by Christina Hays
Several months ago, I shared some articles on the importance of self-care and coping with stress and trauma. At the time, we were experiencing isolation, social distancing, job loss, and fear of Covid-19. Here we are, months later, still dealing with all of those things, plus ugly election coverage, rioting and violence in our streets being videoed and replayed over and over. This constant exposure can overwhelm your nervous system. Those things alone produce much stress for anyone. Add to that the normal pressures of raising children, running a household, trying to have some semblance of school for our kids, and just living life and it becomes a heavy load. And if you have been a victim of trauma, such as sexual assault or domestic violence, it can be magnified even more and become traumatic stress.
Traumatic stress can chip away at your sense of security, leaving you feeling powerless and defenseless in a world that feels unsafe. You may feel physically and emotionally drained, overcome with sadness. It may be hard to focus or sleep and you may even find yourself short tempered. These are all normal responses.
Sometimes, as time passes and we adjust to a “new normal”, our troubling feelings of traumatic stress may fade away somewhat. However, with time, we can help ourselves to heal. Below are a few reminders of the importance of taking care of you.
First, know that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel. Everyone reacts differently to traumatic events and nobody can tell you what you should be feeling, thinking, or doing.
Secondly, don’t try to just ignore your feelings. Pushing our feelings away may seem to work for the moment, but in the long run, you will have to confront what you are feeling. You don’t need to relive the events over and over as that can overwhelm your nervous system even more; however, you can’t just ignore feelings and expect them to disappear. Having a safe place to unpack those feelings and vent can be a huge help. Many find our advocates and support groups are helpful.
Thirdly, put any major decisions on hold. Make sure you have regained your emotional balance before you make life decisions about work, family, or home. When we are under a lot of stress, we cannot always see the big picture and may make poor choices based on what we see or feel at the moment. Emotions cannot be trusted and can be skewed by different things so make sure you are emotionally stable before making key decisions.
And lastly, work to establish a routine. Humans find comfort in familiar things so a routine will help minimize stress and anxiety. Find some activities that keep your mind busy, such as reading a book, watching a movie, or trying a new recipe. Get up at a certain time daily, have things you do during the day and make sure you are getting enough sleep. Find time to relax, play, and just be silly with your children.
As we all live through this remarkably strange time, it is super important to put self-care as a priority. Not just for ourselves but we should also remind our loved ones to engage in self-care. Even our children need a chance to unpack their feelings and a time to just play without worries.
No matter the source of stress in your life, there are healthy ways of dealing with it that can be beneficial. Though we may not be in our offices in the traditional way, we are still continuing to provide our services. Crisis Services of North Alabama provides free, confidential services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. To reach us, you may call our office at 256.574.5826. We also offer a free 24/7 HELPline if you just need to talk to someone at 256.716.1000. Remember, you are not alone.