It’s a scenario that many of us spend our time trying to avoid: getting into a car accident. That’s bad enough, but worse, you’re injured. Luckily, your injuries will heal, but recovering from the injuries as well as the mental and financial trauma of a car accident can leave you reeling. There are so many things to deal with, phone calls to make, paperwork to fill out, and that’s while you’re laid up, hurting.
If you’re hurt, the last thing you want to do is try and muddle your way through that chaos. And yet, you have to. We know you can do it, but one key way to stay sane (and healthy) through all of that stress is to put your own needs first and foremost. Take care of yourself and the rest will fall into place on your timeline. Here are a few ways to take care of yourself in the aftermath of an accident.
Get Checked Out
If you were seriously injured, likely you were transported to the hospital, or at the very least, the attending officer/insurance agent advised you to get a checkup at your earliest convenience. Hopefully you’ve already been assessed by a doctor and given proper treatment.
If not, you should. Even if you think your injuries aren’t that bad, you can suffer internal damage that won’t rear its head until later. You shouldn’t have to deal with even minor aches and pains without medical assistance. Even if you’re just going for a massage or a visit to the chiropractor, or see your GP for a routine checkup to make sure everything is okay. You should absolutely do this first and foremost.
For those who are badly injured, you may require physical therapy. Many people refuse to do this, insisting they’ll be just fine and heal on their own. Please, don’t neglect your body. See a professional physical therapist who can help you work through the injury, making sure you heal properly and without any additional trauma to your body.
If you’re in pain, be sure to drink lots of water and take ibuprofen or tylenol to reduce inflammation. Put your feet up and relax. Don’t try to overdo it on the household chores or at work. Allow your body time to heal.
Keep Up Your Immune System
It is scientific fact, but one that many people ignore. Stress lowers your immune system. And there are few things more stressful than getting in a severe car accident. The trauma of it alone, combined with all the associated mess is enough to throw someone into a spiral and cause them to become sick. If you’re already injured, the very last thing you need is an illness on top of it.
Boost your immune system during this time and work to keep it elevated by taking a supplement like a comprehensive multivitamin or immune booster like Emergen-C (basically you need to up your vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and take some fish oil/omega 3s). Drink lots of water, eat nutritious foods with lots of antioxidants and added calcium (think leafy greens, dark fruits and vegetables, bananas and nuts). Get lots of sleep, a little extra if you can fit a nap or an extra hour of sleep into your schedule. Take lots of time to rest and relaxation – if you are physically up for it, maybe a gentle walk or bike ride after dinner, and lots of resting and recuperating with a good book or tv show in between.
Wash your hands thoroughly and avoid contact with anyone who is sick. When in doubt, stay home. Keeping that immune system boosted is very important during this time. You need to heal, and your body shouldn’t have to split its focus to combat an illness ,too.
Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health
Car accidents are very traumatic, and you may find yourself cycling through a kaleidoscope of different emotions and feelings. Sadness, guilt, anxiety, terror, apathy, exhilaration, anger, and bitterness are just a few of the negative emotions you may feel from time to time. Some survivors of accidents go on to develop PTSD, depression or anxiety disorders.
If you’re able to, booking an appointment with a therapist to talk out your feelings about the accident is a very helpful idea. They will help you work through your complicated feelings and get to a place where you feel okay. Talking about your experiences is part of the road to healing. There are even support groups where you can talk with people who have had similar experiences.
Be easy with yourself: it may take a long while to get to a place where you aren’t angry, or upset, or nervous. Give your mind that time to heal just as you’ve done for your body.
Seek Legal Help if you Need it
Alas, just as you’re trying to look after yourself and get back to some semblance of normal, there are the legalities and the “business-end” of an accident that can’t be neglected. Hopefully the insurance companies will be handling much of this for you. But in the event that you’ve been injured and/or severe damage has been done to your vehicle, and the insurance companies aren’t getting you the compensation you deserve, you may have to contact legal counsel.
A good accident lawyer will take on your case and do all the hard work for you so you can concentrate on healing. They’ll investigate the accident and build an iron-clad case to get you the compensation that you deserve after all you’ve been through. Law firms like Hasbrook & Hasbrook are experts in accident law and know the various tricks that insurance companies employ to avoid paying. Working with a qualified attorney will ensure that you get a far larger settlement than you would have otherwise, so that you’ll have a cushion for when you’re out of work due to injury.
In the result of an accident due to criminal negligence (such as a drunk driver or otherwise intoxicated person; a deliberate attack or other mitigating circumstances), you may find yourself needing to press charges against a person. Having legal counsel for this type of case is paramount; you need a very good lawyer. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with your local police department, obtain a copy of the police report ASAP, and take detailed notes for any future court case.
Don’t Go Back to Work too Soon
So many people make the mistake of going back to work after an accident, long before they should. This can risk further injury and cause you a great deal of stress, making your healing go much slower.
Of course, many employers’ sick days/leave and protocol for unforeseen accidents leave much to be desired, so you may feel that you have to go back to work. This is why seeing a doctor, and the aforementioned legal counsel is so very important. They will protect your rights and ensure that you are able to take the time you need, while having a financial cushion in the meantime.
Many people who have been in an accident find it helpful to use mobility aids while their body recovers. Don’t let your pride or stubbornness prevent you from using a walker, wheelchair, knee/back brace or other health device. The key is to keep yourself free from as much pain, strain and exhaustion as you possibly can, to promote healing. In many cases, your insurance may provide you with these aids, so don’t be afraid to ask for them.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
At the end of the day, if your car is totalled but you’re still alive, that’s a win. A car can be replaced. Your life can’t.
If you’ve suffered a major financial loss because of your accident, and are now faced with having to replace a vehicle to the tune of thousands of dollars, while trying to recover, of course you feel desolate, angry and stressed. But the good news is that you’re alive and those material possessions can always be replaced. Even if it takes a while to get that financial settlement and to pick out, purchase and drive home another vehicle, it will happen. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, a hassle, possibly even unfair. Having those feelings of resentment at all you’ve got to replace, the healing you have to do, and the associated chaos is all very normal. Most people who have been injured in an accident struggle with these feelings.
Just try to remember: all of those things can, and will, be fixed. It may take time, but it will happen. You’re here, and that’s what matters.
Getting in an accident, especially one where you’re injured, is a worse-case scenario for many people. But you’ve survived the hard part, and you’re still here. If you follow these ideas for self-care in your time of recovery, you’ll heal so much faster and find peace with your experiences. Be kind to yourself, gentle with your healing, and understanding of what you’ve been through.