A guide to trauma
Like most people I woke up on Easter Sunday to the news of the bombing that had just taken place in Sri Lanka, as the news flooded in it emerged that 321 people had been killed and numerous more injured. I found myself in a space of quiet contemplation, moving between absolute disbelief and anger. In this time my mind returned to the numerous acts of terror I have witness in my life, both locally and abroad and found the only appropriate topic for this weeks blog to be trauma.
The Oxford Dictionary defines trauma as "a deeply disturbing or threatening event." I have often struggled with this definition, as it leaves so much out of the lived experiences of those who had experienced trauma. To make matters more complicated, there is no quantifying feature that defines what is and what isn't trauma. This leave a wide spectrum of space where a breakup is in the same category as experiencing a terrorist attack. Both equally valid and challenging emotional experiences.
Psychologically speaking trauma can be either a single event (such as a bombing, stabbing, mugging etc.), a ongoing period of relentless stress, and a series of often overlooked events (loosing ones job, experiencing a breakup, etc.)
In the aftermath of an immediate trauma one is often left with a feeling of shock and disbelief/denial. As time progresses this is followed by a series of psychological and physical symptoms including...
Fear / Anxiety
Shame / Embarrassment
Relief / Hope
An urge to withdraw from society and isolate
Feelings of disconnection and numbness
flashbacks to the event / series of events
poor memory and concentration
difficulty thinking clearly
changes in appetite
It is often difficult to function, when a single event/series of events has such a large impact on both our emotions and our body. There are, however, a few things that you can do to help yourself along the way.
If you are currently experiencing ongoing trauma the first step is to remove yourself from the situation as quickly and as safely as possible. This is especially important in situations of ongoing trauma.
Ok, so now that the immediate threat is over the first things to be mindful of is making sure you are not alone. In times of stress it is often our urge to isolate and retreat talking to others is a good way to voice some of the emotion you are feeling.
Another important consideration is avoiding alcohol, drugs, and stimulants. In challenging times it is easy to turn to these substances to help us cope. This, however, can often make the situation worse leading to a long term dependance.
Establish a routine, this includes being mindful of out eating and sleeping habits as well as avoiding reckless behaviour. Spirituality is another important factor to incorporate in your routine.
As with all things healing takes time. It is important that in these moments we reach out to our community and seek support from those who are important to us. If we are still struggling to cope, seeking professional help is also a good option.