Wellness Categories and Coping With Trauma

Learn about the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and tips for coping after a trauma or disaster.

After a Trauma or Disaster

What is Trauma?

Trauma can be defined as a psychological or emotional response to an event or experience that is deeply distressing, disturbing, or upsetting. This could include accidents, natural disasters, having your safety threatened or violated, an illness or injury, losing a loved one, or any other event where there is a threat or perceived threat to one’s safety or security.

Symptoms of Trauma

The reactions individuals have to trauma can sometimes overwhelm their ability to cope. Even though the event may be over, a person may be experiencing, or experience later, some strong physical, cognitive, emotional or behavioral reactions. It is very common - and in fact quite normal - for people to experience emotional aftershocks when they have gone through a distressing event.

Sometimes the stress reactions appear immediately after the traumatic event, sometimes a few hours or a few days later, and in some cases weeks or months may pass before the stress reactions appear. Understanding symptoms and taking steps to navigate through them usually helps them pass more quickly. Occasionally, individuals may need assistance from a mental health professional. Needing assistance from a counselor does not imply weakness; it simply indicates that event was too powerful for the person to navigate alone.

It is important to remember that not everyone will experience these symptoms after a traumatic event nor even consider the event to be traumatic. For example, if two people experience a flood, but one individual lost a loved one in a previous accident involving water, the current flood may be considered more dangerous by this individual and cause for greater concern.

We all react to trauma in different ways, experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond, so don’t judge your own reactions or those of other people. Your responses are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events.

Emotional and Psychological Symptoms
  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Intrusive thoughts or memories
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected or numb
  • Hopelessness or helplessness
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Loss of appetite or excessive eating
Physical Symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Being startled easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension
  • Chills
  • Confusion or feeling mentally foggy
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Memory issues
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches or digestive problems
  • Nausea

Healing from Trauma

Trauma symptoms typically last from a few days to a few months, gradually fading as you process the unsettling event. But even when you’re feeling better, you may be troubled from time to time by painful memories or emotions - especially in response to triggers such as an anniversary of the event or something that reminds you of the trauma.

Tips for Coping
  1. Allow yourself to breathe. Breathing is one of the first things that is impacted by stress. Focus on your breath and allow your body to resume its normal rhythmic process. You will feel relief almost immediately.
  2. Exercise. Getting your heart rate up will allow your body to produce more endorphins which help us relax and reduce stress. It is also a way to sweat out stress hormones that can build up.
  3. Reach out to others. Connecting with others helps us feel supported. You don’t have to talk about the trauma, but doing so may help you develop comfort in expressing your thoughts and feelings.
  4. Limit your consumption of news. The constant replay of news stories about a disaster or traumatic event can increase stress and anxiety and make some people relive the event over and over. Do something productive or enjoyable instead.
  5. Empower yourself and reestablish a routine. There is comfort doing things that are familiar to you. Resume as much daily activity as you are comfortable with.
  6. Remember there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel. Everyone handles trauma differently. You have a right to feel the way you do. Accept your feelings.
  7. Practice grounding yourself in the present moment. It is easy for us to get lost in our head. Using out senses to be more observant about our external environment pulls us away from our thoughts and gives us a mental break.
  8. Eat and sleep well. As sleep can be disrupted by trauma, try a calming activity before bed. Our bodies need rest and nourishment to feel better. A healthy diet will help improve your energy, outlook, and overall sense of well-being.

For additional tips on how to cope with trauma, please visit JED's How To Cope with Traumatic Events or SAMHSA's Tips for Coping with Traumatic Events.

Don’t Forget About Hope

Should symptoms persist or worsen over time you can always seek professional help. Remember, your reactions to trauma are normal and there are professionals that understand what you are going through and how to help.

*Some of this information was adopted from International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.

This section, "After a Trauma or Disaster", is based on material from The Jed Foundation, SAMHSA, and The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc.

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness

Defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Eight Dimensions of Wellness are:


A healthy body. Good physical health habits. Nutrition, exercise, and appropriate healthcare. These make up the physical dimension of wellness.

Physical Wellness at CNM

  1. Take a stroll around the Wellness Path at Main Campus.
  2. Visit our CNM Food Pantries for healthy and local produce.
  3. Refill your water bottle at one of the many campus water stations.
  4. Take an exercise class.

The Intellectual Wellness Dimension involves many things that keep our brains active and our intellect expanding. In a broad sense, this dimension can involve looking at different perspectives of an issue and taking them into consideration.

Intellectual Wellness at CNM

  1. Meet with a tutor at The Learning and Computer Center.
  2. Form a study group with your peers. Did you know you can reserve a library room?
  3. Keep on track to graduate—meet with an advisor, use the library for support and quiet study space, and meet with Wellness CNM as needed.

There are many definitions of what constitutes being financially well, but overall, the Financial Wellness Dimension involves things such as income, debt, and savings, as well as a person’s understanding of financial processes and resources.

Financial Wellness at CNM

  1. Check our scholarships available to you.
  2. Use the Food Pantry at your campus to save some money.

The Environmental Wellness Dimension involves being able to be safe and feel safe. This can include accessing clean air, food, and water.

Environmental Wellness at CNM

  1. Use the recycling bins on campus.
  2. Use a refillable water bottle at one of the many water stations.
  3. Support local farmers and get some fresh, organic produce at our Food Pantry.


The Spiritual Wellness Dimension is a broad concept that represents one’s personal beliefs and values and involves having meaning, purpose, and a sense of balance and peace.

Spiritual Wellness at CNM

  1. Looking for meaning? Get a counselor through Wellness CNM.
  2. Keep an eye out for journaling workshops through Wellness CNM.
  3. Join a student organization that aligns with your values and interests.

The Social Wellness Dimension involves having healthy relationships with friends, family, and the community, and having an interest in and concern for the needs of others and humankind.

Social Wellness at CNM

  1. Join a student club.
  2. Create study groups with your peers. Did you know you can reserve a library room?
  3. Keep an eye on Suncat Times for events!

The Occupational Wellness Dimension involves participating in activities that provide meaning and purpose and reflect personal values, interests, and beliefs, including employment.

Occupational Wellness at CNM

  1. Do you need an internship? Looking for a job? Check out options through Hire CNM.
  2. Build connections with faculty and professionals in your field of interest.
  3. Have your resume reviewed or check out a workshop at Career and Job Placement.
  4. Join a student club, and build up your resume before graduation.

The Emotional Wellness Dimension involves the ability to express feelings, adjust to emotional challenges, cope with life’s stressors, and enjoy life. It includes knowing our strengths as well as what we want to get better at, and living and working on our own but letting others help us from time to time.

Emotional Wellness at CNM

  1. Reach out to Wellness CNM for support, access to counseling, and/or a peer support group.
  2. Take a Wellness CNM workshop.
  3. Get involved with Active Minds to spread mental health education and advocacy at the college.

These dimensions are interconnected, and wellness is finding a balance between them all.

eight dimensions of wellness graphic

The content in this section, "The Eight Dimensions of Wellness", is taken from "Creating a Healthier Life: A Step-by-Step Guide to Wellness" by SAMHSA.

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness was created by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick.