Living and Lifestyle

Trauma symptoms? How to keep your head above water

Published 6:26 pm, Monday, September 4, 2017

During Hurricane Harvey and its flooding, people all across Houston survived harrowing experiences. How could they tell if they’ve been traumatized? And how can they heal?

Ezemenari Obasi, the associate dean for research at the University of Houston College of Education, does research in stress physiology. He offered this information.


Signs of trauma and increased stress:

• Loss of appetite or increased appetite

• Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares

• Increased heart rate and/or chest pains

• Shortness of breath

• Increased feelings of fatigue

• Increased sadness and/or crying

• Difficulty concentrating

• Mood swings

• Flashbacks

• Feelings of guilt, hopelessness or helplessness

• Loss of interest in typically enjoyable activities

• Feeling irritable, jumpy or on edge

• Increased sweating

To reduce stress and the impact of trauma:

• Limit exposure to media coverage to avoid reliving the trauma.

• Talk about the event. Normalize the experience. Share your thoughts with family or friends or in a journal.

• Exercise or enjoy hobbies.

• Volunteer to help others in need. Participate in community clean-ups.

• Engage with family, friends, religious leaders or neighbors. Having a reliable social network is critical.

• Use art to express your feelings about the experience.

• Be available for others who need comfort.

• Commit to a daily routine to build back a sense of normalcy.

• Seek professional mental health assistance from a psychologist. Work with social workers and counselors to identify resources to help manage the trauma.

• Engage in self-exploration to help see your strength and ways you have grown from the traumatic event.

• Try to eat healthy meals and get plenty of sleep.

• Minimize or eliminate caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or other drugs used to cope.

• Consider stress-reduction activities such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga or mindfulness.


Ezemenari Obasi serves as associate dean for research at the University of Houston College of Education. He has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology and is a professor in the college’s Department of Psychological, Health and Learning Sciences. He also serves as executive director of UH’s HEALTH – Helping Everyone Achieve a LifeTime of Health – Research Institute.


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