Coping in Times of High Stress
By Tracie Hiemstra, a contributing writer, 2001
During any time of trauma and high stress, it is especially important to be intentional about how we care for ourselves. It is not selfishness to do so, it is self-preservation.
During the days since September 11, Americans and human beings around the world are under added duress. The horrifying images running constantly in our minds can become too much to bear if we do not remember to give ourselves some specific personal care. Here are some simple tips to follow:
- Be gentle with yourself and others: remember, we are all in this together and pain brings on varying reactions. If someone is sharp with you, if you burst into tears, if tempers flare, if you are more forgetful or confused, if you feel dizzy or nauseous, take a deep breath. Listen to yourself and others. Remember we are all hurting.
- Move slowly. Let yourself experience what your heart and body are feeling. You cannot deny the emotions you have and you are entitled to have them.
- Pay particular attention to Life Balance:
meditate, pray, go for a walk, be with nature, watch the water, put your bare feet on bare ground, light candles, bring in and give flowers, share your caring, pet an animal (real or stuffed).
journal, process with friends, reach out to others and be open to their reaching out to you, draw, paint, cry, laugh, smile, hug.
read a book, research how you can help yourself and others, watch a movie, listen to music, give yourself some time alone to reflect.
walk, sleep, take your vitamins, floss, Yoga, eat well, avoid alcohol and drugs, soak in the tub, massage, play with children.
If the feelings continue for more than a few weeks, seek professional help.
This is a time to stay in touch with loved ones. Make daily effort to call someone, write someone, e-mail someone, visit with someone. Be careful how much news you watch and read. Too much can overwhelm, and even bring on PTSD (Post Traumatic Shock Disorder). The visual images we see on TV and in newspapers are so vivid and real our mind cannot distinguish between our direct or indirect involvement. Of course, we all feel the anguish whether we are on the actual disaster sites or not. This can grow worse by watching and absorbing too much. Give yourself some distance. Do what you can to help (give blood, donate money and time, connect with people, light candles, take flowers to someplace meaningful, send positive energy) and then give yourself some space for your own healing to occur.
We have days, weeks, and months of limbo ahead of each of us. Focus on keeping yourself active and healthy (spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically) and you will have more to contribute when you are needed.