Coping with recent traumatic events
It’s one week on from the Manchester bombing and it feels like the world has shifted on its axis. Many lives changed in that one moment and, as observers of this tragic event our lives changed too as we try and make sense of the incomprehensible and move forward.
It’s inevitable that adults and children alike will feel anxious and upset at times. This is a perfectly normal reaction to a traumatic event. I was reading through the information put out by “newsround” on how to help young people cope with bad news. It was beautifully simple and has a resonance for adults too. Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics when it comes to looking after ourselves. The article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/13865002. Here are my own personal tips for dealing with anxiety and stress at this difficult time.
Go for a walk in nature. Much has been written about the positive effects of “green therapy” on mental health. As well as releasing natural endorphins which boost your mood, gentle exercise will reduce and dissipate the stress hormones in your body. If allowed to build up these hormones can lead to reduced immunity and illness. So even if it’s only for 10 minutes go to a local park, lake or field and just pay attention to the sights and sounds around you.
There’s a tendency to isolate ourselves when we are feeling anxious or low and yet this is just when we need our friends the most. Friends are a useful distraction and often a great leveller. They will probably offer a different perspective on what we’re thinking and that can be helpful. When we are anxious our thoughts become more extreme and our sense of danger increases. A good chat with a friend can help to reduce this fear reminding us that we are ok and importantly, that we are not alone.
After a traumatic event like the Manchester bombing, it can feel like we are overwhelmed by news and sad stories about what happened. Whilst it’s important that we hear this information to allow us to process it, too much of it can have a negative impact on mood. It can be useful to limit how often you or your children read Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and News websites. Make time to look at other things which are light-hearted, positive or simply just not related to the event. We all need balance in our lives and it’s ok to step away from the information overload sometimes. It doesn’t mean we don’t care.
Do something positive
When negative things happen in our lives it can be hard to make sense of it and we can feel a bit lost and helpless. In these instances it can be good to find a way to make a positive contribution – this could be just for yourself or for the community. I was really taken by how many people turned up to donate blood after the bombing. It was such a simple yet powerful thing to do. You may think “well one pint of blood won’t make a difference” but when 500 people do the same that’s a lot of lives potentially saved. Maybe you will be moved to fundraise to generate money for the victims. Perhaps you will decide to “seize the day”, go on that trip you’ve been promising yourself, get that tattoo, change jobs, write a novel. Whatever it is, you can use this experience in a positive way. It really does help cut through the negativity filling you with a powerful sense of achievement. In the words of one of the victim’s families #bemoreMartyn.
Find space in silence
When things get too much sometimes it can be helpful to find a place to just be quiet. Our minds will be operating at double-speed most of the time and it can be hard to be aware of our thoughts never mind process them. A quiet place to practice a little mindful meditation, reflection or prayer can settle and soothe jangled nerves. Sit comfortably, take a few nice deep breaths then just allow your thoughts to come and go. Just watch them, observe them but don’t get tangled up in them. Your thoughts are merely mental events. They are not the truth and cannot harm you. Allow them to rise and fall in your awareness like clouds across a sky. Sometimes they will be light clouds, sometimes dark. But like all things, they will pass. If you’d like to try a guided meditation then follow this link to access free mindfulness meditations. I’d start with the 3 minute breathing space which is a mini-meditation designed to settle and calm. http://www.franticworld.com/resources