Nine tips for vets on managing reactions to traumatic events


An unidentified soldier holds flowers dropped off at Fort Hood's main gate for shooting victims, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in Fort Hood, Tex. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Research shows that even watching media coverage of traumatic events, such as Wednesday's shooting at Fort Hood, can trigger strong reactions in people who have been through trauma, loss, or hardship themselves. Here are tips on how veterans can manage their reactions to the stress of such events. They come from the National Center on PTSD at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and are applicable to vets regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • Consider limiting your exposure to news on television. Media coverage may draw you in, but increased viewing can raise stress levels. Watch yourself for signs of anger, rage, depression, worry, or other negative feelings. Take a time out from the news to let yourself recover from these feelings.
  • Keep up with daily schedules and routines. Try to include pleasant activities in your day, even for brief periods of time.
  • Keep up with your body's needs for exercise, food, and sleep.
  • Feel what you feel. It is normal to feel a range of emotions. Having these feelings is to be expected. How you deal with them is most important.
  • Slow down. Give yourself time and space to deal with what has happened. Each person has his or her own pace for dealing with trauma.
  • Count on feeling angry, but balance your actions with wisdom. Try to stay calm. Try to avoid reacting with sudden anger.
  • Talk with someone close to you who might understand what you are going through.
  • If you do not feel like talking, writing in a journal can be a helpful way to deal with intense feelings.
  • Do not avoid other veterans, even if they remind you of your military past. Seeking support along with them can be very helpful when stress is high. You can find other veterans through the VA, Vet Centers, and Veteran's Service Organizations.
Lenny Bernstein writes the To Your Health blog. He started as an editor on the Post’s National Desk in 2000 and has worked in Metro and Sports.
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