Are you like me and feeling overwhelmed with all the recent devastation occurring around the world? Are you noticing your heart beating faster, body tensed up and shaky, feeling angry, scared, or worried? Having a hard time sleeping because your mind just won’t turn off?
With the recent natural disasters, protests, and most recently, the tragic events in Las Vegas, it’s hard to balance between making sure you’re informed with what’s going on in the world and trying to manage the anxiety and stress that comes along with it.
This blog was going to be about how to manage this slight anxiety that you may be feeling, but after hearing about the tragedy in Las Vegas, I also feel the need to help my fellow Americans and fellow San Diegans who were there during this horrific, horrific event. Truly my heart goes out to you and your loved ones.
I want to now help normalize and help you understand possible common reactions you may experience after such a traumatic event, steps you can take to heal, as well as to help the rest of us who are feeling increased anxiety over the past two months of devastation around the world.
What You Can Expect After A Traumatic Event
As you probably already know, we all have the Fight, Flight, Freeze system within us. It’s there to protect us, but during the aftermath, that system can continue to run and hold the memory in place, replaying it in our mind over and over, hence the name, Post Traumatic Stress. Here are just a few common reactions and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder:
- Recurring/repeated images of the event
- Nightmares with content similar to the event
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Feeling easily startled, jumpy, irritable, have exaggerated physical or emotional reactions
- Shakiness, trembling, heart racing, tearful, having a hard time focusing/concentrating
- Having difficulty experiencing positive emotions such as joy, happiness, love
- Avoiding people, places, or activities you used to enjoy
Attempts to avoid thinking or talking about the event is also common, but can be more detrimental in the long run, causing the above reactions to last longer. The sooner you can begin to talk about and process the event, the less frequent the memory will replay, and the sooner these symptoms will reduce or even eliminate. Sharing your experience, as difficult as it may be, with those you feel most safe and supported by can be a good place to start such as family, friends, or within your church community. Working with a trauma therapist skilled and trained in trauma therapies, such as EMDR, Exposure therapy just to name a few, is another option if you’re feeling you need more support or if you do not feel you have the appropriate support within your circle. Please see my page on EMDR Therapy for more information on how it is often a quicker way of processing, without having to verbalize every detail, and yet, see quicker results.
It is also common for depressive symptoms such as sadness, withdrawal/isolation, lack of interest, motivation, or energy to arise if a traumatic experience is not processed within the first six months of the event. The closer to the date of the event you are able to process, the sooner these symptoms will decrease, and the sooner you can return to your normal, daily routine.
8 Simple Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety
As I mentioned earlier, I have noticed my anxiety increase with each news event. I know I can’t be the only one. All of these events have occurred in so many areas that it seems all of us have at least one person we know who is being affected. I have already heard of friends, or loved ones of friends, who were in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting. So here a few simple things that you can do if you’re having similar reactions:
- Limit news watching. Allow yourself 30 minutes to an hour a day or every couple of days
- Limit or stop news alerts you may receive on your phone or through email. You can do this by going to your General settings and turn off “Notifications.”
- Limit time on social media that you know will alert you to more of what you heard on the news. So many posts are often others’ assumptions or have come down from the grapevine, and are not credible information or from a credible news source, making it difficult to decipher what really happened.
- Talk with family or friends. Sometimes hearing that someone else is feeling the same way can be so validating, relieving, and you may feel less alone.
- Donate your time, money, or resources. Maybe get a group of family or friends to make a group donation. I had a friend coordinate such a thing for Mexico and it was such a good feeling to see so many people come together for strangers. Maybe start that recurring monthly donation that you’ve wanted to do for so long. When we are so far away from another’s devastating experience, we can feel helpless. A donation can help you feel like you’re doing something, and therefore feel good about it. So many places will need continued help for months and years. It’s still not too late.
- Prayer, Meditation, Deep Breathing 3x periodically throughout the day, going for a walk, listening to music, Yoga, exercise are all ways that can help quiet the mind and destress.
- Laugh. Find ways or people who will bring laughter to your day, such as a book, movie, comedian, family, friends. Laughter releases chemicals in the brain associated with positive emotions bringing stress relief and relaxation.
- If you find that your anxiety is beginning to impact your ability to get tasks done, effecting your work productivity, schoolwork, relationships, or sleep, it may be time to seek a therapist to help practice and develop further coping tools or identify if it is connecting to other experiences in your life and not aware of this connection.
We are all going through some pretty significant times and this is just a reminder that we all have the tools within us to get through it. Being an EMDR therapist, I have seen the amazing changes that can happen and therefore, so compelled to remind you that you don’t have to suffer or suffer alone. Please, seek the support if you need it.