Coping with Traumatic Events

Everyone responds to crisis and traumatic events differently. Some people recover quickly and are able to “bounce back” in a relatively short period of time, but others have a more difficult time doing so. And some develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that develops after a terrifying event or ordeal.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 3.5% of the U.S. adult population develops PTSD in any given year. It’s important to note that these are not all U.S. service members (although in some cases they are). PTSD can be triggered by violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters and accidents, as well as military combat.

Even those who do not develop PTSD, however, must readjust to everyday life after the terrifying experiences they’ve lived through. The following strategies for coping with traumatic events can aid in the recovery process.  

Connect with your support system

Isolation can exacerbate feelings of vulnerability, helplessness, and hopelessness. Let the people in your support system know what you need. The help you receive from family and friends will serve to boost your recovery from trauma.

Exercise your body

The acts of running, walking, aerobics, and weight lifting will not only exercise your muscles and help reduce stress, but they can also serve to help you regain your sense of power and control following a traumatic event.

Practice relaxation strategies

Anxiety is a common response to trauma, but there are many ways to combat it with relaxation techniques and strategies. Meditation, yoga, stretching, and guided relaxation will help you find serenity and peace in the present moment.

Talk about the event in a safe environment

Your family and friends may not always be able to empathize if they haven’t been through a similar situation themselves. Individual and group counseling sessions can be especially beneficial when recovering from trauma.

Get healthy sleep and nutrition

The temptation to overeat and oversleep to numb out the pain of traumatic events will only serve to bury the experience deeper.  Care for yourself with proper nutrition and a healthy balance of sleep and activity.   

Avoid over-using stimulants

Overuse of caffeine, sugar, and nicotine aggravates symptoms of anxiety. They can also interrupt the healthy sleep cycles that allow you to recover from traumatic experiences.  

Write about your experience

Research studies have shown that people who use writing to make sense of the traumatic events they’ve lived through feel happier and less anxious. They also experience increased health and productivity. And those benefits are available even if you never show anyone what you’ve written.

Explore creative expression

Use paints, a camera, a musical instrument or any other medium that can help you explore your emotions about the traumatic event in a creative way.  Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words.


Grab a close friend and visit a comedy club. Spend time with funny people. Take a laughing meditation or yoga class. Laughter reduces the production of stress hormones and boosts the immune system.  Humor also decreases anxiety and lightens depression.

Seek professional help

If you are experiencing difficulty coping or have symptoms that may be the result of a traumatic event, you don’t have to stick it out alone. At Alvarado Parkway Institute, our crisis line is always available by dialing 619-667-6125. Or you can schedule an evaluation with a member of our team. Our mental health professionals can help identify the signs and symptoms of a disorder if you have one, and help create a treatment plan to overcome the symptoms even if you don’t. 

Give Alvarado Parkway Institute a call or visit one of our behavioral hospitals in El Cajon, La Mesa, or San Diego.  It’ll bring you one step closer to recovery.