It’s normal to feel anxious and afraid after experiencing a trauma, such as a natural disaster, catastrophic accident, sudden loss, or act of violence. Recent events such as the mass shooting in Munich, the three police officers shot and killed in Baton Rouge, a deadly attempted coup in Turkey, the Bastille Day massacre in Nice, France, the shooting of five Dallas cops, the shootings of unarmed black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, the massive causalities from a truck bomb in Baghdad, and a deadly mass shooting in a gay club in Orlando have not alleviated any fears about driving, flying, being in tall buildings, hanging out with friends, or even leaving your home.
You may also experience other fears, either for your safety or a loved one’s safety, that are not even directly related to these traumatic events. Reminders and events can act as triggers and bring back painful memories and emotions long after the event is over.
Here are some ways to cope with fear and anxiety after a trauma:
- Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep and eat well-balanced meals. Try to maintain normal routines and keep to a regular pattern of eating and sleeping to ensure that you have the strength to cope with stress. You may even want to create new routines.
- If you have nightmares of past traumas or overwhelming feelings of sadness, grief, or fear, seek support from a mental health professional. Traumatic events can trigger memories of past losses. Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), doctor, or health plan can help you find a therapist or counselor who has experience with treating your concerns.
- Avoid using alcohol or illegal drugs to handle your emotions. They provide a temporary escape from unpleasant emotions, but they can also lead to an unhealthy dependence on alcohol or drugs and prevent you from discovering more positive and long lasting ways to cope with difficult emotions. Also, alcohol is a depressant and can lead you to feel even more depressed.
- Practice stress-relief techniques that work for you. Taking a walk, exercising, listening to music, or reading for pleasure are all ways to relieve stress.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family. Tell them what you need. Most people who have gone through a traumatic event need support from others. You don’t have to go through this alone. Eventually you will find you can rise above the traumatic event and bring about something good for yourself and those around you.
If you are experiencing difficulty following these recent events or following an event that is personal to you, try to remember that it will pass with time. However, if your fears linger for months or if they are making daily life overwhelming, it’s important to seek professional assistance. For a referral to local services, please contact your local Mental Health America organization or Mental Health America at (800) 969-6642. You can also visit use MHA’s online affiliate locator.