How do I manage my anxiety when I'm in a traumatic situation?

It seems that every day, we’re reading about war, or abuse, or violence, or some other horrifying circumstance we would never hope to be in.

But some of us sometimes find ourselves in situations that are exactly that – highly traumatic, emotional circumstances that shake us to our core. It doesn’t have to be a war between countries; sometimes, it’s a war with ourselves, with our coworkers, with our loved ones, with ourselves.

At any time in our lives, we can see or experience dangerous or terrifying things. When that happens, how do we cope?

First, let’s think about what our responses are to frightening events. We may:

  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Have trouble making decisions
  • Feel disconnected from ourselves or our surroundings
  • Keep thinking about the event and the outcome, even if it hasn’t happened yet
  • Have nightmares
  • Get scared easily, like we’re jumping out of our skin
  • Go from one emotion to the next in rapid-fire succession


All of this is normal.

So what can we do to manage our anxiety when we’re feeling drained, scared, or threatened – especially over an extended period of time?

Here are some tips that might be of help.

Keep moving. Exercise, in any form, helps release chemicals that influence joy and positivity. Exercise can counteract the rise in stress hormones, so if you can even just roll your shoulders or take a short walk, you can minimize the bad feelings and replace them with good chemicals.

Talk about it. If you know anyone close to you who has been in a similar situation, talk about it. Finding a great therapist is also extremely important, someone who can be unbiased and non-judgmental when you share. When you talk out the problem, you can also talk about you – your strength, your resilience, the part you play in your healing and the improvement of your circumstances.  

Establish a routine. When you create a routine, you create familiarity. Sometimes, when we’re scared, it’s because we feel we’ve lost control of a situation, and developing a routine gives us back our power in some way.

Be patient with yourself. Even when you think you’re doing everything “right” and nothing seems to be changing, don’t be hard on yourself. This is hard. Life can be hard. But you’re tougher, and you can get through this. Sometimes, it just takes time.

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