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Explains what trauma is and how it affects your mental health, including how you can help yourself, what treatments are available and how to overcome barriers to getting the right support. Also includes tips for people who want to support someone who has gone through trauma.
Coping with the effects of trauma can feel difficult or exhausting, but there are lots of things that could help. This page has some suggestions for you to consider:
Certain experiences, situations or people might seem to trigger reactions like flashbacks, panic attacks or dissociation. These can include reminders of past trauma, such as smells, sounds, words, places or particular types of books or films.
Some people find things difficult on significant dates, such as the anniversary of a traumatic experience. Particular seasons or times of year might also be hard for you, such as the Christmas period.
Recording your moods in a diary could help you spot patterns in what triggers difficult experiences, or notice early signs that they are beginning to happen.
Lots of people who go through trauma find it hard to open up to others. This might be because you’re unable to share what has happened or can't remember it clearly. But you don't need to be able to describe the trauma to tell someone how you are currently feeling.
It could help to talk to someone in your life who you trust, or a professional such as a GP or a trained listener at a helpline. You may feel more comfortable opening up to people you know than professionals, or you may find it easier to approach a professional (such as your doctor). There's no right or wrong way round.
You can find details of helplines on our pages on useful contacts for trauma, useful contacts for PTSD and helplines and listening services. For more about talking to your doctor, see our Find the Words guide.
"Some days are just as they used to be when I get lost and frightened and hideaway from everyone and everything, but even on those days I feel I have enough within me now to know that they will pass."
Everyone has their own individual response to trauma and it's important to take things at your own pace. Try to be gentle and patient with yourself.
"I refer to my bad days as a ‘write off’, and on those days I forgive myself for not participating in daily activities. I accept that my mind and body need to just rest and do nothing."
People who go through trauma can sometimes feel pressure from those around them to 'move on' but it is important to recognise that coping with trauma often takes time and is not a straightforward or linear process.
While coping or recovering after trauma is different for everyone, you might find you go through some distinct stages. These are often thought to include:
Whether or not you find it helpful to think in terms of these stages, it's important to remember that it can take time and support to be able to cope and there are likely to be good days and bad days.
"Learning to sew and recently to crochet... has brought me into contact with others with the same interests in environments where I can feel safe... it helps me to focus and stay still, as well as producing something which is beautiful."
"I have to be patient and trust in my recovery. It won’t happen overnight. I’ve learned that I need to find ways to relax, whether it be mindfulness, reading, gaming or becoming invested in a new television series."
You could put together some things that might help you when you’re struggling – a bit like making a first-aid kit for your mental health.
"When life is hectic me-time is crucial."
Peer support brings together people who have had similar experiences, which some people find very helpful. To find peer support, you could:
For more information, see our page on peer support.
If you're seeking peer support on the internet, it's important to look after your online wellbeing. See our page on how to stay safe online for more information.
It can also be helpful to see if your local area has a recovery college.
Recovery colleges offer courses about mental health and recovery in a supportive environment. You can find local providers on the Mind Recovery Net website.
"[I] dye my hair to give myself a fresh look. I always make a happy playlist and just dance around the house in my pyjamas [...]. The tiny things which make me happy have helped me get myself back into work."
You might find it useful to contact an organisation that specialises in advice and support for coping with trauma, such as ASSIST Trauma Care.
It could also be helpful to find an organisation with expertise in the particular type of trauma you have experienced. For details of specialist organisations, see our pages on useful contacts for trauma and useful contacts for PTSD.
If you've gone through domestic violence, the Freedom Programme might be helpful for you. Find out more on the Freedom Programme website.
Looking after your physical health can make a difference to how you feel emotionally. For example, it can help to:
"Exercise helps me a lot. I swim, run and do yoga, and it means I can control some of the restless energy from having to constantly be on alert."
See our pages on improving and maintaining your mental wellbeing and how to increase your self-esteem for more suggestions. Or you can read Rhiannon's blog about how sea swimming has helped her mental health.
Lots of people who've gone through trauma have problems sleeping. You might find it hard to fall or stay asleep, feel unsafe during the night, or feel anxious or afraid of having nightmares.
Some people find it helps to:
See our page on coping with sleep problems for more information.
Watch Stuart's vlog on how he uses doodling to cope with panic attacks.
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2022.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.