University of Southern Indiana

Coping with Traumatic Events

Sunset CalmDuring our lives, it is very likely that we will experience a traumatic event of some form or another. It could be a natural disaster, car accident, or violent crime. After the traumatic event, even though it may be over, you may experience some strong emotional or physical reactions. It is very common and normal to experience these reactions. Some reactions may appear immediately after the event while others may appear in a few days, weeks, or even months.

Common Stress Reactions 

  • Physical and/or emotional tension
  • Sleep difficulties (difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep; disruptive dreams or nightmares; and/or excessive sleep)
  • Intrusive thoughts or memories about the incident
  • Unpleasant emotions (sadness, helplessness, rage, fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, etc.)
  • Feeling distant from your loved ones
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling that you are to blame for the incident
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Feelings of guilt that you survived if others did not
  • Feeling numb or in shock
  • A desire to find someone to blame
  • Difficulty completing everyday tasks

These reactions are neither a sign of weakness nor an indication that you are not handling the situation well. Rather, they are simply your bodys way of attempting to deal with a very difficult event.

Useful Coping Strategies

  • Maintain as normal a routine as possible. Do not make any big life changes.
  • Know that you are not crazy. Strong reactions (e.g., recurring thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks about the event) to traumatic incidents are normal.
  • Try to find situations where you can talk to people. Sharing your thoughts and feelings about the incident can be helpful. Those around you may also be having similar reactions to the traumatic incident.
  • Try to find activities that feel good to you (e.g., laugh with friends, listen to music, engage in your hobbies, spend time with family members).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Incorporate periods of activity (e.g., taking a walk, playing basketball) alternated with periods of relaxation (e.g., deep breathing, taking a long bath) to help decrease or alleviate some of the physical reactions (feeling “hyper”, difficulty sleeping, unable to sit still) to the traumatic event.
  • Avoid using alcohol or drugs to numb feelings and/or thoughts about the traumatic event.
  • Give yourself permission to feel bad.
  • Keep a journal and write down the feelings or memories that are on your mind.
  • Eat well-balanced meals at your regular times (even if you do not feel hungry).
  • Get plenty of rest.

Getting Help

While these reactions are normal, understand that the Counseling Center is available to help you during difficult times. You should consider contacting us for assistance when it is difficult to manage these reactions or when they continue for an extended period of time. Getting help from the Counseling Center does not mean you are weak, it simply means that the traumatic event was just too powerful. Call 812/464-1867 to schedule an appointment.


The Counseling Center is a SAFE ZONE for individuals of all ethnicities, abilities, religions, sexual orientations, physical appearances/sizes, and gender identities.

Contact Thomas Longwell


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