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The average guy wouldn’t compare his high-school car wreck to a firefight in Fallujah. But according to a Harvard medical school study, three out of five men have experienced at least one major trauma in their lifetimes.
Here are some techniques to employ if posttraumatic stress disorder visits your home front.
The Trauma: Sudden Job Loss
The technique: Stick to specific daily and weekly routines to stay focused, says John A. Fairbank, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University medical center.
Feeling especially anxious? Schedule an intense workout, and snack on pistachios—a third of a cup can relax your arteries and keep your blood pressure from spiking in stressful situations, say Penn State researchers.
The Trauma: Robbery
The technique: Emotional memories will detonate your brain’s fear center, as well as its memory bank, say Duke University researchers.
Next up: A paranoid protection instinct that you’ll have difficulty shaking. Writing about the experience can siphon off some of the stress, according to a study review in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
Your kids will sense your anxiety; give them a chance to ask questions. Answer honestly or you’ll just provide more reason to worry.
The Trauma: Being a Car-Accident Victim
The technique: In the immediate aftermath, look for short-term, feel-good solutions. A massage can cut a third of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, say University of Miami researchers.
For long-term help, focus on the hard facts of the accident, says Mark Lerner, Ph.D., chairman of the National Center for Crisis Management. Logical thinking, based on fact, can reveal irrational beliefs about the accident—an important first step in overcoming guilt or anger.
The Trauma: Being the At-Fault Driver in a Crash
The technique: Separate the guilt for your mistake from excessive remorse over things you can’t change. Identify what you should have done differently, but give yourself at least this much credit: You did not intentionally cause the wreck.
By focusing on your missteps, such as speeding or inattention, you can channel your guilt into changing your habits, says Loretta Malta, Ph.D., an instructor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
The Trauma: Sudden Death of a Loved One
The technique: Try having a friend interview you, on CD or tape, about the relationship you lost. Listening to the recording can help you face the reality of the death and overcome the shock, says George Bonanno, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Columbia University.
Try focusing your grief into a mourning ritual, like visiting the place that person loved, to clear your mind for the rest of the day, says Bonanno.