Managing your trauma reactions

A traumatic event or situation can turn life upside down. Reactions can be stronger, and last longer, than we often expect.

Here are some ways to help you get through traumatic times.

Give yourself some time to recover
Be patient with yourself, and others. Don’t expect too much of yourself.

Do what’s worked for you before
Put those positive things that worked before in hard and stressful time into action again. Avoid those things that haven’t worked before.

Keep up a daily routine
Even simple routines help us feel more in control of things. Do some things you enjoy every day.

Keep connected with others
Regularly talk with, text, or message others to keep in touch with them. Spend time with those who care about you.

Make looking after yourself a top priority
If there are others around you also affected by the same trauma, encourage them to look after themselves too. Get some rest and sleep. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines. Pace yourself. Take one day at a time, or one hour at a time if you need to. You can’t rush grief and it can be very tiring. Make good choices. Do some simple exercise. Stay in touch regularly with friends, family, whānau and others who care about you. Use support when you need it. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or can’t sleep.

Dealing with flashbacks
If you are experiencing flashbacks it can feel as if you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. The memories can be in vivid detail. Our information sheet, Dealing with Flashbacks provides information on ways to cope with them.

It's okay to accept offers of help
Accepting offers of practical support from others who care is okay and it can help.

Talk with others who’ve been through the same or a similar situation
It often helps to talk to those who ‘get it’,

Avoid regularly using alcohol or drugs
This could negatively delay your recovery.

Managing media interest
If what happened is in the media, limit the time you listen, watch, or read about it in the news. Our information sheet Managing media interest provides some useful tips to help you if the media is focusing on you and wanting comments.

Supporting others affected by trauma
If you’re supporting others who have been affected by trauma, such as children, young people, relatives, friends, neighbours, or workmates, remember they’ll react in their own ways. Go to the Supporting someone bereaved by sudden death, suicide, homicide or road injuries pages on our website or you can download a copy of our information sheets on Supporting children and young people after a homicide and suicide at the bottom of this page.

Reach out for extra support
Don’t hesitate to reach out for extra support. Use your circle of relatives, friends, neighbours, workmates, and others around you. Talk to your doctor or a counsellor about your trauma reactions and ways to recover well.

Sometimes trauma reactions can be so severe that a person develops PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). In this situation a person needs support to help them get onto the road to recovery. Visiting a doctor or psychologist is a wise first step.

Find a doctor, counsellor, or pyschologist (Mental Health Foundation)

Seek professional help and support if:

  • any of your trauma reactions are particularly intense or overwhelming, such as flashbacks, high levels of ongoing anxiety, or panic attacks
  • you are struggling to cope on most days
  • you would like to talk to someone but have no one you want to talk to about your experience and reactions
  • your trauma reactions are not easing up after several weeks, if they are intensifying, or if their effects are dominating your daily life and causing you and/or others concern
  • you are becoming dependent on regularly using alcohol or drugs to cope
  • you think you may have developed depression or are having thoughts of self-harm or of suicide
  • you have serious concerns about how your family, whānau, friends, neighbours, or workmates are coping.

How we can help   
We are here for you 24/7. Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. You can call us  on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker. Our support is completely free and confidential, and available throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Our Support Workers can support you with:

  • someone to listen, talk with, and support you to cope through trauma, loss, and grief
  • help to understand your rights and make informed choices
  • information and help to answer your questions
  • help to access local support services and counselling to suit your situation
  • practical support and assistance to deal with things like funeral and coronial processes
  • someone to assist and support you at court trials, hearings, and dealing with police and other government agencies
  • help to prepare Victim Impact Statements  and attend family group or restorative justice conferences
  • financial assistance for victims of serious crime.

We are committed to providing quality support to strengthen the mana and well-being of all those affected by crime, loss, and suicide to help them to safety, heal, and participate in the justice process.

If English is your second language
If you require support in your first language, Victim Support can use Ezispeak to connect you with an interpreter over the phone. Call us on 0800 842 846 and let us know. We will try to match you with a Support Worker who speaks your language.

Other useful websites and information

Trauma and children – tips for parents (The Better Health Channel, Australia)
Supporting a young person after trauma (Headspace, Australia)
Supporting your kids after a traumatic event in New Zealand Sign Language video (Ministry of Health)
Coping after a traumatic event in New Zealand Sign Language video (Ministry of Health)

If children or young people have been affected by what’s happened
See our information sheet for parents and caregivers about Supporting your child or young person after a crime or traumatic event. Don’t hesitate to get them some extra professional help if they are struggling to cope. Helpful places to go for that help are listed towards the back of this information sheet.


Dealing with flashbacks
Coping with traumatic grief