How to Cope with Stress after Trauma by E. Anna Goodwin

E. Anna Goodwin’s extraordinary How to Cope with Stress after Trauma (Bitterroot Mountain Publishing, 308 pp., $17.99, paper) was inspired by the experiences of her father and many other veterans. It is an embracing and empathetic guide for healing those suffering with trauma-induced stress.

Goodwin has compiled well-tested, curative procedures, combined with hope, for veterans with post-traumatic stress or post- traumatic stress syndrome. She explains the differences between the two in Part One of this volume.

The book begins with a self-administered stress test in which the reader evaluates how severe his or her PTSD is. Next are case studies that veterans will identify with, gathered from Goodwin’s psychotherapy career and workshops she has conducted. These accentuate her strong belief that since stress sufferers are not alone, they should not try healing alone. The therapeutic methods center on interactions with family, friends, and other veterans.

The “Twenty Steps To Help You Heal” in Part Two are clearly presented, emphasizing that some may apply to the veteran and some may not .They are organized so that the veteran can choose which healing steps are applicable, enabling an orderly healing process.

Prior to elaborating on the steps, I should note two items Goodwin quotes from along the way:

  1. “Freeze, Fight, or Flight” as options for how to deal with stress coming from trauma.
  2. The Healing Wall, a five-part poem by Patrick Overton.

Part Two presents the twenty healing steps with helpful subheadings, making an orderly pathway through the process. Some items are challenging, such as the suggestion that the veteran should organize his or her life developing self-confidence in pursuit of life as it was before the onset of trauma. Some suggestions are simpler, such as using a nightlight if you are experiencing nightmares or sleep-interrupting flashbacks.

A significant portion of Part Two centers on the veteran’s memories and how to distinguish them from the present. Keeping a journal is recommended to help figure out what is now and what was then. Recognizing items around your house such as pets, furniture, and children’s artworks or photographs taken before or after a traumatic event are very useful in healing and returning the veteran to life before trauma.

A strong point in Goodwin’s approach to healing is the use of journal writing or finding a creative outlet such as painting, photography, or poetry. All veterans and family members can benefit from sharing experiences by using diaries or artistic creations reflecting the veteran’s service experiences.

Another source of stress that the author studied is “second-hand trauma,” things such as witnessing a crime or natural or other catastrophe such as the September 11, 2001, attacks. These can be as debilitating as first-hand trauma.

Step 15 is a valuable method of healing—laughter and silliness. Movies, jokes, and playing with children can be paths to stress relief.

Part Three is aimed at family and friends of the veteran. It contains many useful tips to help others help the veteran return to an ordered, happy life with a spouse, siblings, parents, or children—or just plain peace of mind.

The author’s website is http://anaparkergoodwin.com

–Curt Nelson

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