YES, IT’S TRAUMA: 5 Tools for Coping with the Trauma of Covid-19, Police Brutality, and Racism

Breathe…I know it’s hard and I know you’re tired. The world is different and the same; all at the same, damn, time.

All the lives. All the loss. People were coming together fighting their fears of an external force of nature that does not discriminate. A disease that takes lives and livelihoods, uproots families, and shut the world down. Covid-19 has taken and it has given. The impact of Covid-19 has illuminated what is outside of us, and even more importantly, it has illuminated what lies within, forcing us to take a look at our lives, the relationships we have created, our world, and our selves.

The last few months have been filled with uncertainty, one transition after another. No more office settings, no more gyms, no more school, and no more human contact! Change. Distance. Isolation. Finances impacted, relationships strained, reevaluation and adjustment of what needs to be prioritized, all while trying to get to know this “new world” we are existing in. It is no wonder why people are experiencing anxiety and depression. Take another breath.

Some were beginning to feel like we are all in this together. While others experienced a disparity around resources available and not available to them mainly based on socioeconomic status. Enter in the next, not new, but highly visible demonstration of racism, police brutality, and continued ignorance around the one simple fact that color of skin does not make one person more human than another and what do we have? Uncertainty, anger, hopelessness, exhaustion…So what do we do next?

What happened to what seemed to be the simple world we lived in just 6 months ago when we all made our New Year’s resolutions?

What happened?

What has been happening externally and internally has been illuminated. Our humanity. Yes, OUR HUMANITY has been impacted (yet again) by hate and division. We have experienced a trauma with the impact of Covid-19, an external force of nature which we all feared and still fear. We have also experienced a trauma from within. Within humanity and within ourselves. The trauma around how one person could have a complete disregard for the life of another person. Have you ever had complete disregard for the life of another person? (something to think about).

How can we possibly measure the depth of that wound?

The events around the arrest, treatment, and death of George Floyd have triggered many around both racism and police brutality. The image, video, and discussions have led many Black American’s to experience retraumatization of what they themselves or those closest to them have experienced. Black America has been traumatized AND HUMANITY IS TRAUMATIZED…

IS IT TRAUMA?

  • Acute trauma results from a single incident. (can be an abrupt change due to Covid-19, job loss, riots, dropping a loved one at the hospital when they were overcrowded due to the pandemic, etc…)
  • Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged (examples: Covid-19 and its resurgence and racial trauma (information on racial trauma – https://www.thecut.com/2017/06/the-little-understood-mental-health-effects-of-racial-trauma.html)
  • Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events. Such as a pandemic, police brutality, overt racism, civil unrest, etc…

Now that we have named what is happening for many people. What’s next? Dealing with the emotional impact.

Which one is it? ANGER, FEAR, SADNESS, ANXIETY

Are you angry? Furious? Enraged? Please check in with yourself around which of the following primary emotions you may be feeling…

Fear (anxiety and worry) are you angry that you are afraid? Angry that you are experiencing anxiety? Do you fear for the world your child is growing up in? Are you worried about getting Covid-19? Are you afraid to visit a loved one? Do you have concerns around how you will make ends meet?

Sadness (disappointment, loss, discouragement, mental exhaustion) – are you angry because you are experiencing disappointment in others? yourself? Discouraged with society? Humanity? Are you exhausted from listening to one tragedy after another? Did you loss your job?

What does this all mean? Anger can be a primary emotion, however it usually masks another emotion. It means that usually beneath that anger there is deep hurt. As you watch people who are angry, as you check in with yourself around your own anger I encourage you to dig deeper and get to the emotion that makes you uncomfortable enough to experience anger. If anger is the primary emotion, you can validate it as well, ask yourself specific questions so you are aware of exactly what you are angry about. Having the self awareness around the primary emotions you are experiencing will support you with finding ways to cope.

HOW TO COPE:

  1. Validate your emotions, whatever they are. If you are experiencing anger, ask yourself how come? What are you angry about? Are you experiencing any other feelings? If so, what are they? Are you nervous? Are you having trouble sleeping due to racing thought/feelings of anxiety? Write them down. When we write things down, they become more manageable. Getting it out of your head and onto paper/note app, can empower you to do something about it.
  2. Nurture and Nourish yourself aka self-care. Hold space for the feelings that you do have. Once acknowledged, gently walk yourself through the emotions. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to get off of social media for a while, get off. If you need to stop talking to a negative friend, start creating boundaries. Handle yourself tenderly as you learn what your needs are and meet them. Your form of self-care gets to be tailored to meet your needs, it is different for everyone. Take care of you.
  3. Find support. Reach out to like minded friends, family, and support groups. Talking to others reminds us that we are not alone. If you are in a quiet space and rather not engage with others directly, you can join on online support group, or read stories of other people who are feeling the way you feel and discover what steps they took to feel better.
  4. Get Grounded by focusing on the things you can control. There is a ton of uncertainty in our external and internal world right now. Many have lost their grounding. Get grounded. You can do this by creating rituals/practices that are in your control. Examples would be exercising, writing, meditating, tending to plants, cooking, praying. Do something everyday that supports your growth in some way. Sometimes, just having something you can count on such as 15 minutes of yoga, meditation, listening to music, sipping tea, or sitting in silence and setting an intention can make all the difference.
  5. Lastly, BE EMPOWERED as you SHINE YOUR LIGHT. Your light, which is authentic to who you are and how you choose to show up in life. What does that mean? It means do something! We all have unique gifts and passions. How can you use your gift, passion, position, and/or platform to contribute in a positive way. You already have that power. Be empowered by the uniqueness of you! Everyone does not have to contribute in the same way. Figure out what your way looks like and then do it!

The world has seen darkness. Many of the events of the last 3 months have been traumatizing. Division among us is being reinforced at a time where we should be coming together. This is all true.

Another truth; nature is thriving, the air is cleaner, families are growing closer, parents are supporting their children, individuals are getting to know who they really are, and although it may not look like it, people are coming together. People are using their voices and their eyes differently.

If you are tired of talking about it and ready to be about it, here are just some of the things my clients of ALL RACES are doing:

  • Peaceful protests – NE, SE, HT
  • Using their art to capture images of what current day U.S./N.Y looks like as well as supporting groups and organizations that uplift others through their art. – AB
  • Speaking to their HR departments around training for racial sensitivity, inclusion, and diversity which can support both black and non-black employees and decrease tension/anxiety – MPA
  • Through their music and radio platform- MR
  • Mixed race clients (one black parent), talking to their siblings, parents, and friends around how this in impacting them. KT, AB, MA, NC
  • Through their media presence and open-mindedness around seeing people as people and being appreciative of the genuine gestures of others- BJ
  • Asking questions regarding inclusion during a company Town Hall and holding upper management accountable for creating change – SB
  • Educating themselves and speaking to friends and family members and providing resources to support educating them around racism – BP, BK, JW
  • Using their Linkedin platform to share information with organizations around how to begin diversity programs, as well as extend support and grace to their black employees at this time. NE
  • Putting out self-care content on social media emphasizing the value of taking care of plants and creating a safe haven in your home – RD
  • Speaking to their children about what they can do and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves – MI, JW
  • Donating money (nearly every client)
  • Instilling hope and inspiring a group of High School students by having a public figure they admire drop in to their virtual classroom, telling them to stay focused and keep working hard. – SN
  • New York based client using his own money and social media presence to create awareness and support raising money for businesses damaged during the riots in Minnesota, as well as providing food to families in neighborhoods where local supermarkets were destroyed. – MT
  • Lastly, many of my clients are trying to navigate this from a place of peace and love and doing their inner work to fight past their own negative emotions and fears. If nothing else, be a kind human.

Thank you all for your courage, for spreading love, and working towards supporting all of humanity during this time.

Bury the fear, the hate, and the violence. If I keep not trusting you and you keep not trusting me, how will we ever change Humanity?

Sit up straight and breathe…

Remember, you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed or are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please reach out to a mental healthcare professional.

Here are some resources to either call or text for immediate support:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ https://www.crisistextline.org/

With love, Tamara

9 Tools for Mental and Emotional Wellness in the Midst of Covid-19

What’s happening? I feel anxious. What do you mean I have to work from home indefinitely? Indefinitely sounds scary, I do not have room in my apartment to set up a workstation…I have a roommate who also has to work from home…now I am feeling more anxious. Remote work, remote therapy, remote dates? I can’t see my parents because they are over 60 and I might give it to them…I am on self imposed house arrest…I mean quarantine. Oh my God…could I have it, am I sick?!? The anxiety is taking over. There’s no more toilet paper? How? What? When? Why?…I can’t breathe, I think I’m having a panic attack!!!

Stop…Sit up straight, place your hands on your lap, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Continue…

Many of my clients are rattled, their world is changing. It feels abrupt and unfair. Many have shared that it feels like a movie, and one client, SB shared, “and we all know how that movie ends…”

What each of us is worried about during this very real and present day pandemic is different when we look at the content. I have the pleasure of working with clients from various socioeconomic groups throughout New York City and Westchester County, from television personalities to Broadway actors to teachers to artists to entrepreneurs to stay at home mom’s to Graduate students. Single and married. Everyone’s content is important to them. You have a right to be concerned about what matters to you. We can get lost in the content, we may question ourselves and our humanity when we think about the things that we and others are concerned about, yet none of us are in a position to judge what someone else deems important and is afraid of losing. If we focus on the content, it’s what makes us believe we are different. If we focus on the process and commonality around fear, we are all pretty much the same.

One thing we ALL have in common is that we fear the unknown, the fear of uncertainty. Our brains are not fans of uncertainty and will actively try to find the answer. Our society has become accustomed to having, knowing, forecasting, and predicting. Some argue that it is not fear of the unknown, but rather fear of losing the known that scares us.

What happens when we Google the answer only to receive conflicting information? What happens when the grocery store runs out of your newborns formula or you lose over $100k in the stock market? What happens when your children are home from school and you do not have childcare? What about hearing ourselves or our loved ones cough and wondering if we are actually getting sick? What happens? We get uncomfortable. We get scared. We get overwhelmed. We get mad. We cry. We have feelings and right now, we get to give ourselves permission to feel those feelings.

We feel various emotions from one moment to the next because we do not know what is lurking around the corner. It can actually feel like rapid cycling. We want to run and be in the act of doing, but right now we have to sit and wait until the indefinite becomes definite. We are being forced to sit in the unknown and that uncertainty is what drives anxiety. Things are changing around us and our brains are left to create stories and those stories are usually the worst case scenario, which then makes our feelings of anxiety that much worse. Anxiety weakens our immune system and finding healthy ways to cope can lead to better health.

We have to be intentional around validating yet facing our fears to ensure that although some of the fears may be warranted, they do not negatively impact us to the point where it becomes debilitating and is making us physically ill.

We are all one and no one is spared during a pandemic. There are many things out of our control right now, it is important to remember that there are some things that we can control.

YOU HAVE THE POWER OF YOUR MINDSET!

Change is not easy and right now things are different and they are changing. How you respond to these changes can make all the difference. All you can do, is ALL you can do, so identifying what you can “control” may help.

How’s your breathing going? Remember…Sit up straight, hands on your lap, take a deep breath in through your nose, slowly exhale through your mouth. Continue…

9 TOOLS TO SUPPORT MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLNESS

  1. Make your space comfortable, try to surround yourself with things that make you feel safe and bring you joy. Engage in an at home activity that supports your mental health. Some examples would be, reading, writing (you can journal about this experience), catch up on some television shows, paint, cook, play board games with the kids, listen to music, clean your space. You can have deeper level conversations with loved ones. Being home provides an opportunity to stay put and catch up.
  2. If you live alone, consider having virtual dates. You can meet your friends, family, or significant other through a video platform and have a virtual meal date together. Technology can connect you with others throughout the day. If you are worried about someone you love, reach out to them and let them know how much you care. Being confined to your home can make you feel stir crazy and lonely, be sure to find time to connect with others, even if you are doing so remotely.
  3. Create and embrace a new routine (Working from home) Things will be different and you can make the choice to either feel defeated or use the opportunity as a chance to create something that works for you! Be intentional when you create your new/adjusted routine. Try with making your bed every morning, there is a ton of research about how the act of making the bed elevates mood. Structure is important, especially if you are new to working from home. Continue to have a set time for lunch and breaks. Ensure you have a hard stop time because working from home can make work/life challenging, so boundary setting is crucial. Setting up a work station/designated work area will increase productivity and support not allowing working from home to negatively impact your sanctuary. Most people transition from home to work via their commute. Keep in mind you will no longer have commute time, yet you still need to create an opportunity to transition. The transition can be changing clothing, making tea, shutting down the computer and lighting a candle, and/or doing what you would have done during your commute. Lastly, do not work on your bed. It can negatively impact sleep.
  4. Limit social media and news intake, shut off those notifications. You can pick a time of day to prepare and give yourself permission to find out the latest news. It is understandable that you may want to stay informed but when you are on constant Covid alert, you do not give your mind an opportunity to be present in the other things you are doing. You will stay in a constant heightened state of anxiety if you stay plugged in to the news all day. Pick a time, midday usually works nicely, to read about changes/breaking news of the day. Try not to look at news close to bedtime as it may negatively impact sleep.
  5. If you are home with your loved one, snuggle up. You can use this as a time to connect. You can watch movies, share a late night snack, work on intimacy.
  6. Reflect on the lessons this experience is teaching you. While learning about and living in the midst of Covid-19 is uncomfortable and even terrifying for some, with every change there are consequences, and some of them are actually positive. Ask yourself, “how can I make the best of this situation?” “What am I learning about myself and how I handle change and stress?”
  7. Reach out to a mental health care professional if you are feeling anxious and or depressed. Many therapists now offer tele-medicine for remote therapy. Ask your current therapist if they are able to convert to tele-medicine.
  8. Stay present and on task when engaging in daily activities. If your mind wanders and you have intrusive thoughts, bring yourself back to being present and fully immerse yourself in the activity. Creating a mantra to support keeping you grounded may help. Examples: “Let go,” (breathe in through your nose with “let”, breathe out through your mouth with “go”) or “I will stay calm and be here now” or “In this moment I choose trust,” etc.
  9. Meditate and/or practice yoga. Our society has been practicing meditation, yoga, breathwork, mindfulness and the art of staying present over the past few years. Many already have the tools, it is about accessing and practicing them. There are also apps that can support decreasing anxiety/bringing down your heart rate. If you have not downloaded them yet, consider getting the Headspace or Calm app which can support you with relaxation, sleep, meditation, and breathing.

Lastly, keep in mind that this crisis is not just about the individual, it is about the collective and even if you are not in a “risk” group, you may carry the virus to others. You probably know at least one person in the high risk group, your parents, grandparents, or friend/family member with a compromised immune system. This is an opportunity for individuals in our collective to come together to support the we. We are one dealing with this pandemic and where some are behaving as if it is every person for themselves, I am hopeful that there will be many more that take precaution not just for themselves, but for the others that are more vulnerable. This is presently an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to connect.

When new information comes in, as things continue to change and you are faced with uncertainty, try not to panic…acknowledge the fear, validate it, and use the techniques above to support you with moving through it. You get to decide where you want to put your energy. Yes, that is your choice. We can engage in spiraling thoughts around what we have no control over or we can remember to take it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and in this moment sit in appreciation for what we do have, and try to access trust. Be you, be resilient, be courageous, be safe, and be kind (to yourself and others)

If nothing else, remember to breathe…

How to Stay Physically Safe/Latest News:

If you are interested in obtaining information on how to stay physically safe I have attached a link to the CDC website that discusses the Coronavirus (COVID-19):

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

We have one world and we are all in this together. Stay well…

Remember, “Me?” A Question for the Most Important Person in Your Life!

Naked in the mirror, I see an image reflected back to me, familiar, yet unfamiliar, I seek clarity. I look intensely for understanding, as deep as my eyes can see but that vision is skewed by what I decipher mentally. The truth is my soul has the sight I seek, I look in the mirror, and speak out compassionately, Remember me?

How can we remember someone we do not know? Many of us know ourselves in the context of others and the roles we play in our lives.

Many moons ago, when you were a child, you were told and taught who you were and got cast in a role that supported you around creating a persona, “a mask.” You were shown how to show up in the world and you have probably been following suit ever since. You get to challenge what you have been told about who you are!

What was your role? Were you the smart one? The professional one? The Comedian/class clown? Maybe your caregivers told you that you would run the world, that you were a “heartbreaker,” that you would be “successful,” that you were “selfless,” or that you were “selfish.”

Whatever the narrative/script was in your family of origin, it absolutely impacted you…How can I make such a strong declaration? Because our family of origin/childhood impacts all of us!

We all come out of childhood with wounds and a role. Our wounds and roles get reinforced throughout our lives because we create filters and begin to only extract information that supports our belief around who we are and how others will treat us. How aware are you of your role? of your wounds? How is that showing up in your life today? Do you want to continue operating out of them or do you chose to heal them, find yourself, and live the fullest life possible?

(Disclosure: As most children, I loved to draw as a child, and one day after making a creation I thought was spectacular, I was told, “an artist you’ll never be” and that stayed with me for the rest of my life. It turned something I did for fun into something I was not good at. A comment made by a parent in innocence can be a wound that stays for a lifetime)

What if we no longer decided to play our role? What if the part you have been playing your entire life no longer works for you? What if you are tired of being the responsible one that everyone turns to for money? or the strong one that everyone dumps their emotional wounds on? or if you are the single one that gets to be the babysitter for everyone else’s children and should be readily available for anything? You may have been the one that people did not believe in and now lack self confidence because you learned not to believe in yourself. Are you the one that always takes care of everyone else and has been taught (and learned well) how to put your needs and feelings on the back burner to take care of everyone else’s needs first and now struggles to use your voice?

You can rewrite the script. How? Check in with yourself, get to know yourself, and then live in your truth. YOUR TRUTH, not someone else’s truth about who you are.

You can be taught new language and acquire new boundary setting tools that support you with creating and existing in a world that works for you. Not in a selfish, narcissistic way, but more so in a way that you are considering others while ALSO CONSIDERING YOURSELF! Self consideration sounds simple enough, yet so many of us struggle with it!

When we are getting to know someone new, what do we do?

  • Spend time with them
  • Create a space where they feel safe to share (non-judgmental and supportive)
  • Ask them a TON of questions
  • Watch how they interact with others
  • Watch how they take care of themselves

We get to know and learn about ourselves in the same way. Curiosity, empathy, openness, and honesty. Forget all you have been told about who you are and continue on your journey of self exploration….

REMEMBER, ME? 4 STEPS TO GETTING TO KNOW YOURSELF

  • SPEND TIME ALONE (go off the grid aka no electronics!!!): I encourage you to spend time alone with yourself, not judging, just observing. Take a full day to spend time by yourself and engage in an activity that you enjoy. Being in nature greatly supports this process, however doing anything that brings you peace works (painting, writing, walking, singing, dancing, baking, people watching,) Let your loved ones know that you will be taking some “me” aka “self-care” time to relax and reflect so that you can give yourself permission to go off the grid comfortably.
  • ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS COMPASSIONATELY: (create a safe space for yourself by not engaging in negative self-talk and showing yourself compassion) ask yourself questions such as: When are you happiest? When are you most proud of yourself? (how come? who told you that was important?) What is your passion? What makes you, you? Who are you closest to in your family?(how come? since when?), What do you do when you need help? (do you ask for help or do you figure out a way to do it alone, and how come? when did you learn that behavior? for how long have you handled needing help in this way?), What are your fears? (how come they are your fears?, what have you tried to overcome your fears?) What are your strengths? (how do you know? what makes them your stengths) What do you like most about yourself? (how come?)
  • ASSESS RELATIONSHIPS (your role): Take a close look at your relationships, how are you showing up for and around the people closest to you? Are you holding yourself accountable for your role in interactions? (do you validate the other person, are you blaming someone else for your inability to self-soothe and/or for your unhappiness? are you name calling? are you being condescending?) Are you enjoying your relationships with others? (if not, what are you doing about it?), What type of relationships do you want? How are you showing those you care about that you care about them? Are your actions aligned with what you say you want? If not, start taking the actions needed to create the relationships you want. You are responsible for how you show up!
  • PRACTICE SELF-CARE and EMBRACE SELF LOVE: Observe how you take care of yourself, aka self-care. How do you speak to yourself?(do you beat yourself up with your words or do you speak to yourself with love and compassion? how come? how did the people you loved talk to you? how would you like to be spoken to?) How do you handle situations in which you feel you have been treated unfairly? (do you use your voice or do you retreat/hide and if so, why?) What do you do for yourself that fills your soul/tank? How do you decompress after a tough day? (long bath, write, exercise, help others, paint, spend time in nature, cook, etc). Create a plan to do at least one of the things you identified as filling your tank every week and label it self-care. You will be sending a message to self and to others that you matter!

I once lived life thinking I had to do what others expected of me based on limitations they imposed and that became my truth. I began to buy into the limits, reinforce the limits, and eventually unknowingly limit myself. BUT, then I woke up, I did “the work,” and realized that I can be free, and that most limits are self-imposed and rooted in fear and insecurity. You are your greatest love, I encourage you to make your life and relationship with self the most beautiful love story ever!

Yes, I was told, “an artist you will never be,” and one day I looked in the mirror and remembered myself and how peaceful I felt when I was creating art, and now I paint to paint and draw to draw. It may have taken some time but I could not be happier with the new narrative I have created for myself. Every piece I create would not exist had I continued to be bought into the narrative that someone else created for me.

EXERCISE: (BE PRESENT, no electronics) Take a 20 – 40 minute bath/shower, preferably with a calming scent/bath gel such as lavender or vanilla, allow yourself to be immersed in the experience as you observe the water touching and cascading over your body. Allow all thoughts to drift as you allow yourself to be in peace (visualize the ocean, or laying in the grass, or listen to calming music with no words just melodies or nature sounds that soothe your soul). After you dry off, look at yourself in the mirror and take 5 deep breathes, while looking deeply into your beautiful eyes, ask yourself out loud, Remember me? take one last deep breathe. Find a quiet place and create a three page journal entry about the experience.

This reflection and exercise are meant to support your process around self-actualization/awareness and living a fulfilling life that you feel connected to. If you need additional support, please reach out to a therapist, or other health care professional. You came to this blog for a reason, perhaps it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to know the most important person in your life! I am excited for you and the new narrative you will create around who you are and what you want. Wishing you the very best, with love.