Strategies for Coping with Fear after a Traumatic Event

After witnessing, experiencing, or hearing about the details of a violent or threatening event, many people experience a heightened sense of vulnerability or fear. In order to better manage this fear reaction, the following suggestions are offered:

  1. Validate the fear. Know that it is normal to feel fear and accept the range of emotions you are experiencing.
  2. Share the fear with others. Meeting with others who are willing/able to listen to your fear or to share their fear reactions with you can be helpful. Even if you do not feel like talking, being with others who are experiencing the same feelings and talking about them can be useful.
  3. Find ways not to be alone. Spend time with others in order to provide a safe, comforting environment for yourself. If fears are more intense at night, invite a friend to spend the night with you or go to their home or room.
  4. Share responsibilities for tasks that are difficult or frightening for you to do. Any activities associated with a traumatic event can be more difficult for awhile. Find ways of sharing those tasks until they become less frightening.
  5. Strategize how to react in a crisis. Develop steps and organization that can be useful in responding to a crisis.
  6. Create a safe environment. Take time to critically evaluate the physical surroundings in which you live and work and find ways to increase your sense of safety.
  7. Get accurate information about the trauma. Get useful, accurate information in a crisis. Avoid people who exaggerate or catastrophize about events. With accurate information you have more power with which to deal with the event or your reactions to it.
  8. Recognize the normal reactions to fear. Get useful, accurate information about normal reactions to trauma. It is easier to deal with intense reactions when you can remember that such “abnormal” reactions are really normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
  9. Remember that you cannot control everything. No one is able to completely predict, prevent or control the actions of others or all situations that might arise. Integrating this fact into your view of your life is psychologically healthy and can help you better assess what those things are that you can have some control over.
  10. Realize that the passage of time will decrease your fear response. The passage of time is aided by taking steps such as those listed above.

If over time your fear reactions to a traumatic life event continue to significantly affect your daily functioning, professional assistance may be of benefit.