Learn self-care strategies to manage stress and improve mental health during disasters.
Traumatic events, such as natural disasters or acts of violence, can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed and struggling to cope. When looking back at the Uvalde incident in Texas, many of us felt worried, frightened, sad, or even a sense of devastation. Others felt emotionally numb or in a state of shock. The emotional fallout from these events can be long-lasting and it's important to take care of ourselves during and after these traumatic events.
With the right self-care strategies, individuals can learn to cope after a traumatic event. These strategies can be used alone or in conjunction with professional counseling and other forms of therapy. By taking care of ourselves, we can begin to heal and move forward.
Self-Care Strategies for Stress Management
Self-care is a crucial aspect of managing stress after a traumatic event. As trauma can have a significant impact on an individual's mental and emotional well-being, it's critical to address it immediately to reduce the risk of long-term negative effects. Self-care strategies can help individuals handle stress, cope with their emotions, and begin the healing process.
Following a traumatic event, you might consider the following self-care strategies:
Express Your Feelings
When experiencing trauma, even secondary trauma, it is helpful to talk about our experience, while being conscious of our physical and emotional state. Let’s take a moment to recognize what our body is processing, let’s not judge ourselves. This mindfulness exercise can help you become more aware of what your body is processing and the sensations you are experiencing. Mindfulness Exercise
When processing your feelings, consider; how this event relates to you? How are you feeling?
Can you remember previous difficult situations that you were able to cope with? Thinking about previous events can help us see the resilience within ourselves and even in humankind. Those in more proximity might present with short term stress reactions and in more need to express their feelings and focus on their well-being to reduce the risk of having prolonged distress.
Restore Your Sense of Safety
How do we reinstate a sense of safety and security during these tough times? Let’s not forget Maslow and his Hierarchy of needs. Let’s go to basics and monitor first our sleep and eating pattern, are we experiencing any changes? If so, let’s concentrate on those. Afterwards, let’s look into our social interactions and sense of love and belonging. Are we interacting with others, do we feel supported? If not, let’s concentrate on that.
Listen to your body and what it needs. Taking care of yourself, sticking to a normal routine, and getting out in your community can re-establish a sense of normalcy and security.
Connect with Others
Connecting with others after a traumatic event is an important aspect of the healing process. Trauma can be isolating and overwhelming, and talking about the event with others can provide a sense of validation and understanding. When individuals share their experiences with others, they are able to process and make sense of what happened, which can help to reduce the intensity of the trauma.
Social support is also crucial in the healing process. Talking with others who have had similar experiences can help to normalize the individual's experience and reduce feelings of isolation. Additionally, connecting with others can provide emotional, psychological, and practical support. For example, friends and family can provide a listening ear, offer practical assistance, or simply be there for the individual.
If you notice higher levels of distress, engaging with your community, participating in memorials, joining advocacy groups, or even seeking professional help could be very helpful.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques can be helpful in reducing stress after a traumatic event as they can help to calm the mind and body and provide a sense of control in a time of uncertainty. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help to decrease physiological arousal and reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Deep breathing is a simple and effective relaxation technique that can be done anywhere and at any time. To practice deep breathing, sit or lie down in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. This technique can help to slow down your heart rate and lower blood pressure, reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another relaxation technique that can be helpful in reducing stress. This technique involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in the body. To practice progressive muscle relaxation, start by tensing your muscles in your feet and then relaxing them. Then move up the body, tensing and relaxing the muscles in the calves, thighs, stomach, and so on. This technique can help to release tension in the body and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Remember to keep practicing these relaxation tips and know that better times are ahead.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk, which refers to the things we tell ourselves, can play an important role in reducing stress after a traumatic event. Negative self-talk, such as self-criticism, can increase stress and make it more difficult to cope with a traumatic event. However, choosing to engage in positive self-talk can provide a sense of reassurance and can help to reframe negative thoughts and experiences.
For example, an individual may say to themselves "I am safe" or "I am in control." These statements can help to reframe negative thoughts and provide a sense of reassurance. Additionally, focusing on gratitude can also be helpful. An individual can remind themselves of the things they are thankful for, such as family, friends, or a roof over their head. This can help to shift focus away from the traumatic event and provide a sense of hope.
Self-talk can also be used as a tool for rationalizing after a traumatic event. After a mass shooting, many people may experience higher levels of anxiety and fear in public spaces. One way to use self-talk to reason correctly in this situation is to ask yourself questions like: "Is it possible for an event like this to happen?" Unfortunately, the answer is yes. However, it's important to also ask yourself: "Is it probable for an event like this to happen?" The answer is likely no.
While it is possible for a mass shooting to occur in any public space, the probability of it happening is relatively low. This type of self-talk can help individuals to put things in perspective, and can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and fear.
Stress Management Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma following the recent school shooting in Texas, the following links may be helpful. These resources offer a variety of tools and information to help individuals cope with the stress and trauma associated with such a traumatic event.
- We are with you Texas | CHE Behavioral Health Services
- Coping in the Aftermath of a Shooting
- About Psychological First Aid | The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- Five ways to care for yourself in the aftermath of a national tragedy
- Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- Gun Violence Prevention
When to Seek Professional Help
It's important for individuals to seek professional help after experiencing trauma as soon as possible. Trauma can have a significant impact on a person's mental and emotional well-being, and it's important to address it in a timely manner to reduce the risk of long-term negative effects.
- Some signs that may indicate a need for professional help include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression
- Nightmares or flashbacks related to the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, people, or activities that remind you of the trauma
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling irritable or easily angered
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
When the symptoms above begin to interfere with daily life or do not resolve after a long period of time, seek professional help immediately. A mental health professional can provide talk therapy and other forms of treatment to help individuals process their trauma and develop coping strategies.
Online Trauma Therapy
When trauma persists despite a person's best efforts, online psychological services may be helpful. Online trauma therapy can be an effective way for individuals to manage stress following a traumatic event. The anonymity and flexibility of online therapy can make it a more accessible and comfortable option for some individuals who may have difficulty attending in-person therapy sessions.
During online therapy, individuals have the opportunity to discuss their experiences and feelings surrounding the traumatic event with an online trauma therapist. This can help individuals process their emotions and gain a better understanding of their reactions to the trauma. The therapist can also teach coping mechanisms and stress management techniques, such as mindfulness and relaxation exercises. These can help individuals better manage their symptoms of stress.
Online therapy can also provide a sense of community and connection for individuals who may feel isolated following a traumatic event. Many online therapy platforms offer group therapy sessions, where individuals can connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. This can help individuals feel less alone and provide a sense of support and validation.
Getting Started with Talk Therapy
Self-care is crucial in the aftermath of a traumatic event. The mental health professionals at CHE Behavioral Health Services are here to support you in your journey towards healing. We understand the importance of addressing stress and trauma, and have a range of online psychological services to help you manage your symptoms.
With a vast network of online trauma therapists, individuals can receive counseling from the comfort of their own home. Don't suffer in silence, reach out to us today and take the first step towards a healthier you.