Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting

Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting

You may be struggling to understand how a shooting could occur and why such a terrible thing would happen. There may never be satisfactory answers to these questions.

We do know, though, that it is typical for people to experience a variety of emotions following such a traumatic event. These feelings can include shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, grief and others. You may find that you have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating or remembering even simple tasks. This is common and should pass after a while. Over time, the caring support of family and friends can help to lessen the emotional impact and ultimately make the changes brought about by the tragedy more manageable. You may feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than you did yesterday. It will take some time to recover your sense of equilibrium.

Meanwhile, you may wonder how to go on living your daily life. You can strengthen your resilience — the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity — in the days and weeks ahead.

Here are some tips:

  • Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.
  • Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
  • Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
  • Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
  • Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or re-establish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  • Help others or do something productive. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.
  • If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including “survivor guilt” — feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.

For many people, using the tips and strategies mentioned above may be sufficient to get through the current crisis. At times, however an individual can get stuck or have difficulty managing intense reactions. A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.

Recovering from such a tragic event may seem difficult to imagine. Persevere and trust in your ability to get through the challenging days ahead. Taking the steps in this guide can help you cope at this very difficult time.

If you are struggling to understand or to overcome fears, a licensed therapist can help. Schedule an appointment today.

Original article may be found at:
This tip sheet was made possible with help from the following APA members: Dewey Cornell, PhD, Richard A. Heaps, PhD, Jana Martin, PhD, H. Katherine O’Neill, PhD, Karen Settle, PhD, Peter Sheras, PhD, Phyllis Koch-Sheras, PhD, and members of Division 17.

In the wake of tragedy

On Friday, December 14th, 2012 a gunman walked into a Connecticut elementary school and changed the way every parent in the nation looked at their child that night.

In the wake of the most deadly school shooting most are stunned, and saddened, or even outraged. We wear these emotions and our children are affected by our response. There’s no way to go about your day and act as if nothing has happened when we are all holding our kids a little closer today. We must find a way to do something with these feelings, however. Our children are learning from our actions how they should behave after something so tragic has occurred.

Is it healthy to watch the news and see these images over and over? Most likely not, especially for younger children who are still forming their ideas of where they are safe.

Is it a good idea to cry outwardly in front of our children? To a degree yes, they need to see that you are affected and you mourn for the losses of other parents.

Should you talk to them about the shooting? Yes. Simply because they are going to hear about it, and if you don’t talk to them you can’t control what they understand. Make sure to be supportive when you do and validate their feelings.

Will it hurt them if you do nothing? No, but it will teach them that when others hurt it’s okay to sit on the sidelines and watch.

Mr. Rodgers is quoted to have said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Definitely look for the helpers, but I say take it a step further. Show your children that you are not powerless to the evils of the world; you can stand up and help others. Be a helper yourself. Find a way you can support and help those in need.

Be empowered to make changes in this world.

If you or your child is struggling to understand or to overcome fears, a licensed therapist can help. Schedule an appointment today.

Surviving the Holidays When You’re Grieving

By Guest Author Sandy Green NCC LAC
Don’t plan to skip the holidays.  It’s impossible to wish the day away.  It will come, no matter what you do.  Instead of trying to ignore the holidays and hiding your feelings, accept that it’s normal to feel sad and blue during these days.  Meet your feelings head on and work out some strategies to help prepare you, as much as possible, for the holidays and parties.
Plan Ahead.  When you are grieving, no doubt you do not like to be surprised. After all, your emotions are already like a roller coaster, up and down, and unpredictable.  Plan ahead. Ask your family members and friends to tell you about the festivities they are planning so you know what to expect. Strategize about who you will go with and which parts of the planned festivities you feel you can participate in comfortably.  Predictability reduces the element of surprise and increases coping skills. When you don’t feel comfortable, tell a trusted friend or family member about your feelings and ask them to support your decision not to participate or ask them to help you find an alternative way to make it more comfortable.
Make tentative plans.  Because your emotions are so unpredictable during the time of grieving, it is hard to know ahead of time if you will be having a good day tomorrow, or next week.  When you are invited to a party or other holiday gathering, tell your host, “I would like to come, put me down as a “maybe”.  This way you are not obligated to go if you change your mind because you’re having a tough day.
Give yourself grace. Do only those activities which are special and meaningful to you.  What do you feel comfortable doing? Which activities do find supporting? Do only those things.   It’s your grieving period, it’s okay to put yourself first. Be kind to yourself. Get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods. Don’t take on any more than you can manage. If you need to be alone, give yourself permission to do so. If you want the love and support of others, ask for it. Do whatever it is that gives you the comfort and support you need.
Shop early or by catalog or online.  When you’re grieving, you may see the world through skewed glasses.  If you have lost a spouse, you may feel as if everyone around you is in a happy, healthy, and loving relationship. If you have lost a child, everywhere you look you will see only joyful active children with smiling, reassuring, and loving parents.   You see malls overflowing bustling shoppers, Christmas music, blinking lights, and delightful smells of pumpkin spice and pine trees.  These sights, sounds, and smells can heighten a grieving person’s depression. You may feel “obligated” to smile because “everyone else is”, stirring up feelings of guilt about being “phony” which brings on more depression because you don’t feel congruent.
Talk through it.  When asked, “How are you?’, be truthful.  The only way through grief is to grieve. You can’t go around it. You friends likely don’t know how to best support someone who is grieving.  Tell them how you feel.  “Today is tough for me”; “I’m feeling vulnerable right now”;  “I’d like to sit here and reflect a bit”;  “I’d like someone to just sit with me for a while”. Sharing your feelings will help to bring on the healing. You need people who are willing to listen. Choose friends who you are comfortable with and ones who will not be uncomfortable with your tears. Friends and family may think talking about your grief will only remind you of your losses, so they may avoid talking about it. Let them know talking is what you need. Tell them how they can best support you, whether it be listening, remembering with you, or participating in an activity which brings you comfort. Talking with a counselor may also be needed in order to help with the healing process.
Ask for help and accept it. This is not the time to pretend you are strong. You need the help and support of family and friends. You are not a burden. Your loved ones will be happy to help someone they care for and your allowing them to help will give the gift of purpose and meaning. If you find people are not helping you, it is likely that they do not know how to help you. Make your needs known. If you need someone to help you with decorating, meals, shopping, or planning, let them know. Most will be delighted to know they are helping in a meaningful way.
Find a support group. Friends and family can be supportive when you’re grief, but they may have their own grief from the same loss. Or they may have other challenges in their lives which won’t allow them to help you as much as they would like. Support groups for the bereaved usually easy to find during the holiday season. Ask about them at local churches, community centers, hospice agencies and search the internet to find a group that is right for you. It’s very comforting to be a part of a group whose members are grieving losses similar to your own. The friends you meet there will likely be a source of friendship for years to come.
Stop comparing. During the holidays, you may be tempted to believe that everyone is thoroughly enjoying the holidays. Don’t allow yourself to make these comparisons because in reality holidays are very stressful for most people. Holidays are rarely the picture perfect scenes you see in holiday movies or even in television commercials.  Count your blessings instead of comparing what you have to what you think everyone else has.
Take care of yourself.  Resist over-eating and be sure to get the nourishment you need.  Alcoholic beverages tend to be abundant during the holidays.  Carefully monitor how much you are drinking. Numbing your feelings and your pain with alcohol will only serve to slow the healing and grieving process; it will also bring other unwanted problems which could lead depression, relationship issues, or legal problems. Get plenty of rest and don’t neglect you exercise routine.
Make a Difference. Helping others during the holiday season can be immensely satisfying. Buy a gift for someone in need or donate to your favorite organization. Helping others in times of grief can help take the focus off your pain and help you to feel better about yourself. Volunteering at a, hospital, children’s shelter, nursing home or holiday meal kitchen can be healing during times of pain. Helping friends or family in need can be therapeutic.
Be a survivor. Even though it is very hard for you right now, you will survive. You will come through the holidays. Even though it is undoubtedly the most difficult season during your time of grieving, this will pass. When come out at the end of season you will likely be stronger than you were before you experienced the loss of your loved one.
Be true to yourself. You don’t have to enjoy everything about the holidays. You don’t even have to go through the motions pretending to enjoy season. But, it’s also okay to have a good time even though you’re grieving. If happiness sneaks in, brace it and enjoy it. You won’t be betraying your loved one by experiencing joy. The best gift you can give anyone you love, even someone you have lost, is being true to yourself and living your life to the fullest.
Remember.  “Relationships don’t end, they only change in nature.”  You are still impacted by your loved one’s love, their words still play in your mind, the wisdom they shared still guides, and you still feel their presence.  Honor and remember them in whatever way you feel is appropriate: write a letter or card to them, get them a gift, or light a candle in their memory. The relationship will never stop being important to you.
A licensed therapist can help you through this difficult time. Call 520-366-8083 to set up an appointment with Sandy Green to talk through your grief and loss or visit her website at
Or Schedule an appointment with Dr. Jessica today.

Did you know that this week was Transgender awareness week?

Did you know that this week was Transgender awareness week?

Transgender is an umbrella term for a diverse group of people whose gender identity or expression differs from societal expectations of how they should look, act, or identify based on the sex they were assigned at birth—a person’s innate identification as a man, woman, or something else, which may or may not correspond to the person’s external body or the sex listed on their birth certificate—is separate from sexual orientation. So while it’s possible to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (or straight, asexual, or poly…) and be trans, they are not the same thing.

Although many people talk about the LGBT community as a whole, the transgender community—the T in LGBT—faces unique challenges in public understanding and acceptance, discrimination and legal protections, and health disparities stemming from all of the above.

For instance, 62% of transgender people have experienced depression and 41% admit to attempting suicide at some point in their lives; 37% of transgender people have reported being harassed in retail stores, and 3% report being physically assaulted; and 28% of transgender people surveyed reported postponing seeking medical care due to a fear of bias. For more information visit Fenway Focus.

If you are part of the LGBT community, as an individual or ally, know that there is support in your community. A licensed, supportive, professional can help. Schedule an appointment today or check out the Wingspan Directory for supportive resources in the Tucson area.

The Misunderstood Effects Of Mental Health Disorders

As many as one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. Mental health disorders are personal, they limit people, and they are widely misunderstood by society. Even though doctors and researchers have made huge strides in their understanding and treatment of mental health disorders, there is still much more to be learned. Here are a few that commonly occur in our society:

  1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral condition that causes inattentiveness, impulsivity and over-activity, or a combination of all three. ADHD is often misunderstood and there are various misconceptions about the cause of treatment of this behavioral disorder. ADHD is not a made up medical condition, and those who are diagnosed with it aren’t lazy or dumb. This condition is real and is not an indication of someone’s intelligence or unwillingness to focus. Actually, individuals with ADHD are bombarded with input and often have to sift through many thoughts and observations to decide what is important right now.
  2. Eating Disorders are a mental health condition characterized by abnormal eating behaviors, such as reduced food intake, extreme overeating and obsessive concern with diet, body weight and shape. Eating disorders are not only widely misunderstood by the public, but researchers don’t know the underlying causes of eating disorders either. Many people believe that eating disorders only occur in females, but it’s quite the contrary. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of males in the U.S. have an eating disorder. Another common misconception about eating disorders is that people do it to get attention. This is completely untrue, and for many sufferers it is a way to handle depression, stress or trauma and has little to do with beauty.
  3. Autism Spectrum & Asperger’s Syndrome are a group of developmental disorders that affects one’s social and communication skills. This mental health condition typically appears in the first three years of life and is characterized by a number of symptoms, such as trouble communicating with words, slow or non-evident language development, repetitive body movements, distressed by changes in routines, and many other behaviors. Many of the misunderstandings about this mental condition are associated with the causes of autism, which are open to much debate. One major misconception is that autism is definitely caused by vaccines. There may be various factors that cause autism, such as genetics, diet, mercury poisoning and even vaccines, but researchers have yet to determine any exact causes for these chemical and biological abnormalities.
  4. Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme mood swings that range from depression to euphoria. The best explanation I’ve heard of mania is the feeling you have as a teenager- where it seems perfectly normal to do very risky things. These mood shifts generally don’t change in a single day, they come and go over weeks or months, and some people experience both depression and mania symptoms at the same time. Bipolar disorder is widely misunderstood by society as being a made up condition and an excuse people use to act irrationally and shift their moods whenever they feel like it. This couldn’t be more false because it is a real, proven medical disorder that is caused by chemical and biological differences in the brain. People with bipolar disorder don’t choose to be in a depressed or maniac state of mind, but they can reduce extreme mood swings with proper medical treatment.
  5. Borderline Personality Disorder is an emotional disorder characterized by distorted self-image and emotional instability. Those suffering from BPD often have feelings of worthlessness and think they’re fundamentally flawed. They are often seen as manipulative. They may act impulsively and engage in risky behavior. This chronic mental condition is widely misunderstood by society and has many negative stigmas. One common misconception about borderline personality disorder is that it’s not treatable, but dialectical behavior therapy has proven to be a successful treatment for BPD. People with BPD are not using it as an excuse to act out or be selfish; it’s a serious condition that cannot be ignored because symptoms may worsen and the risk of suicide increases.

The most important thing to understand with all mental health disorders is that no two persons will experience them the same. Though there is a list of symptoms, they will very in intensity and duration.

If you or a loved one suffers from a mental health disorder, know that you’re not alone. A licensed therapist can help you be understood and understand others. Schedule an appointment today.


How to make them change…

In life many of us spend a lot of time trying to get our loved ones to change. Whether it’s trying to get our partners to do what’s best for themselves, or get our kids to sleep through the night… it can seem like an endless struggle.

But what if we changed the way we look at it… maybe it’s not them that need to change, just the situation.

Take the child who comes to their parent’s bed each night. It’s a struggle every night to get a restful night sleep. Yes, many people have said it’s fine to have them cry-it-out, unfortunately that doesn’t work for all parents. But you need sleep, right? Try looking at the situation in a different way. What is it that your child needs? Why are they coming into bed with you every night? Is it something that you can provide to them in a different way- like waking them up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom then taking them back to bed so they are less awake and able to fall aback asleep. Maybe it’s not something you can solve quickly and it’s more effective to change what you do- like moving another bed or beanbag into your bedroom so you can still get some sleep while meeting their needs.

What about your spouse? We know they are unhappy, they complain all the time… or are openly sullen and withdrawn. So we tell them to change it… point out the many things they can do different… support them to do something about it… yet they still stay stuck. Maybe it’s time to see the situation in a different light. What is it that they need? Complaining about their job may be because they miss their family, they miss their freedom, or they’re bored.

Look for ways to fix the things you can, because you can’t change them.

A licensed therapist can help you figure out what is at the root of your struggles. Schedule an appointment today… learn to express your solve your problems in a healthy way.

If you love me, then why do we fight?

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything!”

“Don’t talk back to me!”

 “Don’t raise your voice to me!”

There is a belief that you shouldn’t feel angry with someone you love, but it is irrational to expect two unique human beings (no matter how much they love each other) not to have some conflict. As kids we are all taught that expressing anger is wrong, we are taught that angry feelings aren’t acceptable but this only teaches us to be ashamed of a natural response that can’t be avoided, and ultimately an appropriate expression of anger is not learned.

Kids who are ashamed of their feelings don’t learn how to fully express themselves. These kids grow up to be adults who can’t express their anger. We often struggle in jobs or relationships because people don’t understand what we aren’t communicating.

But anger and love do mix.

It is important to communicate anger in a healthy way to people you love, and it’s important to teach our children to do the same so that they can express their desires and dislikes without emotional chaos.

If you are struggling to be understood, counseling can help. A licensed therapist can help you communicate more effectively. Schedule an appointment today… learn to express your anger in a healthy way.

If you care, you’ll find the time.

No matter how “busy” a person is, they will always find time for something they value.

So what does that say about your life? What are you putting off doing? Who do you keep forgetting?

If you really look at your own actions, what is really happening when you put off cleaning the house? Where are your priorities?

What about when you put off going to the doctor, or dealing with your medication? Where are your priorities?

How about exercising?

If we are just too busy to take care of ourselves, what does that say? That we are not our own priority? That we don’t care enough about ourselves to make the time? That watching the latest and greatest reality TV show is more important than our health?

If you really put it into black and white, every time you put off your own needs you are telling yourself that you’re not worth it… and if you don’t think you’re worth it then why should anyone else?

If you’re ready to value yourself, counseling can help. A licensed therapist can help you recognize your priorities. Schedule an appointment today… Find direction in your life.

What happens to kids when the relationship is over?

Kids don’t handle change well. It’s just a fact.

The more things you change in their daily routine, the more out of sorts they feel. But the ways that they act out can all be traced back to the insecurities that come from not having stability… not knowing what will happen next.

  • They are more argumentative… sometimes it seems like they aren’t being heard, other times they know that there are new boundaries they need to feel out, wither way they are going to push. You have to provide clear and consistent guidelines, in both homes, as well as let them know that you are listening to their needs.
  • They will be more needy… your 3-year-old may decide that she needs to sleep with you every night even though she’s been in her own bed for years, it’s normal. When they change caregivers and environments everything feels like it’s unstable. They reach for you at night so they know you will be there. Getting through this stage can be a challenge, but it’s up to you to decide whether to comfort them and allow it or have them ‘cry-it-out’. Either way, they will be fine.
  • They will pit you against each other… no, they don’t do this on purpose. Kids hear your tone, they see your body language, and they know how you feel. If they come home and tell you about the horrors at daddy’s house, don’t freak out. Most of the time they know that you aren’t that happy with daddy, and they can see that you will want to talk to them, listen to them, and connect with them more if they don’t like him either.
  • Their grades will drop… when kids go through a lot of change they don’t do as well in school for a number of reasons. They don’t have the same consistent help, you are just busier, and they are more scattered from all the chaos. Get them the extra-consistent- help to get through this so it doesn’t have long term effects on their grades.

The most important thing to remember is that you loved your ex at some point. There is good in them. Try to connect to that for your kids. Co-parenting is as important for married parents as it is for separated ones.

If you’re struggling to find that common ground, counseling can help. A licensed therapist can help you work through it, for your happiness and your kid’s. Schedule an appointment today… Get the advice you need.

How to be Happy

Did you ever notice that we all seem to be on this journey to find the all elusive ‘Happiness’ that is never quite in reach?

Happiness is something we will get when we make it to the next point. It’s a moment that will be achieved when we find the right person, when we get a better job, when we finally get a vacation.

Then, suddenly, happiness was something we had before we lost it. We mourn for the moments we had with our friends who are now far away, for the job that we lost because it wasn’t that bad, for the times when we were happy with our spouse.

Happiness always just seems a step away.

An Ani DiFranco lyric goes…

“When I look down

I just miss all the good stuff,

When I look up

I just trip over things.”

Maybe it’s time to live for the now.

Don’t look to the past and miss what is happening now, and don’t look to the future and loose site of what you have.

Be happy in the things you can find today.

If you’re ready to find your happiness, counseling can help. A licensed therapist can help you work through it and be able to live in the now. Schedule an appointment today… Get the advice you need.