How to Cope With a Traumatic Event

Four Methods:Taking Care of Yourself Right NowUsing Your Support SystemProcessing What HappenedReturning to Normal Life

When something traumatic happens, it can affect you mentally, emotionally, and even physically. It can turn into life-long problems such as anxiety, depression, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. With the right strategies, time, and a good support system, you can successfully cope with a traumatic event.

Method 1
Taking Care of Yourself Right Now

  1. Image titled Be Comfortable Around Strangers Step 16
    Take a few deep breaths. This will help you cope right now by slowing your heart rate and calming you down. Deep breathing helps you think more clearly and also relieves muscle tension you may be feeling.[1]
    • Slowly take a deep breath in through your nose. Feel the breath down in your belly.
    • Hold it for a moment and then exhale slowly through your mouth.
    • Repeat this a few times, or until you feel calmer and like you are coping with the trauma a bit better.
  2. Image titled Devote a Day to Relaxing and Pampering Yourself at Home Step 22
    Try mindfulness strategies. Traumatic events tend to play like a movie, over and over again in the mind. This is called a flashback. When you catch yourself re-living the horror, bring yourself back to the present moment by using mindfulness strategies. Mindfulness helps you take care of yourself and cope by focusing you on the current moment.[2]
    • Notice what is happening right now. Assess what emotions you are feeling, what you are thinking, and how your body feels without trying to stop any of it.
    • Notice as the feelings and thoughts go away and as you feel better. Continue what you were doing before the flashback.
    • Practice mindfulness all the time so that you can become better at handling flashbacks if, and when, they occur.
  3. Image titled Determine If You Have Hypertension Step 15
    Take a break. A change of environment and physical distance from the traumatic event can help you cope by relieving some of the stress and tension you feel. This may mean just a few minutes to take a walk, spending the night with a close friend, or it might mean taking a weekend vacation.
    • Take a mental break if the event just happened or if you cannot leave the area. Close your eyes for a few moments and imagine yourself somewhere peaceful.
    • If it just happened, you may want to just sleep, but find that you have insomnia. Don’t do anything to make yourself go to sleep. Staying awake can actually reduce the effects of PTSD.[3]
    • As soon as you can after the event, go to a safe place, with someone you trust.
    • Depending on how deeply the event is affecting you, you may need to take a day or two off to cope with what happened.
    • Don’t let your break turn into avoidance, however.[4]
  4. Image titled Deal With Porn Addiction Step 5
    Do something active. When you experience trauma, your body releases adrenaline which gives you energy and keeps you alert, but also tense. Physical activity can help release built up energy, tension and stress associated with a traumatic event.[5]
    • Try taking a walk, stretching, swimming, boxing, or even dancing.
    • Try to keep your mind focused on the activity.

Method 2
Using Your Support System

  1. Image titled Convince Your Elderly Parent to Move to a Senior Residence Step 22
    Rely on friends and family. Don’t shut them out while you try to cope with the trauma of the event.[6] They can often help you cope with a traumatic event in a lot of ways. They can listen to you, talk to you, encourage you, and comfort you.
    • Just spend time being around them. You don’t have to say or do anything.
    • Try saying, “Could you just be with me right now? I feel really anxious and don’t want to talk or do anything. I just want someone here with me.”
    • Stay with one of them for a few days of you need to (especially if the traumatic event has you afraid, depressed, or anxious).
    • You don’t need to or have to tell all of your family members and friends. Tell those that will be there for you.
  2. Image titled Talk Someone out of Suicide Step 11
    Talk to people you trust. Talking about it helps them understand what you are going through. It can also help you deal with the emotions related to the event. Although you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) tell everyone you meet, you will cope better if you don’t keep it a secret.
    • Ask them to help you by staying calm. You might say, “I need you to stay calm when I tell you what happened so that I can stay calm.”
    • Don’t be mad if they ask some questions, they are just trying to understand what happened.
    • You can ask that they not share what you have told them with anyone else.
    • If the traumatic event is something that happened to people other than just you, talk to them. They understand exactly what you went through and are going through.[7]
  3. Image titled Know if a Guy Doesn't Like You Back Step 12
    Allow them to cheer you up. Because they care about you, your friends and family will want to see you smile and try to cheer you up. Let them, even if it’s just to distract yourself from the traumatic event for a few moments. Smiling and laughing will help relieve some of your physical and emotional tension.[8]
    • Try to laugh at their corny joke or chuckle at the silly meme they send you.
    • Take up their offer for a movie or a walk on the beach.
    • You don’t have to pretend that you are happy when you aren’t. But at the same time, allow yourself to smile and feel some hope for the future.
  4. Image titled Deal With HPPD Step 7
    Seek professional help. Sometimes it can be very difficult to let go and move past the trauma by yourself. You may have trouble eating, sleeping, or just doing everyday things. You may experience physical symptoms, as well. Coping with a traumatic event by seeking appropriate help is not only a good idea, but often is necessary.[9]
    • Try to build a team a medical, mental health, and trauma professionals to help you with immediate and long-term effects of the event.
    • Join a support group for people that have experienced the same or similar trauma. Not only can the group help you cope with the event, they can also recommend understanding and effective professionals.
    • If you believe you cannot afford professional help, investigate what assistance may be available from community service organizations in your area.
    • If the event affected the community, counseling services may be offered through community agencies.

Method 3
Processing What Happened

  1. Image titled Persuade Someone to Quit Smoking Step 17
    Accept what happened. Denial is one phase of trauma. Sometimes an event is so unbelievable or so horrible that it is hard to process that it has happened to you.[10] What is done cannot be undone, however, so cope with it by accepting that it happened. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you will be able to feel at peace again.
    • Write about it in your journal or share what happened in some other creative way so that you can come to terms with it.
    • If it was a public event, don’t avoid talking about it with people that also went through it and those that didn’t.
    • Stick with the facts. Refrain from going into what-if scenarios of how close a call it was, or dwelling on what might have been, if only… Focus on processing only what actually happened.
  2. Image titled Know when to Get Mental Health Counseling Step 7
    Recognize your feelings. You may feel a combination of emotions related to the traumatic event. In order to begin coping with the traumatic event, you’ve got to recognize what exactly you are feeling and accept that it is a normal response.[11]
    • Common emotions include: anger, grief, fear, anxiety, depression, restlessness, fatigue, etc.
    • Doodle emoji-style faces showing your different emotions.
    • Make a list of your feelings about the event. Don’t judge any of the feelings as good or bad.
  3. Image titled Be Strong Step 4
    Acknowledge uncertainty. Although every day is full of uncertainty and change, a traumatic event can make you even more aware (and fearful) of how quickly things can go from great to horrible. The best way to cope with the fear of uncertainty that a traumatic event can raise is to accept that change happens.[12]
    • Recognize that uncertainty is a part of life. It may or may not rain, you may or may not miss the bus.
    • Say to yourself, “I accept that life is uncertain and I will not be afraid of what might happen.”
    • Keep a journal about the things you are uncertain about and why they scare you. Be sure to document how you begin to embrace uncertainty.
  4. Image titled Be Strong Step 2
    Give yourself time.Truly coping with and moving past a traumatic event will not happen overnight. It will take time, so be patient with yourself.[13] Understand that you will have days where you are coping well, and other days that you aren’t.
    • Don’t set a time limit for when you need to be over the traumatic event. Don’t try to force yourself to hurry up and get over it.

Method 4
Returning to Normal Life

  1. Image titled Be Strong Step 6
    Establish routines. Having routines in your life helps you cope with the trauma by giving you regular events to look forward to and by giving you stability. Continue any routines you had before the traumatic event and create new routines to help you cope.[14]
    • Get together with friends and family on a regular basis. For example, have dinner with your family every weekend or go to the gym with a friend twice a week.
    • Have specific days and times that you do things. For example, check your email in the morning, bathe the dog on Thursday evenings, or clean up on the weekends.
    • Schedule time for journaling and other coping strategies like meditation, counseling sessions, or support groups.
  2. Image titled Protect Yourself from an ACL Tear Step 12
    Get some sleep. One common symptom of trauma is insomnia and problems sleeping. Coupling insomnia with the stress of the traumatic event can be extremely harmful to you. Having a regular bedtime and waking time is one way to return to normal life and cope with the traumatic event.[15]
    • Try stretching, taking a warm bath, or doing something relaxing before you lie down for bed.
    • If you have problems sleeping that last more than a few days, consult a medical professional for help.
  3. Image titled Increase Your Metabolism Step 1
    Eat well. Many people experience changes in their eating habits after a traumatic event.[16] Some people eat to cope with the stress, while others lose their appetite and have trouble eating.
    • Make sure you are getting regular meals throughout the day.
    • Try to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables that will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function at its best.


  • Always remember that you are not alone.


  • If you feel like you want to harm yourself or if you feel suicidal, contact a crisis hotline immediately.

Article Info

Categories: Emotional Health