Positive Coping with Traumatic Stress

Written by an iTherapy Provider

Positive Coping with Traumatic Stress

When trauma survivors take direct action to cope with their stress reactions, they put themselves in a position of  awesome power. Positive active coping with trauma makes you begin to feel less helpless, not a victim, and like a Warrior.

• Active coping means accepting the impact of trauma on your life and taking direct action to improve things.
• Practice Active coping even when there is no crisis. Active coping is a way of responding to everyday life challenges. It is a practice that must be made stronger.

Recovery is a Process
Following exposure to trauma most people experience stress reactions. Understand that recovering from trauma is a gradual and non-linear process. It takes time and practice of acceptance. Understanding and accepting that it is a process will help you feel more empowered.

  • You may experience waves of stress reactions (conscious and subconscious processing).
  • Stress reactions to trauma(s) is/are normal and human.
  • Recovery is an ongoing daily, sometimes moment by moment, process. It happens little by little. It is not a matter of being cured all of a sudden.
  • Healing does not mean forgetting traumatic event(s). The memory traces will remain, but become less intense.
  • Healing does not mean you will have no pain or feelings about the trauma(s).
  • Healing will mean fewer symptoms as you become less attached to the story around the trauma(s)
  • Healing means more confidence that you will be able to manage your reactions

Read my blog: Common Reactions to Trauma
Read my blog: Understanding Emotions

Positive coping actions for Trauma

Certain actions can help to reduce your distressing symptoms and make things better. In addition, these actions can result in changes that last into the future. Here are some positive coping methods:

Learn about trauma and PTSD
It is useful for trauma survivors to learn more about common reactions to traumaAcute Stress Disorder and about PTSD. Find out what is normal. Find out what the signs are that you may need assistance from others. When you learn that the symptoms of PTSD are common, you realize that you are not alone, weak, or crazy. It helps to know your problems are shared by hundreds of thousands of others. When you seek treatment and begin to understand your response to trauma, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms of PTSD.

Check out my blogs: Common Reactions to Trauma  And   PTSD    And  Acute Stress Disorder
And  Neurobiology of Stress Reactions

Talk to others for support
It is important not to isolate yourself. Our brains are hard wired to connect with others emotionally. Our brains have mirror neurons that fire in response to the firing of another person’s neurons when we connect. When survivors talk about their problems with empathetic and compassionate others, something truly beneficial results: Feelings of connection, acceptance, belonging, and safety occurs. There are increases in feel-good neurotransmitters, and decreases in destructive chemicals, such as cortisol.

Keep in mind: If you are isolating or lack interpersonal connection,  parts of your brain atrophy (shrink) and the feel good hormones significantly decrease, often resulting in symptoms of depression.  So, it is important to make efforts to connect with others. Of course, you must choose your support people with care. You must also ask them clearly for what you need. With support from others, you may feel less alone and more understood. You may also get concrete help with a problem you have.

Practice relaxation methods:

  • Art therapy or Creating anything
  • Muscle relaxation exercises
  • Breathing exercises.  Read my blog on proper Breathing to decrease stress and panic reactions
  • Meditation. Read my blog on how to Meditate
  • Exercise
  • YIN yoga    See My YouTube channel Playlist: YIN YOGA
  • Prayer and/or Mantra
  • Listening to quiet music
  • Sound Baths vibrational Hz frequencies for calming  See My YouTube channel playlist:  Sound Baths
  • Spending time in nature and gardening
  • Nurture yourself and nurture someone else
  • My favorite for stress reactions is floating in the water, any water will do, just float : )
  • AND Read my blogs on the benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness

Ground yourself with positive activities
Pleasant recreational or work activities help center a person from his or her memories and reactions. For example, art has been a way for many trauma survivors to express their feelings in a positive, creative way. Pleasant activities can improve your mood, limit the harm caused by PTSD, and help you rebuild your life.

Talk to a doctor who is a Trauma Expert 
Part of taking care of yourself means using the helping resources around you. If efforts at coping do not seem to work, you may become fearful, anxious, depressed, agoraphobic. If your Trauma symptoms or PTSD symptoms don’t go away or get worse over time, it is important to reach out and call a doctor who specializes in trauma to help turn things around.

When seeking a psychotherapist ask a lot of questions to make sure you are getting someone highly qualified in Trauma work.
You do not want a mental health counselor or psychotherapist who is flying by the seat of their pants.  Reach out to me if you need assistance, even if we do not work together, I can guide you in choosing the awesome Trauma Expert for you.  I have seen way too many cases when a patient has shown up to see me with poor past treatment in which the prior therapist or counselor made the patient worse. It is called the Iatrogenic effect.

Coping with the symptoms of PTSD
Here are some direct ways to cope with these specific PTSD symptoms:

Unwanted distressing memories, images, or thoughts 

  • Remind yourself that they are just memories.
  • Remind yourself that they are just thoughts and thoughts by there very nature are impermanent.
  • Remind yourself that emotions by there very nature are impermanent and are connected to thoughts.
  • Remind yourself that it’s natural to have some memories of the trauma(s).
  • Talk about them to someone you trust, and who is empathic and compassionate.
  • Remember, although reminders, cues, or triggers of trauma can feel overwhelming, they often lessen with time.

Sudden feelings of anxiety, fear, or panic
Traumatic stress reactions often include feeling your heart pounding and feeling lightheaded or spacey. This is usually caused by rapid breathing. If this happens, remember:
• These reactions are not dangerous. If you had them while exercising, they most likely would not worry you.
• These feelings often come attached to thoughts or beliefs that are not true. For example, you may think, “I’m going to die,” “I’m having a heart attack,” or “I will lose control.” It is the scary thoughts that make these reactions so upsetting. Please read my blogs on Understanding emotions   And  Conscious Breathing to reduce anxiety, panic attacks, fear et cetera
• Slowing down your breathing may help.
• The sensations will pass soon and then you can go on with what you were doing.
Each time you respond in these positive ways to your anxiety or panic, you will be making it happen less often. Practice will make it easier to cope. Please read my blog so you understand the havoc that stress causes on your brain and body:   Neurobiology of Trauma

Feeling like the trauma is happening again (flashbacks)

  • Keep your eyes open. Look around you.
  • Become intensely present to the moment with all 5 senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, hearing).
  • Talk to yourself. Remind yourself where you are and that you are safe.
  • Remind yourself that the trauma happened in the past and you are in the present.
  • Ask yourself: at this moment am I safe? YES.
  • Get up and move around. Have a drink of water and wash your hands.
  • Call someone you trust and tell them what is happening
  • Remind yourself that this is a common response after trauma.
  • Tell your Trauma Expert doctor about the flashback(s).

Dreams and nightmares related to the trauma
• If you wake up from a nightmare in a panic, remind yourself that you are reacting to a dream. Having the dream is why you are in a panic, not because there is real danger now. The dream is the subconscious processing the event. So, let it process.
• You may want to get up out of bed, center, and orient yourself to the here and now.
• Engage in a pleasant, calming activity. For example, listen to some soothing music.
• Talk to someone if possible.
• Talk to your doctor about your nightmares. Certain medicines can be helpful. However, avoid medicines that mask symptoms.

Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Keep to a regular bedtime schedule.
• Avoid heavy exercise for the few hours just before going to bed.
• Avoid using your sleeping area for anything other than sleeping or sex.
• Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and anything with caffeine (including chocolate) . These harm your ability to sleep.
• Do not lie in bed thinking or worrying. Get up and enjoy something soothing or pleasant. Read a calming book, drink a glass of warm milk or herbal tea, or do a quiet hobby.

Irritability, anger, and rage 

  • Take a time out to cool off or think things over.
  • Walk away from the situation
  • Turns the palms of your hands up
  • Get in the habit of exercise daily. Exercise reduces body tension and relieves stress.
  • Remember that staying angry does not work. It actually increases your stress and can cause health problems.
  • Read my blog: Neurobiology of Stress 
  • Talk to your counselor or doctor about your anger. Take classes in how to manage anger.
  • If you blow up at family members or friends, find time as soon as you can to talk to them about it. Let them know how you feel and what you are doing to cope with your reactions.

Difficulty concentrating or staying focused
• Slow down. Give yourself time to focus on what it is you need to learn or do. Be Mindful
• Write things down. Making “to do” lists may be helpful.
• Break tasks down into small do-able chunks.
• Plan a realistic number of events or tasks for each day.
• You may be depressed. Many people who are depressed have trouble concentrating. Again, this is something you can discuss with your counselor, doctor, or someone close to you.  read my blog: Depression

Trouble feeling or expressing positive emotions
check out my blog on Understanding Emotions
• Remember that this is a common reaction to trauma. You are not doing this on purpose. You should not feel guilty for something you do not want to happen.
• Make sure to keep taking part in activities that you enjoy or used to enjoy. Even if you don’t think you will enjoy something, once you get into it, you may well start having feelings of pleasure.
• Gratitude: Take steps to let your loved ones know that you care. You can express your caring in little ways: write a card, leave a small gift, or phone someone and say hello.

A Final Thought:  *Accept What Is  *Let Go or Be Dragged * Instead of going with the flow, BE the FLOW

Try using all these ways of coping to find which ones are helpful to you. Then practice them. Like other skills, they work better with practice. Be aware that there are also behaviors that DON’T help. Learn more about these negative coping methods. You will also find information there about lifestyle changes that can help you cope with trauma and PTSD.

If you have any questions, concerns, comments, please reach out to me. I am here for you for consultation. On my website Contact page, you will find a Code for FREE 15-minute consultation. I have specialized in the assessment and treatment of Trauma for 20-years: Single Event Trauma, Repeat Event Trauma, Acute Stress Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Battered Women’s Syndrome, Complicated Traumatic emotional and physical stress due to Narcissistic Personality Disorder Victimization.
I also specialize in depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, phobias. Plus + I am a Brain-Mind Nerd : ) NeuroScientist and NeuroPsychologist for 20+ years. Reach out ask me anything about the Brain and the Mind.

Please see my website for my credentials, expertise, and extensive training and certificates.

With Love and Light,
Shawna M. Freshwater, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, NeuroPsychologist, and Holistic Healer.

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