Being involved in a car accident can be traumatic. If you’re seriously injured in that accident, it can be even more traumatic. You’ll experience waves of intense emotion that include anxiety, fear, and depression, and you might find yourself unwilling or unable to step into a car again after your experience.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to facilitate a faster recovery period.
Seek Justice (and Compensation)
Victims tend to feel a sense of relief when they know the person responsible for the car accident was brought to justice. If you were injured in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, it’s important to seek legal action. Not only will this ensure the perpetrator is fairly punished for the incident, but it will also help you recoup some (if not all) of the costs associated with your injury recovery. It may take some time to see the case through, but the end result will be much less stress—and an incomparable sense of relief.
Stay in the Present Moment
After an accident, you’ll be tempted to think in two directions—in the past and in the future. You might constantly reflect about the events leading up to the accident, blaming yourself or reliving the trauma over and over. You might also constantly dwell on the future, wondering how long it’s going to take to recover from your injuries, or whether you’ll ever feel comfortable in a car again.
Neither of these directions is beneficial. Instead, focus your effort on staying in the present moment. Set short-term, achievable goals for yourself and maintain your focus on what’s in front of you.
Find Time for Yourself (but Don’t Become Socially Withdrawn)
Having some time alone can help you sort out your emotions and come to terms with what’s happened to you. However, it’s important not to become socially withdrawn. Engaging with other people, even if it’s for brief periods, can facilitate faster mental and physical recovery. Stay in contact with your closest friends and family members, and if you can, join a group where you can meet new people.
Distract Yourself With a Hobby or New Interest
While you’ll have to spend some time focusing on self-improvement and emotional recovery, if you’re left alone with your thoughts for too long, they can start to consume you. That’s why it’s good to distract yourself with a new hobby or interest. These will occupy your attention, give you something positive to focus on, and might help you develop new skills and meet new people along the way.
Stay Physically Active
If your injuries allow you any range of physical movement, it’s a good idea to stay as physically active as possible. The health benefits of exercise can’t be understated, and it might even help you recover faster. Exercising regularly will help relieve stress, and give you a sense of normalcy in your routine so things feel more stable. If you can’t make it to a gym or exert yourself much, even going for a walk outside for 20 minutes can be beneficial.
Meditate and Gain Control Over Your Emotions
Learning how to practice mindfulness meditation can give you more emotional resilience, and prevent your thoughts from scattering in too many different directions. The premise is simple; sit comfortably in a room without distractions, and focus on something like the rhythm of your breathing or a sequence of repeated numbers. Anytime your thoughts deviate from your center of focus, notice that deviation and return your thoughts to the center. It’s easy to start and hard to perfect, but as long as you practice consistently, you’ll see benefits from it.
Gradually Reintroduce Yourself to Cars
Once you’re nearing completion of the physical recovery process, you can start gradually reintroducing yourself to cars. Start by being a passenger, and driving slowly on low-traffic streets, then gradually work your way to higher-speed and higher-traffic situations. This is a process that could take weeks or months, depending on the severity of your accident.
Seek Professional Help
If you find that these strategies aren’t helping you, or if your psychological symptoms are intense, don’t be shy about seeking help from a professional therapist. In therapy, you’ll have a safe environment with an experienced guide who can help you dissect your emotional responses and develop coping strategies to deal with those responses. There’s no shame in going to therapy, nor is it reserved only for the most traumatized people—almost anyone can benefit from attending these sessions.
Car accidents are notoriously common, so if you drive or ride in cars frequently, it’s likely that you’ll eventually be involved in one. If and when you are, be patient with your ongoing recovery, and use these important strategies to help yourself recover faster.