We have all been exposed to trauma over the last few months. You do not have to have been directly involved in recent violence to feel the effects of it. A lot of people are reeling trying to figure out what to do with what we are seeing lately and it’s OK if you are one of them. Because “sitting” with emotions like fear, confusion, and sorrow are borderline intolerable for many, here are a few ideas about what to “do” with what the news is giving you.
First, create a space around you that feels safer by increasing your self-care. This means giving yourself enough time to rest and enough food to help your body replenish the energy it is losing from processing the current events. Limit your exposure to media: skip the news and Facebook for a few days and use that time to connect with a friend or family member whose company you enjoy or another activity that brings you joy. The more bad news we see, the more self-care we need.
Next, listen to how you are trying to make sense of what is happening. What do you hear when you listen? Our brains tend to prefer simple answers like “The world is all bad,” “Bad things happen to bad people,” or “This particular group of people are bad,” but those thoughts can often increase the pain related to experiencing trauma. Much of our emotional life is a result of how we are making sense of what is going on around us. What do you think all of this means? Someone who believes all conflict is bad will have a much different response than someone who believes conflict can lead to change. Believing tragedy is part of the ebb and flow of life or that people are feeling scared and are desperately trying to keep themselves safe results in different feelings than thinking the world is a bad place.
Lastly, take and create the “good.” This is the hardest part. What good can you take from this? It does not matter how small that good is. Have you learned more about the experiences of others? Have you allowed it to change how you interact with others for the better? Has it increased your gratitude for what you have in your life?
Be mindful and purposeful in how you choose to channel the feelings you are experiencing into something that is meaningful for you. Some people protest to express feelings, some people increase the kindness they give to others in an effort to be the change they want to see, others donate to families who have been directly affected. Anything that feels helpful (or any other “pleasant” emotion) without harming others is fair game and adds to the “good” that can come from tragedy.
Give yourself permission to revisit these action items (increase self-care, listen to the meaning, take & create the “good”) as often as you need, whether every day or just on particularly tough days. Of course, if you need help with any of these steps, think you are having a more difficult time than would be expected, or if recent events have resurfaced intense feelings of times you have suffered other trauma or abuse in your past, it is OK to reach out to us or a mental health provider in your area. We’re here to help.
If you are in need of a listening ear to help you cope with the reporting of tragedy after tragedy, please contact our office today.