.   
    • If possible, find age - appropriate ways to explain the incident. For example, in explaining violence, “sometimes people get angry at each other and try to hurt each other..” Knowledge can help children ‘sort out’ what happened and feel more in control. 
    • Offer opportunities for children to talk about their feelings, or express themselves through writing or art.  
    • Be patient and understanding. Children who experience trauma may revert to younger behaviours, such as refusing to sleep alone, or bedwetting. These symptoms are temporary and will likely ease with recovery.  
    • Limit media exposure. Avoid exposing the child to graphic pictures, videos, news stories, and even conversations about the event, which may not be age-appropriate and serve to re-tramautize the child. 
    • Help children feel safe. Put things in place to increase children’s sense of safety (e.g reinforcing security at home, or getting a ‘lift’ to school instead of walking alone), which will help to lower anxiety and promote recovery. 

    Counsellor, Counselling Centre
    Jeweleen Manners-Woodley 


    This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not  correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers               

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