Emotional health

A serious illness or injury can be scary. You may need some help to feel like yourself again.

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Healthy coping mechanisms and processing

Coping mechanisms

People use different ways to get through day-to-day life and stressful experiences. Some people may use humor to deal with difficult emotions, some may look for social support, and others may try to ignore or avoid uncomfortable feelings. People might use all these coping mechanisms at different times.

Some types of coping mechanisms are healthier than others—studies have found a correlation between avoidant coping mechanisms and depression and anxiety following a serious illness or injury.1 Another study identified people who were highly reactive to being reminded about the trauma and relied on avoidant coping strategies as being more likely to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over time.2

If you’re struggling emotionally, take steps to get help. Talk to a trusted friend or family member. If that makes you uncomfortable, talk to your doctor. They may be able to refer you to a therapist or support group, or prescribe medication when appropriate.

Restore your emotional wellbeing

Accepting that you've been through a lot and may need some help isn’t weakness. Recovering mentally and emotionally is as important as the physical recovery and may take time.

Some of the steps toward helping restore your emotional wellbeing include:

  • Eating a healthy, nutritious diet
  • Getting enough restful sleep
  • Exercise to the extent that you’re able
  • Learn techniques to manage anxiety (for example, meditation, deep breathing exercises)

Processing the event

If you have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA), the IRS allows you to use these funds to cover medical expenses amounts you pay for therapy received as medical treatment.

If you need help processing the event or experience, talking with a therapist or counselor could be extremely beneficial, particularly someone specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT addresses the relationship among thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, focusing on changing the patterns that aren’t helpful and lead to distress or negative emotions.3 The basic premise is that by changing thoughts and behaviors, you can change the emotional response. This has been shown to help people in a variety of circumstances, including people going through cancer treatments,4 people with depression, and those with PTSD.

Even if you feel like you’re fine, talking to a counselor or therapist can help make sure you’re processing events in a healthy way. Just being able to talk to someone about your feelings, hopes, and fears can be helpful. Your friends or family may be a great source of support here. But it can sometimes help to talk to someone who knows what your experience has been like. That’s where experienced therapists or support groups can help.

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