Coping with Fear and Anxiety Following a Traumatic Event

It’s normal to feel anxious and afraid after experiencing a trauma like a sudden loss, natural disaster, a catastrophe or an act of violence. It’s normal to feel fearful for weeks, months, or even years after a trauma. If you experienced a personal tragedy or hardship, such as the death of a classmate or loved one, difficult emotions can feel even more intense.

Following a trauma, you may have fears about flying, fires, being in tall buildings, driving, or other fears for your safety or a loved one’s safety that are not even directly related to the events. Reminders and events can act as triggers and bring back painful memories and emotions for months   or even years.

Here are Some Ways to Cope:

  • Remember that most people are not quite themselves after a trauma. It’s normal to experience some or all the following symptoms.

– sadness and crying

– inability to concentrate

– fear and anxiety

– sleep problems

– distressing dreams

– a general sense of uneasiness

– outbursts of anger

– depression

– irritability

  • Realize that your mood and feelings may be intense and constantly changing. You may be more irritable than usual, or your mood may change dramatically from one day to the next.
  • Spend extra time with the people you love and trust: friends, relatives, teachers and others. Talk about the recent events and about how you are feeling. Share your anxieties and concerns with them.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well-balanced meals, and try to stick to regular routines. It’s important to try to maintain normal routines and keep to a regular pattern of eating and sleeping to ensure that you have the strength to cope with stress.
  • Limit your exposure to news coverage. Too much media coverage can heighten your anxiety. If news stories make you anxious, limit yourself to one newscast a day. Avoid social media, which can often contain false information and strong opinions which may include anger, blame and generalizations.

Coping in the Weeks and Months to Come:

  • Get as much exercise as possible. Many people find that exercise helps relieve stress. Taking a walk, exercising, listening to music, or reading for pleasure are all ways to relieve stress.
  • Seek support from your faith community.
  • Talk with a counselor or other professional if your fears or emotions are affecting your personal or work life. For example, if you notice that you are very irritable or have a short fuse, or if your fears are interfering with your ability to cope,
  • If you are having nightmares of past traumas or overwhelming feelings of sadness, grief, or fear, seek support from a professional. Traumatic events can trigger memories of past losses or events.
  • Avoid watching disturbing programs just before bedtime. If you watch television to unwind, remember that certain kinds of programs — news coverage, for example, or suspense and action programs — can make it hard to fall asleep. Strive to end your day with positive thoughts.
  • Be strong for your children. If your children, see you keeping your fears in perspective and finding positive ways to cope, they’ll learn to do the same. Stress that you are there to take care of your child. Remember to say, “I love you. I’m here to take care of you.”
  • Avoid using alcohol or illegal drugs to handle your emotions.
  • Avoid spending time with people who make you feel more anxious.
  • Seek help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family or to seek help from a professional if you continue to have trouble coping.


© 2001, 2004 Ceridian Corporation. All rights reserved.

This article is an example of the information offered through Ceridian’s Work Life and EAP Services.

Ceridian is making the article available as a public service. It may be copied and distributed to anyone affected by a natural disaster.

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