After a Trauma or Disaster

Managing A Traumatic Situation

It is common for individuals to experience distressing reactions like feeling anxious or afraid. It’s also common to think about the event often, even if you were not directly involved. No reactions are wrong or right. Most responses are just normal ways of reacting to the situation.

Common Reactions of Survivors of Traumatic Events or Disasters:

Emotional Reactions

Physical Reactions

  • Emptiness
  • Numbness
  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Irritability
  • Feeling alone (i.e. no one else understands)


  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty concentrating










Talk About It. 
One of the most helpful things to do is to connect with others. Avoid isolating yourself. Talk with someone about your emotions, even though 
it may be difficult to get started.

Tips for Coping:

Take Care of Your Physical Health. 
Rest, eat healthy meals and snacks when they are available, and drink plenty of water. Calm Yourself. 
Move the stress hormones out of your body:

  • Deep breathing. Breathing that emphasizes the exhale is really helpful in reducing stress. Simple exercises like walking or gentle stretching such as yoga helps get rid of stress.
  • Give Yourself a Break. Take breaks from watching news coverage of the event or engaging with social media.
  • Avoid Using Alcohol and other Drugs. 
 They will not help you deal with stress, especially right after a traumatic event. They usually just make things worse.
  • Get Back to Your Daily Routines. 
Do the things you would traditionally do, even if you don’t feel like it. It’s a good way to regain a sense of control and help you feel less anxious.
  • Get Involved in Your Community. Engaging in positive activities like group discussions, candlelight vigils, and faith services can help bring you comfort and promote healing.

If a trauma was caused by violence, it is common to be angry with people who have caused great pain. Remember nothing good comes out of more violence or hateful acts.

How Long Do Grief Reactions Last?

For some people, grief lasts a few months; for others, it may take more than a year. It’s different for each person depending on health, coping styles, culture, family supports, and other life experiences. How long people grieve may also depend on the resilience of the community and the ability of its members to take on roles and responsibilities that will help restore the basic needs of the community, such as getting back to school and work again.


Counseling Center
Saints Tekakwitha & Serra Hall 300
Phone:  619-260-4655

The easiest way to secure services is by visiting the online USD MyWellness Portal. Also, you can call to make an appointment.

Counseling Center Emergency Services
The counselor-on call is available to consult about after-hours psychological emergencies at all times. The counselor-on call can be reached by calling Public Safety (x2222 on any campus telephone, otherwise call 619-260-2222).

University Ministry
Founders Hall 20
Phone: 619-260-4735

USD Public Safety
Hughes Center 150
Emergency Phone: 619-260-2222 or ext. 2222
Non-Emergency Phone: 619-260-7777 or ext. 7777

Employee Assistance Program
(Counseling Support for USD Employees)
Phone: 1-800-342-8111
Login ID: USD
Password: eap

Disaster Distress Helpline
(Counseling Support for all community members)
Phone: 1-800-985-5990
Text: “Talk WithUS” to 66746
Spanish-speakers: Text “Hablanos” to 66746
TTY for Deaf / Hearing Impaired: Phone: 1-800-846-8517

The Disaster Distress Helpline is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round, 24 hours a day, immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.

San Diego Access and Crisis Lifeline
(Support for all community members)
Phone: 888-724-7240
Offers crisis intervention, information, & referrals.

If you, a friend, or community member continues to experience emotional distress for 2 – 4 weeks after the traumatic event please consult with a professional counselor.