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: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/mass-shooting.aspx
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.

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 www.healingleavescounseling.com.
Or Schedule an appointment with Dr. Jessica today.

Memories of Holidays Past

The holidays can be tough.

Not only do we have chaotic family dinners and crazy in-laws, but the holidays bring up memories of times past…

Weather the loss of a loved one, a job, a pet, a home… the joyous times of Thanksgiving past, the crazy Yuletide events from previous years, or the celebratory twelfth bell ringing from every New Year can be vindictive reminders of what we once had.

How do we get through the holiday season, with rooms full of happy people, when inside we feel like we’re wobbling on the edge of an abyss? But in the end we just do.

We get through the holidays by pushing those feelings away, struggling to just get through the movements and make it to the next day. It’s sad.

It’s sad that we lessen the value of all those moments from our past by pushing them away.

It’s ok to take a second in the grocery store and remember Mom’s stuffing, and how she always added a little too much celery. It’s ok to place a dog bone under the tree for fluffy, and remember how great a dog he was when he played with the kids. It’s ok to take a moment and bless your new home (even if it’s a rental or your aunt’s basement) and be sad that your kids have to share a room this year. Taking time to remember our losses gives us a chance to grieve them. Taking time to morn gives us time to heal.

Taking time gives our memories value.

Take time with your loved ones this holiday season. If the burden becomes too much, seek help from a trained counselor who can guide you through the process of enjoying your present and embracing your past.

Useful tips for less stress this holiday season

As the Veteran’s Day Weekend officially kicks off two month of craziness, it is a good time to remember the tips to get you through this holiday season.

Autism Spectrum Therapies (http://news.yahoo.com/autism-spectrum-therapies-suggestions-stress-free-holiday-season-082755126.html) started this list, but here’s my tweaks and additions that make it useful for everyone.

Work as a team to preserve critical routines

As a family, when you start making holiday plans, be precise and honest with family. Work out ways to preserve critical routines- like bedtimes and family dinners- throughout the holiday season. The key is to remind all family members and friends that you need their help to make things work smoothly, that you need to work as a team during the holidays.

For kids- especially those struggling with ADHD, Autism, and other disorders- the disruption in a regular schedule causes anxiety. When you mix this in with the excitement of presents and family any kid will have trouble. Communicate the changes to your kids, tell them what to expect. For younger kids, use social stories to ease into major changes in routines. Children with ADHD respond well to visualized routines. Be creative, use your imagination, think in kid-terms about how to get them to remember.

 Ease into the season and out of it

If you’re like me you want it to go from boring to wonderful in 10 minutes flat. Kids struggle with this though. When you have a poor concept of time it’s hard to remember that those presents aren’t for opening, and that there’s still 2 weeks of school left before winter break. A simple way to overcome this sudden shift that changes your kids into entirely different creatures is to start decorating early and in stages rather than changing the entire home all at once- beginning with an advent calendar (even if it’s homemade). For younger children it’s also important to allow them to interact with the decorations and help put them in place.

When you’re done, back out of the holiday’s the same way. It allows for an easier transition back into the normal, and extends the holiday feeling just a little longer.

Plan Your Shopping Time

I don’t know why I always wait to shop… it’s probably the traffic and all the people that just make it impossible to get into the stores before the last week. But these last minuet scurries wreak havoc on our little ones. Our stress becomes there’s and anxieties are increased when we’re suddenly not there.

Minimize these last-minute shopping trips. For children who rely on routines and react to abrupt changes, unexpected shopping trips can be stressful. And, if your child will accompany you during holiday shopping, plan enough time to allow them to gradually adapt to the intense holiday stimuli found in many stores.

Opening Presents

All the paper, all the toys, if your house is like mine present time can be a lot of craziness. Get through it by sharing the ground rules up front. When opening gifts as a family use an object, such as a small ornament, to show whose turn it is. This sets the stage for children to know that they need to take their time- not rush through all their presents at once. The individual holding the object should be the one to open the next gift. For young children, other’s gifts may look fun too! Prepare siblings and young relatives to share their new gifts by example.

A little planning ahead can go a long way this season.

If you have any other tips I would love to hear about them.