Emotional recovery

It’s natural to feel upset or distressed following a car crash. This page has information on how you can get back to feeling more like yourself.

After a crash you may experience some of these emotions:

  • worrying too much about how you are going to manage
  • feeling hopeless or helpless
  • worrying or even sometimes panicking about leaving your home
  • feeling traumatised or having bad memories of the accident
  • feeling overwhelmed by your life

After all, you’ve been through a stressful event. Give yourself permission to feel upset, but also remember your strengths.

Things you can do to help you feel better

Help your mind

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Get back to your normal routine as soon as possible, but take it easy. Don’t use activities or work to avoid painful thoughts or memories of the car crash. Tackle the things that need to be done a little bit at a time, and acknowledge your successes.

Going to work can be good for your health and help with your recovery. If you can’t do all of your job straight away, talk to your employer or doctor about the parts of your job you can do.

Start with small goals to help build your confidence. Make as many smaller, daily decisions as possible, like what you want to eat or what film you’d like to see. This can help you feel more in control of your life. Avoid making major life decisions in the days and weeks after the crash, such as moving house or changing jobs.

Find time and ways to do activities you enjoy.

Make time to relax, whether it’s listening to music, taking a bath or going for a walk. Do something that works for you. It might be helpful to learn a relaxation technique like meditation, yoga, slow breathing exercises, or some regular exercise like walking.

Be positive about your recovery. Be aware of negative thoughts and change them into positive ones. For example if you’re worried and focusing on what could go wrong in a situation, change your thoughts to think about what could go right instead.

Help your body

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Do activities you enjoy. Remember to eat well and eat regularly. Don’t skip meals.

If you have pain, talk to your doctor. The doctor can recommend treatments, for example pain medication, so that you can get back to your regular activities.

Try to avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope emotionally. This may lead to more problems.

Get a good night’s sleep:

  • some regular light exercise will help you sleep better and assist in your recovery
  • drinking too much alcohol at night will disrupt your sleep
  • avoid coffee late in the afternoon, go to bed at the same time each night, and relax before going to bed
  • read some more advice about good sleep

Share with friends

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Talking things through is part of the natural healing process and will help you to accept what has happened. Keep seeing your friends and family even if you don’t want to talk about the car crash. When you are ready, share your feelings with those who are close to you.

Write about your feelings if you are unable to talk to someone about them. Sometimes it’s helpful just to get the thoughts on paper.

Talk to your friends and family if you are having problems. This may help you to come up with some answers or think of other ways of doing things.

See your doctor

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See your doctor if your emotions are affecting your everyday activities, your work or relationships or if you feel you are not coping.

Your doctor can provide support and information. They may recommend that you see another health professional, such as a psychologist, who can help you with these feelings and help you get better.

Further information

Visit our treatment advice centre for information and resources for health professionals to help injured people recover.

These websites have more information you might find helpful: