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Coping with trauma: Stress management strategies for Stress Awareness Month

By Amy Clowrey

Published In: Child Abuse

April is Stress Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about stress and its impact on our lives. Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, but when it becomes overwhelming or chronic, it can have detrimental effects on our mental and physical well-being. This is especially true for individuals who have experienced trauma, as the effects of trauma can exacerbate stress levels and make coping even more challenging. In this blog, we'll explore stress management strategies, particularly focusing on coping mechanisms following trauma.

Image of a Worried young man

Understanding trauma and stress

Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that overwhelms an individual's ability to cope. It can result from various events, such as accidents, natural disasters, violence, or abuse. When someone experiences trauma, their sense of safety and security may be shattered, leading to profound emotional and distress.

Stress is the body's response to demands or pressures, whether they are real or perceived. When faced with trauma, the body's stress response can become heightened, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, and intrusive thoughts. Coping with stress following trauma requires intentional effort and the adoption of healthy coping strategies.

The impact of child sexual abuse

Survivors of abuse often have a number of mental health difficulties which are directly related to the horrific abuse that they have endured and so offering a ‘top tips’ for managing this would not be appropriate, other than to advise survivors to seek support of medical professionals and survivor organisations who understand the impact that sexual abuse has upon an individual.

It is, however, really important to be honest with the people around you. Unless medical professionals know the true extent of what has happened to you, they cannot properly diagnose and treat. This is something that we come across time and time again. It takes a lot of courage for survivors to come forward and it often takes years for the extent of the trauma to be relayed to medical professionals, who in the meantime are trying to guess the cause of ongoing mental ill-health and diagnosing generic conditions such as anxiety and depression, when it’s much more deep-routed. For example, sexual abuse survivors often suffer from which is not treated the same was as anxiety and depression.

If you have suffered trauma, whether it sexual or other, please ensure you are honest with medical professionals so that you can get the right treatment. With the right treatment there is usually scope for improved symptoms and, in turn, a better quality of life.

What is important to note, is that feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment are completely normal in survivors. Many survivors often live for years thinking that the abuse was, in some way, their fault. Please be assured, it was never your fault.

The impact on loved ones

We don’t often talk about the impact of abuse on loved ones, but loving a person who has suffered abuse can be incredibly difficult. Not knowing how to manage their symptoms but also not knowing what is the right thing to say can certainly take its toll, and that’s without discussing the worry for their wellbeing.

It’s crucial that those supporting survivors of abuse access their own independent support. Without this loved ones can suffer their own trauma, often referred to as vicarious or second-hand trauma.

Remember, coping with trauma-related stress is a journey, and it's okay to seek support and take things one step at a time. Be gentle with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. By incorporating these stress management strategies into your life, you can begin to reclaim a sense of control and resilience in the face of adversity.

As we observe Stress Awareness Month, let's raise awareness about the importance of stress management, particularly for those who have experienced trauma. By fostering understanding and support, we can create a more compassionate and resilient community where individuals feel empowered to seek help and prioritise their mental health and well-being.

Helpful resources

Lifecentre : A small team of qualified therapists who provide support and trauma-informed therapy for people who have had an unwanted sexual experience.

National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) : Offers support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.

The Survivors Trust: Providing specialist support for women, men and children who have survived rape, sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse.

Victim Support: An independent charity dedicated to supporting victims of crime and traumatic incidents in England and Wales.

Basis Young People / Basis Boys : Provides support for those who have been sexually or criminally exploited.

SARSVL: The SARSVL helpline is here to support women and girls 13+ affected by sexual violence, at any time in their lives.

Women’s counselling and therapy service: Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service (WCTS) offers a free or low cost accessible counselling and psychotherapy service for Leeds women, including transgender women, on low incomes.

Men’s support groups: Groups including Andy’s Man Club , Ben’s Place and Leeds Dads provide access to peer support and help for issues like housing and finances.

Survivors UK: The team offer support, help and information and can tell you more about other services available, including face-to-face counselling in your area or free online and telephone counselling.

Ben’s Place: Survivors West Yorkshire (SWY) and its male-focused Ben's Place online trauma-informed counseling service is survivor-led and focused.

The Market Place: They offer a range of services including one to one support, counselling, group-work and drop-in sessions to 11-25 year olds.

To speak to one of our specialist child abuse solicitors about your situation in confidence, call us on on 0800 1380 458, or get in touch via our form.

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Amy has worked in the legal sector for 13 years. She is a Director in our Child Abuse Compensation team.

Director and Solicitor

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