The short answer is yes. Many parts of the world is experiencing traumatic events. This includes the recent unrest and looting in South Africa, floods in Europe and the global Covid Pandemic that has had an impact on us all. It is no wonder many of us are experiencing feelings of distress, anxiety and trauma.
After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected. But if the upset doesn’t fade, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Many people associate PTSD only with war and huge natural disasters. But the reality is, any event, or series of events, that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and leaves you emotionally shattered, can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
PTSD can leave you feeling stuck with a constant sense of danger and unease. But with new coping skills, you can feel safe again and move on from the trauma.
Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD. Below are some of the symptoms of psychological trauma…
-Shock, Denial or Disbelief. These often occur immediately following the event.
-Fear. You worry that the same thing will happen again, and your sense of safety and security is compromised.
-Sadness or grief, especially if people you know died or suffered life-altering consequences.
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
-Negative changes in thinking and mood.
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Feeling detached from family and friends
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Any traumatic event, from a personal tragedy, to local events like the current unrest in areas of South Africa, to a global crisis like the Covid epidemic, can take an emotional toll and cause traumatic stress.
It can take time to recover your emotional equilibrium and rebuild your life. But there are specific things you can do to help yourself and your loved ones cope with the emotional aftermath of trauma, and find a way to move on with your life.
-Don’t ignore your feelings, it will only slow recovery. Traumatic stress can cause you to experience all kinds of difficult and surprising emotions, including shock, anger, and guilt. These emotions are normal reactions to the loss of safety and security. Acknowledge your feelings.
-Avoid obsessively reliving the traumatic event.
-Put major life decisions on hold. Do not decide to sell your house, or move countries, or quit your job when traumatized.
-Minimize media exposure:
Try to avoid distressing images and video clips.
If coverage makes you feel overwhelmed, take a complete break from the news.
-Take Positive Action:
Positive action can help you overcome feelings of fear, helplessness, and hopelessness, and even small actions can make a big difference.
-Volunteer your time, give blood, donate to a favorite charity, or comfort others.
-Connect with others affected by the traumatic event or participate in memorials, events, and other public rituals. The Clean-up efforts in KZN after the looting is a great example of this.
Physical activity performed mindfully can burn of adrenalin and boost feel-good hormones. It can also rouse your nervous system from that “stuck” feeling and help you move on from the traumatic event.
Try exercise that is rhythmic.
Add a mindful element by focusing on your body and how it feels as you move.
Boost your energy and motivation. If you’re struggling to find the energy or motivation to exercise, start by playing your favorite music and moving around or dancing.
Shorter bursts of activity are as beneficial as one longer session. Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more each day, even if it is in bursts of 10 minutes each.
-Reach out to others, and expand your social Network.
The simple act of talking face to face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve traumatic stress.
-Talk about and do “normal” things with friends and loved ones, things that have nothing to do with the event that triggered your traumatic stress.
A walk in fresh air and preferably in nature can do wonders to alleviate stress and trauma. Try to get to a park or a beach if possible.
-Interact with animals.
Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. If you do not have a pet and cannot have one, try to spend some time at your local shelter showing the animals some love and care.
The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with traumatic stress. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of traumatic stress. The TLC-Program cuts out all the harmful foods and ensures the correct food that will boost your health and wellbeing.
-Get enough quality sleep
Switch off, make your room a haven of quiet and tranquility.
Finally, Make stress reduction a priority:
*Relieve stress in the moment.
To quickly calm yourself in any situation, simply take 60 breaths, focusing your attention on each “out” breath. Or use sensory input by engaging one or more of your senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement.
*Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to reduce stress, ease anxiety and depression, and improve your sleep.
*Schedule time for activities that bring you joy, a walk in the park, or a coffee with a friend.
*Use your downtime to relax. Read a book, have a pedicure, or watch a comedy.
When to get help:
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.