Four Steps to Healing an Overwhelming Experience
The tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School instilled in most of us a deep sense of pain, anger, and helplessness, which are the typical symptoms associated with trauma. Whether directly involved in any such event or simply witnessing it, as many of us did over and over again through the media representation, our emotions and our nervous system can become overwhelmed. When this happens, we can become so fixated on these images and feelings we become blocked in our healing and recovery from such traumatic events.
The following suggestions can be helpful whenever an individual, family or community experiences mild or massive trauma, no matter what the nature of that trauma. Although acting on these suggestions will no doubt be extremely helpful, in some instances the individual may require a more intensive approach. In these instances itís best to seek out psychological and/or medical treatment as well as implementing these ideas.
DONíT ISOLATE! Stay in touch with others who will support you and whom you can support. This can be time with friends or formally organized groups, e.g. churches, twelve step meetings, support groups, etc.
CARING AND SHARING! Show others your caring through words and action. Giving love is rewarding for both giver and receiver. Let yourself receive care as well, and ask for it as needed. A hand on the shoulder or a good hug from a friend or family is worth a thousand words.
PRAY TOGETHER! Pray for peace, compassion and wisdom, and for the forces of light and peace to prevail.
FOCUS ON RESOURCES! Itís critical to healing to weave resources in with the dramatic tensions triggered by overwhelming events, aka trauma. Resources can be anything that helps you feel good, to feel relaxed and calmer. Activities such as watching movies, gardening, cooking, taking walks in nature, exercise, etc., can all be resources.
DISTRACT YOURSELF! Yes, itís not only okay to escape, but necessary and useful for healing. This can be anything that takes your mind off the images, thoughts, sounds, etc. of the traumatic incident.
DISCHARGE AND RELEASE! Physiologically, when your nervous system is over-stimulated, it balances itself through discharge and release. Experiences such as trembling, shaking, sweating, a surge of warmth, stomach gurgling, deep breathing or sighing, crying or laughing are all ways the body is bringing itself back into balance. These will come and go, so give them time to do discharge. Be sure to allow yourself respite from these by alternating the discharge with resourcing.
TELL YOUR STORY! But donít dwell on it or repeat it again and again. Take breaks frequently, and refocus on here and now. Give yourself opportunities to express your feelings, and also CHANNEL YOUR FEELINGS INTO CONSTRUCTIVE ACTION!
4) GROUNDING AND ORIENTING
LOOK AROUND! Focus your attention on items in your immediate surroundings. Really study something that attracts your attention. Focus in the here and now.
NOTICE THE GROUND! Take a walk or sit outside, and especially note the sensation of your feet or any other part of your body on the earth. Walk slow and mindfully. Stomp your feet a few times, then notice the soles of your feet.
TOUCH! Hug your friends and family. Ask for shoulder rubs, and offer them to others. Get a massage.
EXERCISE! A very good way to discharge your tension, plus it helps your body in so many other ways. Sports, aerobic activities, yoga, weight training. Any and all can be helpful to maintaining balance.