I came home from a trip to Italy on the night of April 13. I spent the 14th in a state of jet lag and macchiato withdrawal, nursing quite a headache with tons of water and a sense of humor. On the 15th, still in a bit of a stupor from a nine-hour time difference, I watched the news, overwhelmed by emotion, my brain struggling to keep up with what I watched. I used to live in Boston. I have loved ones there. I ran a marathon. Plus, I'm a human, so I can't help but be slammed by feelings that can only find their way to my body, not to a kind of tidy narrative in my mind.
As I sit here today, watching more events unfold, I feel a velocity in my body to do something, anything, while my eyes and ears stay trained on a screen. So I'm writing to you. Because in times of the unimaginable, what we must do is to imagine.
Here are some things we can do to ease our collective experience of rage, grief, disbelief, horror, sadness, and whatever other overwhelming emotions are making their visits to us in the wake of a national disaster.
1. Talk about it.
Everyone reacts to a trauma differently, either a national one or a personal one. Talking about our experiences as witnesses with each other can help us to come to a place of presence with it. We can offer and ask for support from friends and family.
2. Give and take space.
Everyone is going through something. When you offer an ear to someone who isn’t ready, know that the offer is enough and respect people’s need for space. That includes your own. Take whatever time and space you need from crowds, from the telephone and from the news. Once a news cycle has made it’s way through and you are watching the same thing over and over, take a break.
3. Add structure: Times of trauma can be helped with structure and support. Making and sticking to a schedule in a disorienting emotional time can provide a kind of strength that we can find comforting when everything around us feels totally insane.
4. Reassure kids.
This is an especially terrifying time for children. Talk to them about safety and security, and offer affection and warmth in times of great fear. Use your relationship with children to build an honest connection in times of great crisis.
No matter what, exercise is the number one prescription for anxiety. While we have an assortment of narratives attached to our feelings, the truth is that feelings actually reside in our BODIES. Keeping our bodies engaged and raising our heart rates moves these feelings through our bodies in a healthy way. Exercise helps to keep us present and balanced, giving us an enormous advantage when dealing with trauma and stress.
6. Meditation or relaxation.
It can be so difficult to find relaxation or any sense of grounding and calm in a time of chaos. A breathing practice or a long hot bath can be just the space we need to access some release.
May we all get through this together and do the best we can to choose the healthiest options we have on hand. Reach out. Keep loving. Keep breathing. Take care.