The Paris aftershocks will last beyond the funeral services of lives lost. With our mental health facilities and qualified intervenors at an all-time low, increasing our knowledge can go a long way to recovering from the shock of this much publicized global event.
Here's a quick review of what we need to know about mental trauma. The shock will increase adrenaline which can last a few days. Adrenaline should start to slow down again at some point and sleep patterns, eating patterns and emotional management should begin to recover.
We don't have to have been in Paris on Friday the 13th to be deeply affected by this event. What do we need to know to protect our mental wellness?
When working as a crisis interventionist, my empathy could be a double edged sword. I had to be aware of how listening to other people's difficult experiences could influence me. The more stories we hear, the more we imagine what someone has gone through. This can cause us to experience a type of trauma called "Vicarious Traumatisation".
These stories are cumulative. We can't un-hear them and they add up on our psyche. Therefore self-care and self-awareness are critical. Whether you try out my Potato Sack Meditation or take up yoga or some other mindfulness practice, treat your emotional well-being as a priority. It is preferable to adopt these practices before you feel that you are in crisis. Learn it now.
Getting through the first week includes simple tactics like turning off the news, Facebook and electronic devices. Go back to health habit basics. Get out in nature or do some types of physical activity, drink lots of water, eat healthy foods and avoid stimulants as much as possible. These all help our physical -- mental -- spiritual connections balance out.
Do You React as an Extrovert or Introvert?
An extrovert will come out and speak out for justice. Their way of processing will be to talk and want to return to daily activities as quickly as possible. They will be defiant against this highly malevolent attack.
Finding appropriate people to talk with and appropriate actions to feel more empowered goes a long way in protecting an extrovert's mental wellness.
An introvert will respond differently. They tend to internalize their processes and don't reach out for help as much. They will want to stay home and not talk about it. They may suddenly want to keep their kids at home and have difficulty leaving the house. They are less likely to look for help or talk it out which may increase their vulnerability.
Introverts may need to talk as much as an extrovert. They just have a harder time feeling safe enough to do so. It is important that they speak to those in their lives that they trust. If they don't trust you, but you know someone that they are close to, ask them to touch base.
What Can You Say?
When someone is expressing difficult emotions, we can easily get tongue tied. The best way to be supportive if we think that someone is having difficulty with these recent events is to simply listen without judgement. Asking them open questions such as:
- "What do you find helpful to take your mind off this?"
- "How can I help you feel better?"
- "What would you recommend to someone else who has experienced this?"
- "What are you doing to take care of yourself today?"
Here's the first rule; whatever they feel is completely true. Do not question their feelings or place a value of right or wrong. Just acknowledge the feelings they are expressing. If they are experiencing grief, there are things which are helpful to increase their resilience.
Although all expressed feelings are real, if someone is voicing a great deal of anger mixed with violence, repeat it back to them so they hear their words. Then ask them if they would do that. It is not our feelings that are the problem but rather the actions we take around our feelings.
If someone is expressing wanting to do violence and you are concerned, it is always a good idea to consult with someone who may have a better handle. Contact your local health center to speak privately to a social worker.
When it comes to dealing with an ideology, we cannot fight it with bombs. We must fight it with new ideas. And we must protect ourselves and each other from the fallout of these atrocities.
I add my voice and prayers to those who have lost a loved one or a piece of themselves in this barbaric violence. Let us become part of the movement that helps people have better mental wellness so that they do not turn to these twisted ideologies in order to find a sense of purpose and empowerment in their lives.