Coping with Traumatic Events

The Art of Resiliency

Events that we can't control will always be part of life. In response, people may become stressed, anxious, and feel discouraged.  Being resilient is an important step in overcoming difficult situations.

What is resiliency? Resilience means being able to adapt to life's hardship, misfortunes, and setbacks.

There are many things in life that cannot be controlled.  If you focus on you, controlling your reaction can help you be more resilient. Some helpful tips for dealing difficult situations include:

  • Be strong. Remind yourself of your strengths and think about how you have coped with difficult situations in the past - which will help you deal with the present situation.
  • Stay positive.  Try to think about and focus on the positive things that occur during a difficult situation.  Staying positive will help you become resilient.
  • Problem solve. Apply your problem solving skills when facing a difficult time.  Make a list of the things you need to focus on and cross off your tasks every time you complete something.  Staying focused is a great way to become resilient.
  • Lean on others for help.  Sharing your struggles with trusted friends, family, and co-workers can help you get through a crisis.  Being able to accept help from others will make you and those around you stronger.  You're not alone and you should talk with others during difficult times.

If you are experiencing difficulty coping with the recent shooting incidents that have occured across the nation, you have access to face-to-face, telephonic, and online counseling sessions. 

Your program offers counseling sessions and other helpful tools and resources. Call at any time, day or night to speak to a licensed professional 1-866-327-4762.

Responding to Children after Traumatic Events

Traumatic events can leave children feeling frightened, confused, and insecure.  Whether a child has personally experienced trauma, has seen the events on television, or heard it discussed by adults, it is important for parents, educators, and caregivers to be informed and ready to help if a child begins to show signs of stress.

Almost all children experience severe distress immediately after exposure to a traumatic life event.  Most children return to prior levels of functioning with time and support from family and friends.  Reactions vary with age, maturity, and exposure to chronic trauma.

Children respond to trauma in many different ways.  Some may have reactions very soon after the event occurs, others may be okay for weeks or months and later begin to show troubling behavior.  Knowing the common signs to watch for will help parents and teachers recognize problems and respond appropriately.

Preschool age

Children ages 1 - 5 find it particularly hard to adjust to change and loss.  They have not developed their own coping skills and must depend on parents, family, friends, and teachers to help them through difficult times. A child at this age may regress to an earlier behavioral stage after a violent or traumatic event.  They may resume thumb sucking, bed-wetting, become afraid of strangers, animals, the dark, or monsters.  They may cling to parents, teachers, or caregivers. Changes may occur with eating and sleep habits, and children may complain of physical aches and pains.

Early Childhood

Children ages 5 - 11 may have some of the same reactions that the preschool age has.  They may also withdraw from playgroups, friends, compete for attention from parents, teachers, and caregivers.  These children may also return to childish behaviors such as asking to be fed or dressed.

Adolescence

Children ages 12 - 14 are likely to have vague physical complaints when under stress and may abandon chores, school work, or other responsibilities they previously handled.  Though they may complete vigorously for attention from parents, teachers, and caregivers, they also may withdraw, resist authority, become disruptive at home or in the classroom, or begin to experiment with high-risk behaviors such as alcohol or drug use.

This age group is at a developmental stage in which the opinions of others are very important.  They need to be thought of as "normal" by their friends and less concerned about relating well with adults or participate in family activities that they once enjoyed.

Teenagers

Children ages 15 and above may experience feelings of helplessness and guilt because they are unable to assume full adult responsibilities as the community responds to the traumatic event.  Older teens may deny the extent of their reactions to the traumatic event.

Tips for talking to children after a traumatic event:

  • Provide children with opportunities to talk about what they are seeing on television and to ask questions.
  • Don't be afraid to admit that you cannot answer all of their questions.
  • Answer questions at a level the child can understand.
  • Provide ongoing opportunities for children to talk. They probably will have more questions as time goes on.
  • Talk about your family emergency plan.  This can comfort a child and help them ease anxiety and fears of a crisis occurring to them.
  • Allow children to discuss other fears and concerns about unrelated issues.
  • Monitor children's televisions exposure.  Some parents may want to limit the amount of television a child watch as over exposure can be too much for a child to process.
  • Be careful not to generalize about any particular culture or ethnic group.  Try not to focus on blame.
  • In addition to the tragic things they see, help children identify god things, such as heroic actions, families who unite and share support, and other assistance offered by people throughout the community. 

Children who experience a traumatic event can experience long-lasting effects.  Traumatized children may see the world as a frightening and dangerous place.  When childhood trauma is not resolved, this fear and helplessness can persist into adulthood, setting the stage for future trauma.  Be sure to support children as best you can during these difficult times and reach out to support groups, community resources and other programs that can offer additional resources.  Your EAP also offers professional counseling for you and your family members. Call your program today to speak with a licensed professional.

Ways to deal with the Stress of Living with Threats of Violence

Threats of violence may start a stress response causing a physical reaction to change in a normal day.  Actions of violence are never easy to process and through everyday exposure by TV, social media, newspaper and radio this can have a tremendous impact to our stress levels.  Here are a few things you can do to help cope during stressful times:

  • Take care of yourself first.  Eat healthy foods and get enough sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.  Physical activity relieves stress, and promotes well-being.
  • Budget your time.  Prioritize your tasks.  Over-committing yourself will cause stress.
  • Prepare yourself for stressful events.  Practice feeling calm in stressful situations.
  • Try relaxation exercises. Imagine a restful scene; practice deep breathing and meditation.

Overcoming Anxiety

It is not uncommon to feel anxious and apprehensive because of the threats of violence. These nervous feelings will come and go. However, if you are in a constant state of feeling anxious, it can quickly become overwhelming and may get in the way of your daily life. Below are some tips to assist you in overcoming anxious feelings:

  • Limit your television news viewing.  Keep informed, but don’t watch it around the clock.
  • Volunteer. Doing something nice for someone else can improve your frame of mind.
  • Limit caffeine. Too much caffeine can make you edgy and anxious.
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol. They both contain chemicals that can cause anxiety.
  • Talk to someone. If you start to feel overwhelmed, talk with a friend, family member, doctor, religious advisor or mental health professional.

Common Reactions to Trauma

  • Feel fear or anxiety about subjects that you never thought about before the event occurred. 
  • Have emotional outbursts and startled responses.  You may have a tendency to overreact to sudden, unexpected loud noises, such as a car backfiring. 
  • Be extremely aware of things around you.  In times like these, people are more aware of things that they might otherwise overlook, such as a noise in their house or a helicopter in the sky. 
  • Experience a change in sleep or eating patterns.  Disturbances in sleep are quite common.  You may find yourself sleeping a little more or a little less than usual, or you may have bad dreams or nightmares. 
  • Have flashbacks, disturbing images or memories.  A common reaction after being exposed to a traumatic event is having flashbacks or images pop into your head without any apparent reason. 
  • Experience mood shifts and intense emotions.  Feelings are neither right nor wrong, but they can be very confusing.  You may find yourself feeling anxious or fearful one moment and tearful or angry the next. 

If you are experiencing any of these feelings above you are not alone.  Make sure to speak to family and friends about how you are feeling.  Your program offers face-to-face counseling sessions and other helpful tools and resources. Call at any time, day or night to speak to a licensed professional 1-866-327-4762.