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    How to Support Yourself During / Following a Traumatic Event or Disaster

    It is hard to know what to do next in the direct aftermath (or continuation) of a traumatic event or disaster. It might feel impossible to do anything at all. When we experience danger and a lack of safety, the best thing you can do for yourself is go back to the basics. Reestablish safety and your most basic needs.

    You might do this by…

    -Eat & stay hydrated.

    Notice here that it does not say “eat healthy meals.” If that feels do-able, great. But really all you want to do here is eat whatever feels accessible to you to keep your body nourished.

    -Seek connection.

    It can be incredible challenging to interact with others during or right after trauma. Connection does not have to mean talking, it can quite honestly just mean being around others. If your trauma included an interpersonal component, other people might not feel safe. This is okay. Spend time alone if needed. However, if there are safe people in your life you can be around, try not to isolate yourself.

    -Avoid mood altering substances. 

    Using alcohol, marijuana, or other mood altering substances can actually prevent our body from processing the emotions from the trauma in an effective way and potential lead to more dangerous situations or decision-making.

    -Rest as much as you can.

    It takes an enormous amount of energy for your nervous system to undergo and process trauma. You will likely feel exhausted. Take as much time to rest as you need / want. You aren’t being lazy, this is exactly what your body needs.

    -Be open to receiving / asking for help.

    As much as you can, be willing to accept help when it is offered. If you have resources and help available to you, utilize them. The less you have to worry about having your basic needs met, the more you can focus on processing your experience and establishing safety once again. Know when things feel too overwhelming to handle yourself & seek professional help.

    -Do not feel pressured to discuss the trauma.

    Although others may want to know what happened / how you are, you do not have to speak about your trauma until you feel ready to do so. Recounting all the details or discussing the event too soon can actually lead to increased trauma symptoms.

    -Engage in movement.

    As much as you are physically able, engage in gentle movement. Movement helps our body utilize the energy created in our nervous system during a traumatic event. If we don’t use it, the energy can stay trapped in our bodies and cause or worsen trauma symptoms. A few examples include gentle stretching, walking around the inside of your home, or doing 2 minutes of jumping jacks. It does not have to be a complicated form of movement or for large amounts of time.