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.

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.



Isn’t it weird how pain makes us want to stop doing things?

Whether it’s the physical pain of arthritis or the emotional pain of a break-up, pain makes us want to curl up and pull the covers over our heads. Sit in the dark for days and days. Hope that it will be better tomorrow.

But that’s not why our body experiences pain.

Think about it…

If you stopped and held your hand still when you felt the burning of a hot pan on the stove, you would hurt yourself more.

If you left your hand in a piranha tank… you would be sorry.

If you left your foot under the tire after running it over… you get the point, right?

Pain tells us to move… get up and change something… don’t just sit there and let life happen to you- you need to make life happen.

Whether it’s going out with friends so you stop thinking about your ex or making yourself stretch every hour after tweaking your back, listen to your pain, make the changes you need.

If you’re immobilized by your pain, physical or emotional, counseling can help. A licensed therapist can help you work through it and find a way to keep you moving. Schedule an appointment today.

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”

(Tich Nhat Hanh, 1926-p)

It seems like human nature to struggle, persevere, and strive for happiness. It’s this goal that we long for.

But what if we looked at happiness differently?

What if happiness was the path, not the product?

It is so easy to get caught up in the ideas of the future, what possibilities and promise that lie ahead… or get sucked in to the “what-if’s” of our past… all in this hope that someday things will be ok. But if you stop for a moment and let those things go, what do you have now?

Do you have the things you need?

Do you enjoy the company of the people around you?

Are you okay with who you are?

If you are, these are all paths of happiness. These are all moments to connect to and be grateful for.

If you’re not, then change it.

A licensed therapist can help you find your path of happiness. Schedule an appointment today… learn to live for the present.

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.