DISASTER: Restoring Balance and Community
In the wake of the disasters of the past two months, you may find yourself experiencing symptoms of trauma. Know that these symptoms are common and can be experienced by anyone, not just by those directly affected by the event. In fact, now, with the connection we all have through media and the internet, in a way causes us all to be directly affected by the events. We worry about our family and friends, we see the horrific events happening before us, and being human, we feel the pain of others.
After all, most people know the feelings of loss and grief. I believe that it is important to recognize the symptoms of trauma and to know that your feelings are valid. According to the American Psychological Association, the following are common symptoms of trauma:
- Intense or unpredictable feelings. Including anxiety, nervousness, overwhelm, and grief. You may also feel more irritable or moody than usual.
- Changes to thoughts and behavior patterns. You may have repeated and vivid memories of the event. (This could even occur in dreams, even if you were not experiencing the event firsthand. I had dreams for days following the mass shootings in Las Vegas of friends and I being involved in a mass shooting and seeing my friends die before me.) These memories may occur with no warning or reason and may lead to physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat or sweating. You may have difficulty concentrating or making decisions and regular routines like sleeping and eating may feel disrupted.
- Sensitivity to environmental factors. Sirens, loud noises, burning smells, or other environmental sensations may stimulate memories of the disaster, creating heightened anxiety. These “triggers” may be accompanied by fears that the stressful event will be repeated.
- Strained interpersonal relationships. Increased conflict with family or coworkers may occur. Or you may feel inclined to withdraw from social activities.
- Stress-related physical symptoms. Headaches, nausea, and chest pain may occur or other pre-existing conditions may become worse.
Natural disasters and traumatic events rip away our sense of security. Our ground is shaken and the first chakra becomes imbalanced. This can cause the whole energy system to be thrown off.
During times like these, I often find myself asking why, why do these things (hurricanes, fires, shootings) happen? What I have to come back and remind myself is that Earth, our planet, is a living being. Being alive, the Earth itself has to stay in balance. It is a miracle that the Earth is constantly rebalancing itself to keep this planet doing the miraculous things it does to stay in orbit and keep us alive. That thought leaves me in awe, despite the tragedy.
What I also find miraculous of events like these is the community that the events create. These events call us to come together, to help others and I believe that is something the world needs right now.
How do you cope?
Firstly, it is important to remove the things that are perpetuating stress. Stop watching the news, stop scrolling through your Facebook feed for hours on end, and stop perpetuating the thoughts that keep you in a constant state of worry and fear.
Do what is within your means to help. And realize that you get to help with your gifts. If you help by donating, awesome. If you help by volunteering your time, awesome. Perhaps you help in other ways. I help others by teaching them how to cope, by helping others to heal their anxiety and worry. I accept how I am able to help and in what capacity and I know the ripple effect of what I have to give. Maybe, what you have to give is fixing cars or providing HR support in your company. The fact is, what you have to give is amazing and purposeful and if you don’t feel that way, then maybe it is time to discover what you have to give and how to do that.
Talk to someone, tell them how you feel, and be willing to ask for help. No one does life alone, we only do life alone by choice. Trust me, I have played the alone game and what I have learned is there is always someone willing to help, even if you have to look outside of family and friends for that. In fact, I highly recommend talking to a professional, a professional who resonates with you. If you are reading this, you have already found someone willing to listen, me.
Finally, give yourself time. Time heals all wounds. I promise you, it will get better.