Dealing with trauma: Yours and someone else's
Again we are country reeling from the latest incident of gun violence. Horrifically, something that has become all to common place.
In addition to be a counselor and coach, I am a crisis clinician.
The week after the shooting, I spoke with a young man whose classmate was angry at him and told the school, the young man was planning an attack against the school. He was beside himself, not only for being accused but also the aftermath of being treated like a criminal. He is facing expulsion, even though the school found no weapons or evidence of the student’s alleged plans.
I also spoke with a teacher. She was questioning her choice of professions. Was she really willing to die for her students? When did a job she loves because an moral obligation of death if necessary. Something she had never thought of years ago when she decided to become a teacher? She has worked in rural schools and inner city schools. She said they are both just as scary to work in. Rural kids own guns and know how to use them. Inner city kids also have access to guns and street smarts. She worried that something would set off a student and being reactive and not thinking through consequences would end up hurting others.
We all handle pain, trauma, loss and tragedy differently. Some of us are profoundly affected. Moved beyond words. Some of us, stuff away, pretend that life is the same. Some of us are moved to outrage, yelling and fighting for social changes, and some become defensive against those who disagree with our ideas of what will make the world a better place.
Below you will find tools to help in general and tools to add to your soul care. One list focuses more on active things you can do and other more energetically. Because if we are going to save the world, we have to be taking care of ourselves first.
Active soul care:
1. Don’t let it swallow you. Don’t let it consume your life. Don’t let it eat you up. Don’t let stop you from living. Give yourself limits on how much news coverage you are going to watch. How much time you are going to be on social media. How many articles you are going to read. The more time you spend watching, reading, commenting the more you drain you. Give yourself limits and give yourself permission to take care of you. Go for a walk, spend time in nature, call a friend, read a book, make tea- do something that fills you back up.
2. Talk. Share. Connect. Share how you feel with others. Share your story. Connect to like minded people who support you. Don’t keep quiet and lock yourself away. There is strength and support in community. Shared grief can a powerful healing tool. Locking the door and closing the blinds keeps you isolated and feeling depressed. If you need to call a crisis line, start therapy or group therapy for people who are dealing with the same things you are.
3. Know your strengths and offer them to others. What to help? Know how you can help. Awesome cook, make a meal for someone grieving. Awesome listener, listen to someone’s story. We all have talents. Share yours.
4. Allow yourself to feel. Don’t shut down. Let the emotions come. Let them visit. Listen to them. Give them space to be heard. Each emotion is a messenger, to help you grow and heal. Shutting the door in their face doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help others. Feel your emotions.
5. Donate. If you can donate money to help victims of violence or donate to a cause you support.
6. Volunteer. Share your time with the causes you care about. Volunteer for an organization that supports your beliefs.
7. Create art. Journal, paint, draw. Allow your emotions to express themselves freely. Don’t censor, let them flow. GIve yourself permission to create whatever wants to be created. Art can be an extremely powerful healing tool.
8. Exercise. When we move, we allow our bodies to release. Plus, it releases endorphins which help us feel better.
9. Nature. Nature is a wonderful healing agent. She can instantly calm you and help you feel more connected. Don’t rush, take your time, really using your five senses to be in the moment in nature.
10. Laugh. It’s true, laughter is the best medicine. Don’t censor or judge what makes you laugh, crazy cat videos, a certain tv show or comedian. Allow yourself to laugh and laugh hard.
11. Random acts of kindness. Smile, buy someone’s coffee, help someone with a chore. Whatever you can afford (financially, energetically, emotionally). A kind word, a smile or a hug can make someone else’s day.
Energetic soul care:
Check in with yourself. What do you need in this moment? A nap, a hug, a bath, exercise, art, etc… Listen to what you need and honor it.
Clear yourself and your space. Smudging in an ancient tool using smoke to clear your energy. Many people use sage, I prefer Palo Santo, I love the smell of it. Burn the sage or palo santo around yourself and your space.
Baths and showers. I love bathes to clear and release whatever has clung to me during the day. Some prefer a shower. Whichever you choose, move the water away from you, allowing it carry whatever has clung to you. I love adding lemongrass essential oils or using a lemongrass scrub. Lemons and lime are wonderful clearing agents. Use what you have fresh or essential oils. Epsom salt is another wonderful clearing agent. Add it to your bath or use a fresh lemon or lime, cut in half and put the salt on the fleshy side of the fruit.
Salt lamps. Wonderful to have in your space to clear and purify the air.
Plants. Plants can transmute negative energy.
Crystals. Pick a crystal that feels good, the one that speaks to you. Carry them, wear crystal jewelry and place around your house. Hold your crystal and set the intention of what you would like it to do: protect, attract, promote calm.
Smells. We often forget how powerful our sense of smell is. Find the smells that calm, that invigorate. Wear them (most essential oils need to a carrier oil if worn on the skin) or diffuse in an aromatherapy machine.
Clean. We often allow our spaces to be cluttered. Take time to dust, mop, clear out what no longer serves you. Keep what is important and get rid of the rest.