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How to Cope With the Anniversary of a Traumatic Event

Having a lived experience of trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder can cause a wide range of negative mental health symptoms from day to day. But the anniversary of the traumatic event is often particularly difficult, sometimes leading to a surge of symptoms or feeling like you’ve backtracked in your path to recovery.

These feelings are completely normal, and you shouldn’t let them make you think you’re heading in the wrong direction. The anniversary of a traumatic event can be a difficult time. But you can make it through these events with dignity and grace, provided you follow a few key steps to cope with the event successfully.

Coping Strategies

The path to dealing with an anniversary of a traumatic event is different for everyone. Not everybody reacts in the same way, and some people’s traumatic experiences aren’t always tied to a specific date. Before looking at the steps outlined below, recognize that you should do what’s best for you rather than trying to ascribe to a specific process.

That said, there are some common strategies that can help you cope if the anniversary is a particularly difficult time for you.

Make a Plan

If you know that the upcoming anniversary is going to be difficult, you should take steps to plan your day in a way that will help you to cope. Maybe this means clearing your schedule, taking some time alone, and not putting yourself into potentially triggering situations.

Maybe it’s just the opposite: making sure to have structured activities in place so that you can keep your mind off of things. This could mean spending time with friends and family, scheduling some self-care, or even making plans to participate in an activity you enjoy.

It is important to try to recognize what you’ll need for the day, anticipate what challenges you may face, and build an action plan for overcoming them. By putting structures in place to support your ability to cope, you provide yourself with a better chance of dealing with these problems successfully and not falling into a downward spiral.

Accept and Acknowledge Your Feelings

People who have lived through the experience of trauma often turn to suppressing their emotions, masking them with substance use, or trying to ignore them altogether. But only through acknowledging your experience can you learn to cope successfully — and accepting that the anniversary of a traumatic event can be difficult is part of this process.

It is entirely normal to feel difficult and overwhelming emotions, such as:

  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt

But turning to the default mode of repressing these feelings can only make it harder for you to cope with them in the future. Pushing emotions down doesn’t resolve them; it only makes them more difficult to overcome when they resurface.

It’s okay to feel these emotions. It’s okay to not be okay. The very nature of traumatic experiences is living through an incredibly distressing or catastrophic event, and having an emotional reaction is the natural response.

This doesn’t mean giving in to overwhelming negative emotions but rather accepting them when they come without pushing them away. Learning to process and deal with these feelings when they arise is the foundation of starting your work in recovery and a key element in transitioning from a victim to a survivor.

Find Support from Friends and Family

Recognizing that the anniversary of a traumatic event can be a difficult time, consider spending some of your time on the day with supportive family and friends. Social support can go a long way towards helping you cope with and manage a difficult emotional experience, and it can help ease the burden of the day.

For many people, feeling isolated or alone during the anniversary of a traumatic event can make challenges seem all-encompassing. Spending time with the people you care about most can go a long way, providing the comfort and support you need to make it through the day.

Trauma support groups can be a great place to find support as well. Visiting a support group on the anniversary of a traumatic event can pair you with other people who truly understand what you’re experiencing and may be able to empathise in ways that your friends and family may not.

Of course, if you have a therapist that you are working with to help resolve any lingering experiences of trauma, setting time aside to meet with them can provide expert-level support in this difficult time.

Engage in Self-Care Practices

Self-care practices cannot simply remove the stressors of the anniversary of a traumatic event, but they can help build your capacity for them. Self-care is a critical tool for dealing with emotional distress and can help you overcome challenges even when you feel you’re at the breaking point.

What self-care means to you is often deeply personal, but in general, they describe relaxing and restorative practices that leave you feeling better than when you began. A few common self-care routines include:

  • Spending time in nature
  • Exercise
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Creative outlets

If you already know that a particular self-care practice helps you through difficult times, make sure to set aside the time for it on this difficult day.

Be Kind to Yourself

The anniversary of a traumatic event is an incredibly difficult time. It is extremely common for people to feel as though they are backtracking in their work towards recovery or to experience symptoms and behaviours that they thought were gone for good.

Inevitably, this can cause people to feel discouraged, ashamed, or simply disappointed in themselves. Strike these thoughts from your mind and provide yourself the compassion that you would offer to anyone else going through such a difficult experience. You deserve that compassion just as much as anyone else does.

The path to recovery from traumatic events is never easy. However, showing yourself a measure of kindness and compassion throughout the process of healing can go a long way towards achieving holistic mental health.

Find Professional Support

Recovery from trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder is difficult, but it is possible. Starting or continuing working with a professional support network can help you manage the challenges of a traumatic event anniversary, teach you effective coping mechanisms to help manage your symptoms, or even provide treatments that can prevent them in the first place.

With the anniversary coming up, try to call your therapist ahead of time to see if they can meet with you on this critical day. If you haven’t started individual or group therapy yet, there’s no better time to start.

How Treatment at APN London Can Help

Trauma therapy and treatments at APN London can provide you with the essential skills and services to help you overcome the challenges of living with these debilitating conditions. If the anniversary of a traumatic event is coming up, and you feel like you need additional support in order to maintain your mental health, APN London offers several evidence-based treatments to help you.

Individual Therapy

Working with an individual therapist is one of the best and most rigorously researched methods for breaking free from the symptoms of trauma. At APN London, we use a variety of different therapeutic modalities to help people in the healing process, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
  • Trauma-focused therapy

For people living with the effects of trauma, trauma-focused therapy and EMDR are typically recommended. Both of these therapeutic styles have substantial scientific and clinical evidence supporting their effectiveness and can help you work through the challenges of having endured a traumatic event.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is typically built upon the foundations of individual therapy, but it incorporates an essential element of social support. Particularly with trauma, often the people best equipped to help someone achieve recovery is another person who has had similar experiences, knows how you feel, and has come through the other side intact.

This is what group therapy offers that few individual therapists can. By teaching clients that they are not alone and that their experience in working through these challenges can help others, people can see dramatic improvements in symptoms, develop communication skills, and learn helpful coping mechanisms that can last a lifetime.

Lifestyle Psychiatry

Lifestyle psychiatry is a unique combination of traditional and innovative mental health practices under one treatment umbrella. The first component is traditional psychiatry, which helps people manage the symptoms of mental health through targeted medications.

The second is an intentional and structured approach to helping people build healthier patterns of behaviour. Researchers have long understood that certain lifestyle changes — such as exercise, healthy sleep, and proper nutrition — can make a dramatic improvement in a number of mental health symptoms.

The problem is that many people find themselves unable to make long-term changes in these patterns to see tangible results. With lifestyle psychiatry, you work directly with our team to identify helpful strategies, work to build and maintain the motivation to change, and have the accountability of a team of mental health professionals at your side.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine-assisted healing is an exciting new avenue for trauma treatment. In this style of treatment, clients take a small dose of the dissociative psychedelic ketamine during a therapy session, which can aid in helping people make rapid breakthroughs and progress in their mental health treatment plan.

Ketamine helps people disconnect from the negative feelings, emotions, and thoughts that are so frequently associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. It allows people to take an objective view of their mental health, their behaviour, and even their way of thinking.

By working with a therapist during a ketamine session, people can find rapid relief from these symptoms and start to create a new life in recovery. The effects of ketamine-assisted healing can be seen after even just a single session, but most people will benefit from multiple sessions to further solidify their results.

Ketamine-assisted healing takes place at our dedicated mental health facility, where our medical team monitors your symptoms while you engage in a one-on-one therapy session with a specialised therapist.

Best of all, ketamine-assisted healing has been found to be effective even when traditional treatment methods have failed, offering hope to people who have struggled for years without success.

Start Treatment at APN London

If you have an anniversary of a traumatic event coming up and feel you need extra support, reach out to our team by calling 0203 984 7699 or by filling out our confidential online contact form for more information. Our comprehensive mental health treatment program has everything you need to start your life anew in recovery.

References

  • Liriano, Felix et al. “Ketamine as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder: a review.” Drugs in context vol. 8 212305. 8 Apr. 2019, doi:10.7573/dic.212305
  • “Treatment – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/treatment/. Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.