How To Cope With Traumatic Events When You Are Already Tramatised

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Guest Blogger Mary writes with passion about trauma. She has worked as a board-certified music therapist in mental health for five years, all while dealing with her own challenges. She writes about her own experiences with mental health because shame and stigma thrive in secrecy. Healing and acceptance lie in openness she believes. Visit her blog for some excellent music choices.

It is infuriating to live in the United States right now. Every time I hear about another mass shooting, the same song comes to mind:

“I can’t believe the news today.

I can’t close my eyes or make it go away.

How long? How long must we sing this song?”

Sunday, Bloody Sunday, by U2

This happens over and over and over again, and it is senseless. It’s hard for anyone to deal with. But, it is especially hard for those of us who were already feeling traumatized. Here’s how to cope with upsetting news when you are already feeling fragile:

  1. Turn off the news. They are just going to rehash the details over and over and over, re-traumatizing the sensitive each and every time. The news channels do this because it is sensational, and they know it gets them the most views. I personally don’t watch the news at all, but if you must, watch it once, and turn it off.                 In this world of social media, simply turning off the TV won’t be enough. I also mute the notifications for twitter, facebook, etc on my phone. I find I don’t check them nearly as much if I’m not trying to make the little red icon go away.

2. Remind yourself of what is good, safe, and comforting in your world. What comforts you? Turn to that now. Is it a passage from the Bible or another religious book? A cup of tea? Snuggling with your pet? Mom’s cooking? A spiritual practice? Spending time with your favorite people? I like to cuddle up in a thick blanket and watch favorite movies and shows from when I was younger. I’m a vegan, but sometimes I’ll watch the Food Network because it reminds me of my mom. She always had it on when I would visit from college.

3. Be present as much as you can. Remind yourself that you are not in danger. It didn’t happen to you. Use grounding exercises to keep yourself oriented in your current reality. You are safe. Repeat that to yourself as much as you need to, because your nervous system thinks that you aren’t, and needs to be reminded that you are.

4. Don’t do anything too hard. Try to avoid your triggers as best you can. Don’t watch any intense movies or TV shows. If doing something might expose you to a trigger or overly stress you out, be kind and compassionate to yourself. You can probably do it later, when you are feeling better.

5. Do something, no matter how small, to create the world that you wish to see. Do you hope for a country without gun violence? There is much you can do without even leaving your house. Sign every petition you can find. Donate a few dollars to an organization. (I like Giffords PAC, but there is also Everytown and Moms Demand Action.) Write or call your government officials. Just knowing that you are part of the solution can be soothing.

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