Written By Imani Francies / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
Every year, millions of traffic accidents occur. If you've been in an accident, you've probably felt a variety of emotions. These might be at the time of the accident and in the days that followed.
Stress can be triggered after experiencing a traumatizing event like a car accident. Car accidents can cause emotional stress along with the regular stress of dealing with the legalities of an accident. For example, dealing with how your health insurance won’t cover a car accident while battling emotional stress can send you on a downward spiral.
Below we will explain how to manage and diminish emotional stress and how to get professional help from a healthcare provider if you are struggling to manage your stress on your own.
How does emotional stress affect people?
Many people may feel emotional stress as a result of an accident. It is common to experience indications of heightened stress throughout the recovery process, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or sadness.
You may find yourself replaying the accident in your head, or you may feel as though you can't get it out of your head. Most individuals who have been in a car accident experience some of these emotions, if not more. These emotions might sometimes be so powerful that they prevent you from leading a regular life.
For instance, these strong feelings might lead to avoidance. Some people may avoid having to drive again by not going to work, meetings, gatherings, school, and so on because they are afraid of getting into a car crash again.
Aside from one’s day-to-day life being disrupted, some people spiral down mentally. Chronic stress can cause or worsen mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as bipolar disorder, cognitive (thinking) issues, personality changes, and behavioral behaviors.
So irritability and rage are frequent characteristics in people who are stressed or anxious following an accident. Other characteristics associated with emotional distress after an accident include:
- Anger, irritability, or restlessness
- Feeling overwhelmed, unfocused, or unmotivated
- Poor decision making
- Problems with remembering things or concentrating
- Racing thoughts or constant worry
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
When symptoms interfere with everyday activities and create or worsen mental disorders, it may be time to take action and try to relieve stress to improve your mental health.
How to Work Through Emotional Stress
There are a few strategies for dealing with and overcoming these traumatic events. First and foremost, it is critical to prioritize self-care.
When we are distressed or nervous, it is easy to overlook our fundamental needs such as getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, including exercise into your routine, and being social.
While attempting to cope, focus on the things you can control. Practice safe driving habits such as always wearing your seatbelt and avoiding as many distractions as possible. Avoiding driving while fatigued, not using your phone, and not eating or drinking while driving are great ways to avoid getting distracted while you're driving.
When taking care of yourself and focusing on things you do have control over has little to no effect on your mental well being, seek professional help. A mental health practitioner can help you process the accident, reduce worry and tension, and help you get back into your routine and remain engaged.
How Emotional Stress Affects Physical Health
Stress symptoms can, in fact, affect your body physically. Unmanaged stress can contribute to a variety of health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Stress may affect every part of your life, including your emotions, habits, brain capacity, and physical health. However, because people react to stress in various ways, stress symptoms might vary.
Symptoms might be ambiguous and overlap with those produced by medical problems. Some signs that stress is hindering your body physically include:
- Aches, pains, and sore muscles
- Dry mouth
- Frequent infections and colds
- Loss of sexual drive or ability
- Low energy
- Stomach issues (diarrhea, constipation, nausea)
- Teeth grinding and clenched jaw
How to Take Care of Your Body After an Emotional Event
Chronic stress can develop or worsen a wide range of significant health issues. Though stress is an inevitable aspect of life, it should not be a hindrance. What is most important is how you deal with stress.
For instances where emotional stress affects you physically, you can exercise, take supplements, go outside more, or get a massage to reduce muscle tension.
However, the best way to improve your mental and physical health is by exercising regularly. One of the most essential things you can do to reduce stress is to exercise. Although it may appear paradoxical, exerting physical stress on your body through exercise can help reduce mental tension.
The advantages are greatest when you work out regularly. People who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer from anxiety and emotional stress than those who do not exercise.
In the long term, exercise reduces your body's stress chemicals, such as cortisol. It also aids in the release of endorphins, which are molecules that boost your mood and function as natural pain relievers. Exercise can also help you sleep better, which can be affected by stress and worry.
Insurance Coverage and Mental Healthcare Services
Most people who are involved in a car accident have intense emotions that fade with time. Often these emotions don't go away, or they get worse.
These emotions have the power to alter your thinking and behavior, so they should be taken seriously. Strong feelings that last for a long time and interfere with daily living are symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — which usually requires professional help.
Most individual and small group health insurance policies, including those offered via the marketplace, are required to include mental health and drug use disorder treatments as of 2014. It must also cover mental health and drug use problem services under Medicaid Alternative Benefit Plans.
If you have questions regarding your insurance plan, we recommend that you first review the enrollment paperwork or any other information you have about the plan to determine the coverage levels for all benefits.
If you don't have insurance, or if your insurance doesn't cover the therapy you require, there are several programs, resources, and strategies available to make therapy and mental health care more accessible.
Student health centers or federally-certified health centers or federally financed community-based clinics may offer free or low-cost mental health care.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness also maintains a helpline that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provides free support and counseling. You can call the hotline at 1-800-950-6264.
University hospitals frequently offer programs that allow patients with access to interns and residents on a sliding fee system, which is significantly less expensive than private practice mental healthcare practitioners.
A simple search into your local area can help you find non-profits, disability programs, and other assistantships to help you get the mental health care you need.
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Imani Francies writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org. She enjoys helping people learn how to manage stress and take the steps to full recovery after traumatic events like car accidents.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.