How To Deal With Psychological Trauma – More than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, and facing uncertainty around the globe, studies have shown increases in stress and anxiety among American adults, with some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or what is called post-covid stress.

According to Dr. JoAnn Difede, assistant psychologist at the NewYork-Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical Center, an increase in feelings of moodiness, difficulty sleeping and concentration, irritability and anxiety, among other symptoms, is to be experienced. Although some people may be more at risk for these symptoms than others, the effects of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, whether it is a car accident, a serious illness, or any perceived threat to you or for the life of a loved one, takes a toll. your nervous system doesn’t care who you are.

How To Deal With Psychological Trauma

How To Deal With Psychological Trauma

Stress and anxiety can be explained in three words: fight, flight, or freeze – activating your sympathetic nervous system, which is your body’s involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations, causing a cascade of psychobiological events, such as ‘and changes in cognition, a flood. of hormones to increase alertness and heart rate, and an influx of blood to the muscles to prepare the body for action.

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“As humans, we often think that if the problem seems huge, the solution must be, and that’s not really the case.” – Dr. JoAnn Difede

Although this is an evolutionary advantage, Dr. Difede points out, the problem is that the body does not always know how to turn off these feelings.

“We don’t know how to do risk,” says Dr. Difede, who is also a professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Our brain keeps looking for the enemy.” This can lead to avoidance, increased substance use, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and persistent feelings of stress or a sense of vigilance.

“Often, the threat to a person is clear to them and they are faced with a choice of what to do, but since the threat of COVID-19 is invisible and society has been faced with that threat for so long, your body he is constantly preparing to fight, flee, or freeze, he perceives danger literally everywhere,” says Dr. Difede.

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For two decades, Dr. Difede has worked to develop innovative treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including virtual reality exposure therapy, which immerses people in detailed scenarios based on their experiences to help to gradually approach the memories, the feelings of trauma. , and situations to reduce PTSD symptoms. To date, she and her team have treated hundreds of patients, including active duty military, veterans, burn victims, cancer and 9/11 survivors, as well as firefighters, police officers, rescue workers and disaster recovery, and health workers. Today, as a pioneer in the field, she is at the forefront of research and focuses on developing treatments for health care and other essential workers and survivors of COVID-19 facing PTSD related to the pandemic. This research includes projects focused on medical music intervention to address PTSD-related sleep disturbances, as well as narrative writing, interpersonal therapy, and prolonged exposure therapy, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy to approach gradually to memories of trauma.

She emphasizes that no matter who you are, this has been a uniquely challenging and traumatic time in many ways, exacerbated by reduced social connection as we retreat to our homes or isolate ourselves from our loved ones for a while to reduce the spread.

“Everyone has the same vulnerability, whether they’re civilians or first responders,” he says. “There is a dose relationship with trauma, and while healthcare workers and other frontline workers may have had higher doses of trauma, we are all human and our brains are wired the same way.”

How To Deal With Psychological Trauma

“As humans, we often think that if the problem seems huge, the solution must be, and that’s not really the case,” he says.

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Even if your life doesn’t need a schedule, it helps to keep one. It can be as simple as “wake up, have breakfast and make bed”. Keeping a schedule is a way to keep you grounded when you’re feeling stressed.

If you don’t have to go to work at 7 o’clock, that’s fine, but make sure you normalize getting up at a regular time and going to bed at a regular time. While an extra dessert or glass of wine is fine sometimes, avoid overindulging.

Exercise is one of the best mental and physical things we can do for ourselves, because when you exercise, your brain produces a lot of chemicals to relieve stress and counteract that sympathetic nervous response. If you’re not currently exercising, start by just taking a walk around your block and build up from there.

Whether you like to spend hours by yourself or need lots of people around, taking time to have social interactions is important. There are challenges if you always communicate with people on technology, but always try to find ways to make these connections.

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The biggest threat to changing your habits for good is becoming overwhelmed and giving up too easily. Set small, realistic goals so you don’t get frustrated. Try to make a plan and stick to it as best you can. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time to implement new habits. Persistence is key.

There is abundant research on positive psychology and happiness. Showing gratitude and optimism is not only nice to do, it’s good for your health. When you do something nice for someone else, it not only makes them feel good, but it also makes you feel better.

If you engage your brain in different things, it is harder to be anxious and harder to think about all the stressful things. Simple things like reading a book by yourself or with your children can become a useful habit.

How To Deal With Psychological Trauma

Talk to your doctor. The concept of seeking help for your mental health can be intimidating, but if your doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol, you should take the necessary steps to correct it. Think about your mental health in the same terms because it is essential. Don’t discriminate your brain. If you experience symptoms for a prolonged period of time, such as difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, or irritability, talk to your health care provider.

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You can also take advantage of mental health and mindfulness apps, which can be easily accessed on a computer or smartphone and provide you with some relief.

Give it a break. Consider where we are and what we’ve been through as a society. As individuals, we cannot create change overnight, but we can appreciate and accept where we are and what we have. Many people are not exactly where they want to be in life, and the world is not always what we want it to be. It’s easier said than done, but accepting that you won’t feel good every day is an important part of life.

Learn more about trauma treatment at the Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies and find psychiatric and behavioral health services offered at NewYork-Presbyterian. Distressing events in life – whether expected or unexpected – can trigger a trauma response in all of us. Common unexpected events include being assaulted or robbed, being in a car or bicycle accident, having a traumatic medical experience (eg, childbirth, invasive surgery), or bullying at work. Even where the distressing event is expected, as is the case with certain occupations such as first responders (e.g. police, firefighters, ambulance officers and paramedics) and frontline healthcare workers (e.g. nurses , doctors), the events that attend can lead to trauma.

Trauma is a psychological, emotional and physical response to an experience that is very distressing or disturbing. It can happen only once – like in a car accident or a very difficult childbirth experience, or it can be repeated over time in cases of abuse, war and torture. Fear, helplessness and horror are reactions that we see in the trauma, and they can affect you at the time it happens, or emerge later.

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Everyone responds differently to traumatic events, and our reactions are shaped by our previous life experiences, personality, how supportive our network is, and whether we have been exposed to past traumas. Despite this, there are some common symptoms that we all experience.

While these are unpleasant, they are considered “normal reactions” in the weeks following the critical incident you experienced. To help ease your distress in the short term, try the following tips:

Of course, everyone’s response to a traumatic event is different and is shaped by personality, coping mechanisms, support and previous trauma experiences. Sometimes the stress you have following a challenging event can turn into a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Below we outline what to look for, and then we have our tip sheet on Tips for coping with trauma (scroll below!).

How To Deal With Psychological Trauma

In general, Post-Traumatic Stress symptoms are indicated if you continue to experience the following approximately four weeks after the incident [2]:

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Depending on the incident you were involved in, below are some common examples we’ve seen when these “normal reactions” point to Post Traumatic Stress. If you notice that what you are experiencing is getting in the way of living your life as usual, maybe it is time to reach out.

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