I. Normal, symptomatic responses to Shock, Loss and/or Post-traumatic Stress
Each individual will attempt to rebalance in his/her own way. Each of us will go through many emotions and mood states in the course of one day. Some of the stress responses you may observe in yourself and others include, but are not limited to:
- Numbing, “spaciness,” denial. There may be a sense of unreality about the event. Also you may feel somewhat removed or disassociated from yourself and your daily activity. Sometimes shock has the value of supplying us with the shock absorber of feeling removed from what has occurred or what is going on in the present.
- Recurrent, intrusive images in either sleep (nightmares) or wakefulness.
- It is normal to feel abnormal. Everyone has to make their individual decisions as to what feels good and what needs to be avoided. We all have our own internal timer as to how and when we heal.
- Grieving. Crying is appropriate and healthy. There is good cause for mourning. You need to grieve if you are experiencing loss—whatever or whomever it is. It does not have to make “sense.” Grief has a mind of its own. We have little or no control over when and how it appears.
- Fear. The future is unknown, but the truth is that this has always been so. Alan Watts wrote a book titled “The Wisdom of Insecurity.” I have often thought the title itself is a brilliant message.
- Anxiety and agitation, continual worrying.
- Insomnia/Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep Or perhaps you’re sleeping more than normal.
- Anger: quick outbursts of hostility that even to you may seem irrational. You may be angry at “it”—such as a disease. I worked with a young man with a rare cancer. He told me about bursting into a rage at the ticket taker at the movie theater. He realized, “I wasn’t angry at her; I was angry at Cancer.”
- Fatigue: feeling exhausted and more tired than usual.
- Hyperactivity: needing to stay busy. Are you so busy that you are exhausting yourself—in the belief that you don’t have to feel anything?
- Moving slowly. We may feel overly burdened and notice that simple tasks take longer to accomplish. Our hurried lives may need some pruning.
- Social withdrawal: Wanting to avoid other people.
- Fear of isolation: Not wanting to be alone. A need to talk a lot.
- Body-felt symptoms. Back and neck pain, headaches, digestive disorders, skin disorders, and elevated blood pressure are some of the ways we translate our feelings into body symptoms. Emotions are experienced in the body and, if not quickly processed, may be translated into physical distress.
II. Self-Care Strategies
- Compassion for self. Be very kind to yourself. Let yourself breathe and create spaciousness around your heart and all throughout your body/mind. It is ironic that if you embrace your pain and treat it like a small child that needs loving-kindness, your heart may ease. Take all the time you need to heal. Develop a nonjudgmental witness that observes your emotional process and your thoughts with awareness. There is no one right way to do this.
- Compassion for others. Be very kind to others. Your personal pain can awaken you to the universal human condition of suffering.
- Gratitude. Even in the midst of pain, look to what is functional, and what is good.
- Exercise. Moving your body (i.e., walking, yoga, dance, sports) will move the energy and stimulate the pleasure hormones. Also, exercise keeps your strength up and gives you personal empowerment.
- Get plenty of rest. Trauma and grief are tiring. Sleep and naps will refresh you. Rest even if you can’t sleep.
- Well-balanced meals. No junk food, minimal alcohol. Resist “comfort” junk food.
- Avoid mood-altering substances. This includes over-the-counter medicine and some prescription drugs that make one feel “stoned” or “high.” If you smoke—stop now. Yes. NOW!!
- Play. The children are showing us that life must go on. Remember to join with others in playful community.
- Balance your time alone with time with others. A crisis can teach us the preciousness of life and love.
- Reach out and touch someone. Say, “I love you,” to at least one person every day. Say thank you and share appreciation to at least one person (or more) every day. Give a massage. Get a massage.
- Limit TV or media input, while staying informed. Select your entertainment wisely. All external imagery is food for the mind.
- Words have power. Practice loving-kindness to yourself and others. Give up gossip.
- Simplify your routine. Less is more. Lower expectations of what you should be doing right now.
- It’s all right to feel good. Find blessings and pleasure in as much as you can in your life: your dog’s face, your cat’s fur, the smile of another, the light in the tree leaves, something simple in your home: a pillow, a crystal, a painting.
- Be creative. Art heals. Art saves lives. Write, paint, sing, dance, and express yourself. Keep a journal. There is something sacred about our times of loss and sorrow. Journal writing can help you find clarity.
- Take solace in nature. Garden, walk in the woods, delight in plants and flowers. Step outside and say, “Thank you,” to the sky and earth. Let yourself be blessed by all that is good.
- Meditate. Words may fail us. Silence may be just what is needed at this time.
- Pray for your own healing and that all beings be healed and live in peace. Pray for harmony for our planet and for wisdom and compassion for our leaders. Find your own personal prayers. Pray with others. Prayer and meditation in community magnifies the Energy.
- Get professional help. Times of upheaval can be transformational. A trusted guide such as a psychotherapist can lead you on a healing journey.
- Serve others. Service is the great open secret of healing.
Who can you reach out to today?
In your goodness you bring me the blessing of dawn,
A day of renewed strength,
Of miracles, where Love will reveal itself again and again.
You bless me with a heart of Love.
Give me the courage and compassion to venture forth and to see anew.