Division of Student Affairs


Coping with Trauma


Many people experience trauma at some point in their lives. It is caused by being the victim of, or witness to, a serious accident, death of a loved one, imminent danger, assault, rape, terrorism and many other events.  The shock of a major trauma can be sudden and is often intense. It can be difficult to manage and can have a very powerful effect on you both emotionally and physically. 

Coping with stress after trauma is not always automatic.  It takes time and you may need the help of a professional.  You can benefit from talking to others who also experienced the trauma.  If you have had a strong reaction to a traumatic event, you may still have other reactions as time goes on and that is normal!


You may experience few or many of the following symptoms in varying degrees of severity:

Physical Reactions:  
  1. Nausea  
  2. Upset Stomach 
  3. Tremors 
  4. Chills  
  5.  Diarrhea
  6. Dizziness – headaches 
  7. Rapid heart beat 
  8. Rapid breathing  
  9. Muscle aches  
10. Sweating  

Thought Reactions:
1. Slowed thinking
  2. Difficulty making decisions
  3. Difficulty problem solving
  4. Confusion with time and place
  5. Difficulty concentrating
  6. Memory loss
  7. Seeing event over and over (replaying the event in your head)
  8. Nightmares
  9. Poor attention span
10. Avoiding feelings

Emotional Reactions:
1. Anxiety
  2. Fear
  3. Guilt
  4. Sadness
  5. Grief
  6. Depression
  7. Feeling lost
  8. Feeling alone
  9. Anger
10. Wanting to hide (withdrawal and isolation)


Experiencing a traumatic event can be very overwhelming. Talking with others who have been through it with you or through a similar situation can help. Sometimes, you feel the need to tell your story again and again – that’s okay. It is important to find someone to talk to who is a good listener. Whether it’s a friend, family member or counselor, telling your story is important!

Some people feel better when they do nice things for themselves. That’s a good idea.  Try and keep a regular schedule so that your life can get back to normal as soon as possible.  If you are unable to deal with the trauma or associated symptoms, or what you are experiencing prevents you from maintaining your regular way of life, you may need to talk with a mental health professional.  Talking to a counselor about these feelings can be very useful in allowing yourself to heal while exploring how the trauma impacts you in a safe and confidential setting. 


The following is a list of positive self-care tools that can be very helpful when dealing with a trauma. Be honest about how you feel and be patient with yourself, this process takes time!
Allow yourself to feel upset – but also try and do nice things for yourself.

Take a warm bath.
Call a friend.
Talk with a family member or significant other.
Wrap yourself in a comfortable blanket.
Drink some tea or hot chocolate.
Go for a walk.
Watch a favorite funny movie.
Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
Maintain your regular daily schedule.
Do yoga.
Take a nap.
Read a good book.
Get creative – (draw, write poetry, journal, cook, paint, etc)
Get plenty of rest.
Breathe deep.
Allow yourself to cry when needed.
Clean your room.
Remember to eat regularly with well balanced meals.
Seek help if feelings become too intense.  

See the “Stress Management” and “Anxiety” links on how to help yourself feel better when dealing with symptoms of trauma. If symptoms last, or you are feeling overwhelmed, you can contact Counseling Services for assistance.


Counseling Center, Midtown Student Center Room 222,
Phone: 203.837.8690, Email: CounselingCenter@wcsu.edu, Fax:203.837.8416