Tips for Coping After Getting Into a Car Accident
Car accidents are one of the most common causes of trauma and stress that exist. A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found that men consider it the most frequently occurring traumatic event in their lives, and women consider it the second most frequent traumatic event. Symptoms experienced by people after a motor vehicle accident include, emotional distress and mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Those who are not at fault for their accident may start to experience feelings of helplessness while those who are at fault may start to experience feelings of guilt. Regardless of fault, anyone in an accident who sustains injuries severe enough to necessitate a long hospital stay, is likely to experience stress. People in a car accident may also be involved in a related lawsuit afterward which could increase their stress and hamper their recovery. Among the most common of stress reactions to an accident is panic, and a phobia of driving or of being a passenger in a vehicle while another person is driving. Fortunately, most stress related consequences of a car accident dissipate on their own entirely within a year of the incident. However, there are methods you can use to reduce the time it takes to recover and cope with the symptoms of trauma after a car accident.
Seek Help Early
The longer you wait to seek help coping from a car accident, the worse you may feel, and the harder it may be to get back to a place of feeling whole, safe and well. Many people only visit their primary care physician for treatment of the physical results of the accident, and completely forego visiting a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist for treatment of the mental and emotional consequences of the accident. Yet, according to recent research, around half of people who fail to seek treatment for PTSD, have continued symptoms for six months to a year, or more. Therefore, the earlier you seek out psychological treatment after a car accident, the quicker and easier that part of your recovery is likely to be.
Be Where You Are
It is important to accept what you are feeling and experiencing. Fighting your feelings is not going to make them go away. It will only make you feel worse for having those feelings and being unable to make them go away. Give yourself the time you need to heal from the traumatic incident. Be patient with yourself and the pace of your own recovery. Do not judge yourself for what happened or what you are going through. Do not compare your recovery to that of others, and do not attempt to force yourself to heal faster than your natural healing process ordains. Recognize that difficult and, even potentially volatile feelings may surface, and let yourself experience them without being overwhelmed by them.
Return to Routine
Human beings derive comfort from routine. The sooner you can return to your own routine, the sooner it can serve to help you recover from the unexpected diversion cause by an accident. Some people avoid routine when processing difficult thoughts and emotions, but the truth is that your routine can help put you in the right mindset to let those thoughts and emotions work themselves out while you get back to your familiar flow and pace.
As mentioned, helplessness can be a common emotion experienced after a car accident, fortunately, there are many ways you can combat it. Volunteer for a worthy cause or if that sounds like too much, offer to help your neighbors with a task they may be unable to accomplish by themselves. Helping to empower others is one of the most powerful and effective ways to feel empowered yourself.
Move Your Body
Most people are aware now of the connection between exercise and lowered stress. There is a proven link between your physical and mental state. When your body feels good, it is easier for your brain to feel good as well. Therefore, if you cannot lift your spirits at the moment, try to move your body. Dance. Work out. Do yoga, calisthenics or aerobics. Anything that gets your joints moving and your blood pumping helps send oxygen to your brain, feeding and fueling it with the nourishment you need to feel more relaxed and energized.
Connect With Others
Reach out to friends, family and coworkers for support. Seek out a support group of other people who have undergone traumatizing car accidents. You will quickly find out that you are not alone which can make you feel better. Simply knowing that other people have gone through a similarly traumatic experience, can go a long way toward making you feel less ashamed of what you are going through. Moreover, hearing the stories of others can also empower you with the practical lessons s that you can then apply to your own life.
People use a number of different crutches to avoid fully experiencing their feelings and thinking their thoughts. When trying to cope with the stress and trauma of a car accident, cloudy thinking and negative feelings can have a counterproductive effect. Therefore, avoid alcohol, tobacco, drugs, junk food and excessive television or news radio as you work to restore your mental and emotional wellness after an experience as traumatic as a car accident.