Have you witnessed, or been involved in a traumatic event?


If so, you’ll probably be experiencing a variety of reactions – you may feel stressed or find difficulty concentrating. You may be having nightmares or flashbacks, feeling irritable and angry. If so, remember that these are normal reactions to an abnormal event. Read this tipsheet and, if you need help, call the Equilibrio Student Support Line on 800969239

After a sudden, unforeseen traumatic event takes place it is common for us to feel as though we are alone, and our reactions to it may feel overwhelming. It’s at times like these that the support and comfort from others helps to put the event back into context, and for us to feel stability.

Immediately after a shock, your heart beats faster, your energy levels may fluctuate, you can feel sick or your mouth becomes dry. Your legs may get wobbly and shake. Trying to talk is difficult and your thoughts race.

As well as the physical response, you may also become aware of a range of thoughts, feelings and reactions both immediately and over the next few weeks. For example:













Blaming yourself or others







On ‘automatic pilot’

Difficulty sleeping

Throwing yourself into your work/studies

Can’t concentrate on anything

Drinking more than usual

No appetite

 Avoiding anything connected to the incident

Withdrawing from people or situations

Unusual outbursts of emotion

Wandering around aimlessly




You may be worried about yourself and some of these reactions. However, this is a natural process as your mind and body attempt to make sense of what has happened and what has changed.

Although these immediate reactions can be distressing, people do recover well from all sorts of traumatic events. Here are some suggestions to help you in your recovery:

  • Remind yourself that you are experiencing NORMAL REACTIONS to an ABNORMAL EVENT
  • Talk and write about your experiences when you feel ready
  • Look after your physical self: gentle exercise, eating and sleeping well will help you regain a sense of balance
  • Avoid stressful situations, delay making major decisions
  • Try to do simple, ‘normal’ daily activities that help you to regain a sense of feeling ‘in control’
  • Develop a routine to help life feel more manageable
  • Avoid over-use of alcohol and caffeine
  • As time goes by you may find yourself in a period of reflection about the people in your life that you feel strongly about, or your academic study, your priorities, and how you feel about the way you live. Again it is important not to make any major decisions or changes immediately. Instead, use the time to ponder upon these thoughts; it can sometimes help to write about how you’re feeling and the changes that you’re noticing. During this period, which is often referred to as ‘post-traumatic growth’ you may at times feel uneasy. However, remind yourself that you are simply in a process, as you reflect upon and re-evaluate what’s important to you in life.
  • Show this leaflet to your family and friends. Let them know what the ‘normal responses to an abnormal event’ can be. Remind yourself and your family that they too may experience some of these responses as they support you… and that if they do, again, it’s entirely normal and to be expected.

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