Healing From Trauma While the World Is Hurting During COVID-19
Healing our mental health is complicated anytime, but during this time, it can feel outright impossible. Our collective worlds changed this year when COVID-19 hit our communities and affected every aspect of our lives. In addition to the trauma of COVID-19, political divisiveness and unrest are at an all-time high. How can we find peace amidst the chaos? Is healing even realistic during such a tumultuous time?
What does it mean to heal? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines healing as “to make free from injury or disease: to make sound or whole.” Healing may mean different things to different people. I will personally consider myself a healed person when I am no longer pulled into the past and can live and react in the present: when I can be my whole self, and love that whole self, unapologetically. Healing is messy, can take time, and progress is rarely linear. The dance is not two steps forward, one step back; there are steps in place, there are giant leaps ahead, there can be giant leaps back. What matters is not the dance you are doing, but that you never stop moving and evolving. Can you imagine a more healed or healed version of yourself? Who would that look like?
The most important thing that has helped me to continue healing during this time was to adjust my expectations. Be mindful of the demands you put on yourself. What you can give to the world right now is OK, and what you can give may change from day to day. When my teaching business moved to virtual learning, I initially put significant pressure on myself to get creative and be the best teacher ever. While I did accomplish a lot of the things I set out to do, there were days when current events plus pre-existing trauma were just too much. While the instinct to berate myself was there, speaking kindly to myself and addressing my needs at those moments was always more productive. How might you take some pressure off of yourself? How else can you address your healing during this time?
For me, continuing to work on my self-awareness has been paramount. I am most self-aware when I am able to objectively self-reflect and keep my actions, beliefs, thoughts and feelings in check with who I am. Journaling, reading, meditation, thoughtful conversations with others and being receptive to the unfamiliar have helped me grow, solidify my identity and further develop my self-awareness. Consider what it might take for you to increase your own self-awareness. How might you benefit?
Creating coping mechanisms has better enabled me to take care of myself through challenging times. In addition to meditation/deep breathing, I have a special bag of grounding and soothing items that goes everywhere I go. Some items I have found useful include stress or sensory balls, calming essential oils for anxiety relief, activating essential oils for dissociation relief, having positive affirmations on hand you can recite to yourself, strong mints, a soothing rock to hold, ear plugs to block out sound and headphones to self-soothe with music. What can you put in your bag? What might comfort you in times of stress?
Although social distancing is our current normal, I cannot stress the importance of maintaining the healthy relationships in your life. Meet a friend outside at a park. Chat virtually with your loved ones. Reach out to extend a hand and to ask for help. Express your love and support to the people in your life.
Consider therapy and/or possible pharmaceutical intervention if you are privileged to be able to do so. Do your research: find a therapist who specializes in what you are addressing, in any specific therapies you are interested in and whose philosophy resonates with you. Having a trauma therapist with whom I have a great rapport during this time has been invaluable to me. Medication, while not feasible or desirable for everyone, has also been invaluable to me. If you are struggling, establishing a mental health team might be one of the best things you can do for yourself.
What I have found to be counter-productive to my healing this year is an over-indulgence of politics and news. I believe that it is important to stay informed, but not to your detriment. Turn off the television and step back from social media as needed. Digest these streams of information cautiously.
Healing our mental wounds allows us to live happier in the present and increases our tolerance for anxiety and stress. Taking care of your needs is important all the time and especially when it’s difficult. If you’ve been avoiding these needs, maybe it’s time to look deeper inside and address what could be lingering in the shadows. There is healing, hope and light to be found within you during this time of darkness. Whether you have been on your healing journey for a long time or you are just beginning to take active steps toward your mental recovery, now is the time to prioritize your mental healing. You deserve it.
Getty image by Alpha-C