Counseling & Psychological Services

Information & Self-Screenings
Coping with Difficult Events

You came to college to learn, find friends, network, and have fun. Unfortunately, you may also experience loss, a traumatic event, or violence. Whether it be a natural disaster, accident, or human act, it can be very difficult to cope with such critical life events.

Even if you are not hurt physically, traumatic events have significant emotional impact. Strong emotional reactions are expected and “normal” after experiencing an abnormal event. Some typical reactions include:

Denial
Numbness
Confusion
Disconnectedness
Irritability
Intestinal distress
Anger
Anxiety
Agitation
Flashbacks
Difficulty with decisions
Headaches
Disrupted sleep
Nightmares
Change in appetite
Relationship conflict
Avoidance
Muscle tension
Recovery

Understanding that certain reactions are “normal” following critical life events can help you on the road to recovery. It is also important to know that every individual will have their own pattern of emotional response – no two people are alike. To make it even more complicated, your reactions will change over time. Some people respond immediately, while others have delayed reactions. Some people will recover quickly, while others will take longer to recover. Many people will re-experience some symptoms on the anniversaries of the events – a month, a year, etc.

Start your recovery by considering the following:

  • Take a break

    Your body and mind need time away from the event in order to heal. Limit the amount of time that you think about the situation or watch details about the tragedy on TV. Spend time focusing on something other than the current event. Taking a break does not mean you don't care...it means you are making sure you have the mental energy to do what you need to do...after a break.

  • Eat and rest

    Even though you may not feel hungry or think you have too many things to do, you need to fuel and rest. Your body needs energy to face the days ahead. Avoid excessive sweets and drink plenty of water.

  • Avoid excessive substance use

    What you put in your body does matter. Drugs or alcohol may dull the pain in the moment, but they ultimately make post-trauma symptoms worse. Caffeine is an initial stimulant that may contribute to anxiety and set you up for a bigger let down.

  • Connect with people

    Talking to people and being around others helps you to reconnect to the world. Seek out persons who care for and support you.  If you feel safe, you can talk about the event, but you can also take a break and talk about unrelated things. The important part is connecting with others.

  • Exercise

    You need rest, but with time you may also need to expend some of the nervous energy. Don’t overdo-it—you may be more tired than you realize.

  • Establish a routine

    Research indicates keeping focused on day to day required tasks or routines helps mitigate the effects of stress. Establish a regular routine as soon as possible. Structure will help you maintain focus and purpose.

  • Give yourself permission to think and feel

    You will have your own unique thoughts and feelings about what happened. Acknowledging and expressing them are essential to coping and healing. Once the immediate crisis has passed, take some time to reflect. If you are comfortable, share your reactions, thoughts and how the experience impacted you with others. If you aren’t comfortable talking with others, consider using art, such as drawings or poetry, or writing a journal of your experience or feelings. Remember, each person reacts differently - there is no right or wrong way to feel.

  • Practice relaxation techniques

    Whether you feel it or not, your body and mind are holding a great deal of tension. Relaxation techniques can help you manage the physical and emotional symptoms of stress and anxiety. Examples include: deep breathing, muscle relaxation, visualization, and meditation.

  • Engage in helping others

    When your immediate needs are taken care of, or if you witnessed an event, consider being a helper. For large events, financial donations, cards, or other types of support may be helpful to relief efforts.  Helping others often is the healthiest way to manage our own feelings of powerlessness.

  • Reach out

    Consider talking to a peer support person, mental health professional, or religious/spiritual leader. Other aids may include meditation, reading, spiritual refection or involvement in support groups.

  • Find your new normal

    You won’t forget what you experienced—it is now a part of your life. It is also important to recall what your life was like before the event and to begin to determine where you want to be in the future. All of this together will help you to find your new normal.

JagsCARE - Jaguar Coping And REsilience

JagsCARE is available to provide immediate and short term support to meet the emotional and psychological needs of individuals in the IUPUI Community impacted by a traumatic event. The goal is to stabilize and reduce post-trauma symptoms by providing support, information, and resources. The type of support will be tailored to address your specific needs or concerns.

JagsCARE is a team of individuals from across the campus community trained to work with individuals impacted by a traumatic event. Training includes a combination of the well-known crisis intervention approaches, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and Psychological First Aid (PFA).

For more information contact Rebecca Stempel, Kory Carey, or Julie Lash at CAPS (317) 274-2548 or email jagscare@iupui.edu