During this difficult time, you may notice an increased sense of vulnerability. Furthermore, personal life changes such as downsizing and family illness add to the feeling of hopelessness and despair.
Yet when you look back over your life, this feeling isn’t likely to be new. Yes, you might be struggling with economic hardships and the regular day to day stressors of life. Hopefully, as you reflect upon your life, you’ll recognize you have survived and maybe even thrived because of difficulties you’ve previously experienced.
It is important to realize that during this time, taking care of yourself and those around you is a priority. Step back and consider how you’re spending your time and energy and whether there is a better way to use your personal resources such as eating and sleeping better, relaxing with a good book, taking a new class, exercising, conversing with friends or simply enjoying the day.
How are you living your life?
q Do you have regrets about how you’re spending your time?
q Are you working on personal and/or professional goals to help you feel a sense of purpose and satisfaction?
q Are you nurturing the important relationships in your life?
q Are you saying, “No”, when it’s not a value or priority you want to pursue?
q Are you using your support system to help you cope with the everyday uncertainties?
q Is there an element of spiritual support in your life?
q Are you giving back to those in need?
q Are you nurturing yourself by eating healthier, sleeping better and taking care of yourself?
As you struggle with the “whys” of everything going around you, give yourself permission to trust that a foundation of strength, love, support and forgiveness will help you get through these challenging times and provide lessons for future challenges.
Helping Children Cope
Children need to have adults who are available to listen to what’s on their minds.
Put the paper down, turn off the television and devote your time and energy in listening to what is on your kids’ minds. Initially, they may start talking about their day but as time goes on, their concerns and fears may come up in conversation. Find out what questions they have and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Be prepared to clarify their beliefs that somebody “bad” may come and get them.
Limit your child’s exposure to the media and other discussions surrounding the world’s events.
Consider how news reports and articles affect you. Remember that children should not be expected to understand or cope with everything that we are coping with. Use the silence as an opportunity to play, talk or just be together.
Children need to know the truth. How much truth they need to know should be determined in part by their maturity, age and other stressors in their life.
If your children are experiencing other stressors in their life (illness, death of family member, divorce, etc) protect them from other stressors going on in the world today. Remember to keep what’s being reported in context as well.
Point out the good things going on in your lives and in the world.
There’s a lot going on right now, but not all of it is bad. Strive to find the goodness in people and in life, both on a local level as well as nationally and internationally.
Let your child do something to help.
Much of our stress comes from the inability to control what’s happening. Give your child and yourself a sense of control by doing something. Writing letters to service people, drawing pictures of what makes them happy, prayer, donating time/money to a homeless shelter are helpful ways of coping with an uncontrollable situation.
Look for signs of distress in how your child behaves or what they talk about.
Children are pretty resilient and often cope better than adults do. However, if you start to notice changes in their behavior, talk with your child about your concerns and also share some of your own fears to help them understand that many people have concerns.
Behaviors to pay attention to:
q Withdraw from friends/family/pleasurable activities
q Increasingly hostile/angry/violent
q Difficulty eating/sleeping
q More clingy/tearful
q “Don’t care” attitude about anything
q Decline in school/athletic performance
Consider contacting your child’s physician and/or the Employee Assistance Program with your concerns.
Remember that children are children for a reason.
Children have a unique way of viewing the world. Allow them the opportunity to enjoy their childhood through play, friendships, nap time and just plain fun.
Temper your own reactions when you’re around your children and limit what you say.
Remember that children use their parents as role models for examples in coping as well as beliefs and attitudes about what’s happening. Be cautious about displaying your anger or making references to certain people/cultures that could influence their beliefs about the world.
Contact Alegent Health Employee Assistance Program for more information or with concerns about family matters at (402) 398-5566 or (888) 847-4975.
What You May Be Feeling
In light of the recent tragedy in our community, many people may be surprised or even confused by how they are feeling. It’s important to recognize that we have all been touched by the events of this week whether we were witnesses to the actual destruction or hearing about it through the media.
Though the event may be over, you may now be experiencing or may experience later, some strong emotional or physical reactions. It is very common, in fact quite normal, for people to experience emotional aftershocks when they have passed through a horrible event.
Sometimes the aftershocks or stress reactions appear immediately after the traumatic event. Sometimes a few hours or a few days later. And, in some cases, weeks or months may pass before the stress reactions appear.
Furthermore, your symptoms may last a few days, weeks or months depending upon how seriously these events have impacted you. With understanding and support of loved ones, the stress reactions usually pass more quickly. Occasionally, the impact of the tragedy is so painful, that professional assistance from a counselor may be necessary. This does not imply craziness or weakness. It simply indicates that the event was just too powerful for you to manage yourself.
Other factors which may contribute to the seriousness of your symptoms include:
q Current level of stress/change occurring in your life (Job loss, financial problems, recent marriage, divorce, baby)
q Recollection of previous personal tragedies (Vietnam War, Oklahoma City, recent loss of close family member)
q How well you have coped with loss before (Still carrying grief from loss 5 years ago -- an event like this may bring it all back)
q Psychological/emotional closeness (Even though you live in the Midwest, you talked to a customer on the phone who worked in the World Trade Center)
Common signs and signals of a stress reaction:
fatigue confusion fear withdrawal
nausea nightmares guilt antisocial acts
fainting uncertainty panic inability to rest
twitches suspiciousness denial intensified pacing
dizziness Intrusive images agitation erratic movement
weakness blaming someone irritability loss or increase
chest pain poor problem solving depression in appetite
headaches poor attention intense anger hypersensitive
muscle tremors disoriented emotional shock
increased alcohol/drug use
visual difficulties difficulty identifying objects loss of emotional control
Source: International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc.
If your physical symptoms persist, contact your physician for further assessment. These signs should begin to decline in severity as the next few weeks pass. If they do not decline or even appear to be getting worse, contact your physician and/or the Employee Assistance Program at (402)398-5566 or (888)847-4975.