Stress Reaction to Trauma

The first few nights after the emergency landing, Sullenberger couldn’t sleep. He questioned his performance, even though all 155 people aboard survived. Initially he had trouble forgiving himself because he thought he could have done something different.

Sullenberger’s emotional reaction is very common and normal. What follows are some tips that may be helpful if you or loved ones experience a traumatic event:

Develop stress relievers. If you have endured an extraordinary physical or emotional experience, take time out for yourself. By regular exercise, good nutrition and proper rest, you’ll be taking better care of your body. Attend to your mind and your spirit as well. Practice techniques of deep breathing, relaxation or your own form of meditation. Set aside quiet time and do what it is that gives you personal pleasure. Relax and have fun as you bring more balance into your life. Look at it as investing in your emotional bank account. You’ll generate positive memories that you can draw on when you need them.

Recognize an acute stress reaction. After an event where you could have died, it’s natural to have a greater appreciation for life. Subsequent to a traumatic event, on the other hand, an immediate emotional reaction can turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is more likely to occur for those who have suffered a previous trauma, a weak support system, a history of addiction or depression. If your symptoms persist – sleep disturbance, sadness, fears, irritability, flashbacks or nightmares – don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a mental health professional.

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