One of the most important things you can do if you are highly stressed, especially after a trauma, is to reach out to others and help them. After a trauma you feel as though you have lost all the control you once thought you had in your life. There was no way you could stop the death of a loved one, or the cyclone or hurricane that hit your city, or the car that ran the stop sign and demolished your car, or the man who shot your child, or the war that injured you or your spouse.
Many times it is good to help someone who has had a similar experience as yours. Most people feel a deep inner satisfaction when they see that their love and actions help someone else and that will probably lift your spirits. But not only can you empathize with the person as no one else can, but in the process you bond personally with the person, your thinking changes and that changes your feelings. You again have a sense of purpose and a reason to be on earth. You begin to understand you do have some control over your life.
As a psychotherapist I was always amazed how much I helped myself while I helped others. I could not help but listen to my own words or take notice of my own actions and somehow I realized they frequently applied to me as well.
It’s interesting that I never became depressed while I was working but I did when I retired. I’m sure there are several reasons for that, but the one I thought of most frequently is that I worked with many stressed and depressed people. Not only did I appreciate my own life more because I saw others whose lives were much worse than mine, but I heard myself repeat exercises several times a day, that my clients and I created to help them get rid of their stress and depression.
The mind is literal and after several repeats, my brain believed what I was saying, and I almost automatically began talking to myself and changing my thinking and actions when I found myself becoming stressed. When I stopped my private practice I taught at a university, but interestingly, giving lectures was not the same as directly helping others.
So reach out and help someone else and you will help you reduce stress and depression.