Self Care During Tragedy

Many of us respond to stress and tragedy by giving up on self care. Instead of nourishing and caring for our stressed and fragile selves, we start eating  junk, pounding coffee, and eating,  drinking and smoking more.  In the wake of the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many of us stayed up late watching the terrible images and hearing awful stories. In the morning, we often turned the TV back on right away, bombarding ourselves with tragedy thanks to the 24 hour news cycle.

Unfortunately, these actions all individually have a negative impact on our health and well being. Combined, the stress on your system is significant, and it’s the last thing you need when trying to cope with such an incomprehensible tragedy.

1) The first, easiest thing you can do to care for yourself during a tragedy, honestly, is to drink plenty of water. Dehydration will make you tired and lack energy, can lead to poor decision making and make it harder for your other body functions to happen as easily. If you’re going to have a nervous habit, let it be water consumption.

2) Treat yourself with Reiki. Meditate. Stretch. Do yoga. Even if you only get five minutes of privacy in the bathroom, or three minutes at night before you fall asleep, care for your mind and heart. Slow them down and you will feel better. Remind yourself that everything in life- even the darkest nights- is only temporary. It won’t hurt this much forever.

3) Disconnect. Turn off the TV, close the internet browser. Unless you need to keep these things on for urgent reasons (like waiting for evacuation orders) turn them off. Keep them off as much as possible. Watching hours worth of news just adds to your anxiety, while not doing anything to solve the problem or make it better.

4) Forwarned is forarmed. Know the negative ways you sometimes react to certain situations, and be prepared. If you know what sets you off and the way you don’t want to react, you can create a framework that will better enable you to handle it in a healthy way. For instance, if you know that talking to certain people about certain subjects will make you want a cigarette, be armed with a pack of gum instead. Be prepared with a change of subject. Resolve to react  in a more healthy way. Understand that by smothering your feelings with nicotine, alcohol, caffeine or drugs hurts only you.

5) Know how to talk to your children. The National Funeral Directors’ Association released a great tip sheet from Dr. Alan Wolfelt about how to talk to grieving and scared children and teens. There is just as much great advice on how to react as an adult as there is about helping kids & teens.

6) Be gentle on yourself. None of us are perfect, in crisis or in every day life. Resolve to handle one situation better today than you did yesterday, then do the same thing tomorrow. And know what we can learn even more from our mistakes than from our greatest achievements.