Forgetting a traumatic past

It is normal to experience traumatic stress following a disturbing event, whether it is a tragic accident, sexual abuse, violence, a global pandemic, or a natural disaster like an earthquake or flood

Alisha LalljeeUpdated: Monday, June 13, 2022, 09:04 AM IST
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A trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that may have occurred at any time in a person’s life.

A few synonyms commonly associated with trauma are injury, damage, hurt, wound, abuse or death. A trauma can be either physical, emotional, mental or sexual.

The term ‘trauma’ is a subjective word, which means that, what may be traumatic for one person may not be for another. One of the most serious types includes death or guilt associated with the same and sexual abuse.

It is normal to experience traumatic stress following a disturbing event, whether it is a tragic accident, sexual abuse, violence, a global pandemic, or a natural disaster like an earthquake or flood.

You may feel intense shock, confusion, fear, feel numb or overwhelmed by a host of conflicting emotions, and sometimes all at once.

Traumatic stress can shatter your sense of security, leaving you feeling helpless and vulnerable.

You may sometimes feel physically and emotionally drained. These are all normal responses to traumatic events.

Dealing with trauma

Forgetting a trauma depends on its intensity, duration, frequency and the impact on the person, if a person happens to visit the same place of trauma often, healing would take longer.

Speak up

Hiding the occurrence of a traumatic event does not make it absent. If you are not comfortable seeking help from a professional, you must speak about it to someone who is close to you.

No right or wrong way to feel

People react in different ways to trauma, it is essential to not tell yourself what you should be thinking, feeling or doing.

Do not ignore feelings

It may seem better in the moment to avoid experiencing your emotions, but they exist whether you are paying attention to them or not. Even intense feelings will pass if you simply allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Avoid obsessively reliving the traumatic event

Repetitious thinking or viewing horrific images over and over can overwhelm your nervous system, making it harder to think clearly. Partake in activities that keep your mind occupied, so you are not dedicating all your energy and attention to the traumatic event.

Re-establish routine

There is comfort in the familiar. Getting back as much as possible to your normal routine will help you minimise traumatic stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. Structure your day with regular times for eating, sleeping, spending time with family, and relaxing.

Put major life decisions on hold

Making big life decisions about home, work, or family while traumatised will only increase the stress in your life. If possible, try to wait until life has settled down, you have regained your emotional balance, and you are able to think clearly.

Vent out

This phase involves you speaking about how you feel, venting does not mean repeating the traumatic event, unless you feel the need too.

Limit social media exposure

Limit social media exposure to traumatic events similar to the one that you have experienced. This will not allow you to heal, but in fact make you overthink.

Expand your social network

If you live alone or your social network is limited, it is never too late to reach out to others and make new friends. Take advantage of support groups, gatherings, and organizations.

Focus on your senses

When you feel overwhelmed by distressing feelings or thoughts, grounding yourself in the present moment can help reduce feelings of anxiety and fear. The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method is a strategy that involves listings five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Practice relaxation techniques

Techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to reduce stress, ease anxiety, low moods and improve your sleep.

Usually, feelings of anxiety, numbness, confusion, guilt, and despair following a disaster or traumatic event will start to fade.

However, if your traumatic stress reaction is so intense and persistent that it is getting in the way of your ability to function, you may need help from a mental health professional.

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