Just as it’s important that physical trauma is handled immediately and with care, it’s also important that emotional trauma be treated the same way. If you want to minimize the long-term negative impacts of trauma, here are a few first aid tips:
- Attend to your physical injuries first. If you’ve been physically injured you should immediately attend to those wounds, especially if they are serious or life threatening. Going to a hospital or clinic will give you access to the medical and mental health resources you need. This is especially true for abuse and rape survivors. That’s why it’s important that you don’t delay getting treatment.
- Get to a safe place. After treating your physical injuries, you should immediately get to a safe place. A safe place is defined as a location where you’re not likely to face more trauma. For example, if you’re in an abusive relationship, you might go to a women’s shelter or a relative’s home. But wherever you go, make sure that going there won’t further traumatize you. Being in a safe place will better position you to recover from emotional trauma.
- Don’t tell yourself that the traumatic experience hasn’t affected you. Remember, trauma is a normal response to extreme experiences. You don’t need to minimize it or explain it away. And you certainly don’t need to go about your life as if nothing has happened. So the third tool in your trauma first aid kit should be to acknowledge the impact the traumatic event is having on you and give yourself permission to slow down, relax, and take care of yourself.
- Seek out the emotional support of trusted people. Take the time to talk about your feelings with a friend, relative or your trauma counselor. Feel free to share as much or as little as you wish. Remember, this is about your trauma recovery, so move at your pace. You’re not required to answers intrusive questions or share aspects of your experience with anyone that would make you feel uncomfortable. If you find yourself thinking too much about your traumatic experience, talking it out can help minimize those repetitive thoughts.
- Instead of numbing yourself, fully feel your emotions and your body’s response. Emotional trauma doesn’t just affect your feelings, it can also create a chain reaction in your body. Shaking, racing heart, tension, shortness of breath, and anxiety, are common physical reactions to trauma. So don’t ignore your body’s response. If you feel that your body’s reaction to the trauma is hindering your ability to function, speak with a medical professional about how you can treat those responses while recovering. You should also consider using relaxation techniques to calm the anxiety and tension in your body. Deep breathing and exercising may provide relief.
Traumatic experiences are an inevitable part of life, but how you respond will have the biggest impact on your healing process.