Practical Ways to Cope with Trauma

The following are some general dos and don’ts designed to help you cope with trauma in general.


  • Express your emotions – the more you can talk out what has happened to you the less likely you are to store up problems.   Talk about what has happened as often as you need to.
  • Look to friends and colleagues for support.  People care about you and will be happy to offer a shoulder.
  • You would want to do the same if the situation were reversed so make sure you use your support systems.
  • Try to keep your life as normal as possible by keeping to daily routines as this helps the mind realise that life does go on and will help you recover more quickly.
  • Drive more carefully and be more careful around the home as you may be a little more accident prone than usual because you have been shaken up.  


  • Use alcohol, nicotine or other drugs to hide your feelings.  You may think drinking will help you cope but alcohol is a depressant and can make things worse.  Obviously the odd drink will do not harm but when you find yourself wanting 3/4/5 then this is likely to make you worse and not better.
  • Simply stay away from work – seek help and support instead.  If your traumatic incident happened at work the sooner you go back the better.  The longer you stay away the harder it will be to go back.
  • Allow anger and irritability to mask your feelings.  Some people find that they do not like expressing fear or sadness and cover-up these feelings with anger instead.  When you use anger this way you avoid dealing with the real problem.

When to seek help

You need to seek help if: 

  • You feel you cannot handle intense feelings or bodily 
  • sensations. 
  • After six weeks you continue to feel numb  
  • You continue to have nightmares and poor sleep 
  • You have no-one with whom to share your feelings  
  • Your relationships suffers or sexual difficulties develop       
  • You become clumsy or accident-prone.  
  • You find yourself smoking, drinking or taking drugs to excess      
  • Your work performance suffers You are tired all the time       
  • You feel that life has no purpose       
  • Your behaviour towards your friends and family changes,  e.g. you become withdrawn, overly protective or aggressive 

Recommended Reading

Coping with Life’s Traumas – Gladeana McMahon, Gill and Macmillan
Overcoming Traumatic Stress – Claudia Herbert & Ann Wetmore, Robinsons Publications

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