If you’re struggling after a car accident, you aren’t alone. Around three million people are in non-fatal car accidents every year in the United States. Sometimes the damage is physical and sometimes it’s mental. No matter how minor or severe your accident, there are some things you should do afterwards to take care of your physical and mental health.
Go To The Doctor
It’s obvious that you should go to the doctor if you were in a serious accident and it’s clear that you have been injured. Whether you should go to the doctor after a minor accident isn’t so simple.
In many cases, you may feel just fine immediately after the accident. If it was a little fender bender, you might be well, but it’s also true that symptoms for some injuries may not appear until hours or even days after the accident as your adrenaline wears off and the injury has the ability to affect other areas of your body.
No matter how major or minor your accident, it’s always a good idea to go to the doctor. They can rule out scary injuries, like internal bleeding, and they can tell you what symptoms to look out for in the coming days so you know to go back to the doctor at the first sign of trouble.
Are you filing a claim with your insurance company? They may request documentation from a physician, so you may have to go to the doctor anyway.
Take Time Off Work
If you’re afraid to take time off work, you aren’t alone. It can be hard to put in a time off request after a car accident, especially if it was minor, but it’s important to your well-being.
Exactly how much time you take off will depend on your particular situation. However, even if you were in a minor accident, you should still take the rest of the day off. It can help you center your mind and get your bearings before you return to work the next day.
You may want to take a whole day off so you have time to think about what happened, or you may have to take days or weeks off to recover. No matter how much time you take off, or whether it’s paid or unpaid, you shouldn’t feel bad. Experiencing an accident can be really scary, so it’s important to give yourself the time you need to recover.
Get Plenty Of Rest
Many of us don’t get enough sleep at night. It can be even more difficult to get sleep after an accident if you’re feeling sore or anxious. However, it is important because sleep helps your body heal. It allows your brain and body to work together to release hormones, encourage tissue growth, repair blood vessels, and more.
Strive to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, but rest also means giving your body a break. Even if you’re used to hitting the gym every day, it’s a good idea to give your body a chance to rest and relax for a few days after a car accident.
Resting is important to your body after an accident, but that doesn’t mean you should be totally immobile. Stretching is important too, because it’s easy for muscles and joints to get stiff after an accident. It’s a good idea to do stretches at least once a day as you’re recovering.
A few of the best stretches to relieve neck and back pain after an accident include:
- Seated neck release
- Seated clasping neck stretch
- Tabletop leg press
- Behind the back neck stretch
- Glute bridge
- Seated heart opener
Spend Time With Other People
Recovering physically after a car accident is important, but it’s also important to care for your mental health. It’s easy to get depressed after an accident, but leaning on your loved ones can help.
Friends and family can help you recover emotionally from a disaster, like a car accident. They can help you take your mind off of the crash, they can lend an ear and listen to your experience, and they can help you with chores and errands while you recover.
You don’t necessarily have to go into detail about your accident either. Even if you’re watching a movie or playing a video game, just having someone else there for you can help.
Don’t Force Yourself To Get Back Behind The Wheel Right Away
Feeling nervous to get back behind the wheel is a normal response after a car accident. Although you shouldn’t avoid driving for the rest of your life, it’s completely fine to take a break.
Don’t feel like you have to get back into the driver’s seat in the days or weeks after your accident. Lean on friends and family to help you get around, learn the bus schedule, or carpool to work with coworkers.
Build Your Confidence
When you are ready to get back behind the wheel, it’s important to get over your fear of driving by getting your confidence back. You might start by driving in rural areas or quiet neighborhood streets. You might want to study driver’s ed materials to brush up your knowledge on the rules of the road. If you’re really struggling to feel confident behind the wheel, you may want to consider taking a professional driving class.
If you’re struggling to even get back into the car, you may have to build your confidence by working through mental obstacles first. Going to a therapist can help you work through your feelings about the accident, while some can guide you through techniques like desensitization that will enable you to get over your fear of driving over time.
Don’t settle for a partial recovery after a car accident because you tried to get your life back to normal as fast as possible. It’s much better to slow down and take care of yourself during the following days and weeks so you can make a full mental and physical recovery.