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.


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.

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.

Chronic Illness… just another pain in the…

Do you or someone you know have a chronic illness- like diabetes or asthma?

Why is it that it is so hard to follow the doctor’s advice when you have a chronic illness?

You would think that hearing about your possible death would propel you into the gym or make you not eat that second helping of pumpkin pie… or at least get you to take your medication. And you mean to do it. But it doesn’t happen that way.

Life happens instead.

… Your cat needs food and you don’t have money for that prescription.

… All the celery in the house went bad, so you had to go get a #1 with a large fry for dinner.

… Your mom called when you were leaving the house and you forgot your pills.

… Your boss is already on your case, you can’t take another day off to go to the doctor.


But maybe that’s not all there is to it. Sometimes we have mental blocks that stop us from taking care of ourselves when it’s just too scary. The more immediate issues seem like they’re more important because the bigger issue- like hospitalization or death- are too far away. And besides, before you knew you had asthma or diabetes you were fine…

It’s this dishonest thinking that stops you from being your best you.

If you need to be honest with yourself- whether it’s about eating, or taking pills, or remembering to go to the gym… just do it. Put reminders around the house that steer you away from making the same mistake over and over. Ask family and friends to support you and help you. You are not alone. Your family and friends are affected by your illness and want to help.

If it’s a loved one that you see struggling, be honest with them. Sugar coating death doesn’t stop it from happening. Be honest and straight forward, and opened to hear their struggles. You may be the only thread of hope they can see.

Chronic illness is hard on the whole family. Seek support from a trained counselor  to help your family make it through tough times.

When one kid seems like twenty

The Associate Press released today that the Duggars are expecting again. LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) — the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting” may soon need a new name, Arkansas couple Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday and announced they are expecting their 20th child in April ( ).

This would seem overwhelming to most parents. One kid alone can be a handful. But we can learn a lot from these oversized families.

Do you ever wonder how moms can deal with getting five kids ready in the morning? You may think they’re just organized… but that’s not the trick… they divide up the duties. Older kids help the younger- parents split up breakfast chores- and the parents get up first, giving themselves time while kids are still in bed. It’s more about running the house like a business… delegating duties… and not sweating the small stuff.

With one child the crayon on the wall seems more important than when you have three kids in diapers and there’s just more to worry about. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let it go and approach the crayon like you would someone messing up with a project at work. There is a process to fix it, logical steps to follow to change what has happened. Walk your child through these steps so they know how to fix what they messed up.

There will always be things to worry about, so don’t get caught up in the little things. And… when there is something bigger… get help. Don’t try to go it alone.