Skip to content

Self-care after a major-traumatic event

We can traumatized by news of a major tragic event, whether it’s a crime or a natural disaster, even if it’s far away.

It is important to understand that we can be impacted even if we don’t have a direct connection to the event. We can and should take steps to purposefully take care of ourselves and those we care about to reduce the harmful impact of trauma and use it as motivation to build our personal resilience and strengthen our communities.

It’s common to feel:

  • Shocked
  • Saddened
  • Angry or irritable
  • Helpless
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Distracted
  • General turmoil

People may have difficulty concentrating or sleeping, or be troubled by recurring disturbing thoughts.

These are normal reactions. The emotions that we experience typically fade gradually over time. The caring and concern will always remain. If symptoms do not fade, seek professional help to find effective coping strategies.

Personal wellness

Care well for yourself:

  • Reduce your exposure to repetitive media accounts of the incident
  • Talk with family and friends about your reactions
  • Purposely engage in life affirming activities
  • Continue to eat healthy and drink lots of water
  • Rest and sleep 8 – 10hrs a day
  • Recognize the ways that you maintain order and control in your life, and the things you do to keep yourself safe
  • Seek assistance if troubling thoughts and feelings persist
    • Counseling may be available through your employee assistance program at work
    • Universities have counseling programs available for students and faculty
    • Your Church or family physician can be a great source of support as well
    • You can access referral information for other professional counselors by calling the Alaska 211 assistance service

Care well for children:

  • Restrict access to media reports around such incidents for young children.
  • Acknowledge their thoughts and feelings.
  • Reassure them that they are safe.
  • Reassert family values, especially those that support welfare of family and others.
  • Encourage children to play and interact with friends.
  • Make sure they also eat healthy and get enough sleep.
  • Talk frankly with adolescents about their reactions and ideas about the event; correct any illogical thinking; reassure them that they are OK; encourage them to talk with their friends.
  • Seek assistance for your child if you are concerned about their reactions or behavior.

Care well for friends, coworkers, neighbors and other:

  • Consider helping others. We tend to manage our own reactions better when we provide support for those we care about.
  • Check in with friends and co-workers about their experiences. Be available to talk but respect their wishes if they would rather not talk.
  • Encourage others to engage in healthy and life affirming activities.
  • Send supportive texts or emails to those who may be struggling.
  • Encourage others to seek professional assistance if they appear to have difficulty coping.

Community wellness

What we do specifically will depend on where we live and what we’re comfortable with and able to do. These are some ideas
  • Volunteer with any organization. Whether it’s literacy or sports or some other area, even if it’s not directly related to disaster response, you’re helping people live safe, healthy, meaningful lives.
  • Donate blood.
  • Donate food or clothing locally.
  • Consider donating money to the Red Cross or other charities involved in the part of the world where a disaster has happened, if you can afford it. Even giving $5 means you’ve contributed to improving the situation, and many small donations really add up.

Coping resources

Many employers have employee assistance programs that employees can call.

  • 211 is a good general resource for finding any kind of assistance, from food to mental health services, legal services to child care and more.
  • Careline, Alaska’s statewide suicide prevention line, is also a grief counseling resource. It is toll-free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, every day: 877-266-4357 (HELP).
  • Hospice agencies in Alaska also offer grief support groups, for adults and for children. Hospice of Anchorage can help you find a local resource: 561-5322, or search on hospice of Alaska online.
  • Veterans, their family and friends can contact the Veterans & Military Crisis Line 24 hours a day, every day. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, or text to 838255.
  • Alaska Community Mental Health Centers provide emergency mental health services 24-hours a day, seven days a week.