Friday, we hosted a workshop built to give attendees tools to manage anxiety in *these uncertain times* and one of the mental health professionals from Chicago CBM said, “Like it or not, this is a shared trauma.”
Emotional trauma “involves a risk to your physical safety or [well-being],” says Yuvxal Neria, PhD, a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University and the director of trauma and PTSD at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Trauma can be physical (like being in a car crash) or emotional (for example, having someone threaten to kill you). Other examples of trauma include War, Physical or sexual abuse, Living through a natural disaster, like a hurricane or wildfire.
When we’re confronted with emotional trauma, whether it’s something we’re going through alone or something that’s globally shared, we all cope differently and we all have different needs. And – surprise – there’s no one-size-fits-all coping mechanism.
And if you spend enough time on the Internet, you’ll be bombarded with the shoulds of coping.
You SHOULD use this time to write the next great American novel. You SHOULD find your next great innovation – DID YOU KNOW SIR ISSAC NEWTON DISCOVERED GRAVITY DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING? You SHOULD discover your inner Julia Child. COOK A FEAST, WHAT ELSE ARE YOU DOING? You SHOULD take up a hobby. HAVE YOU TRIED KNITTING? You SHOULD use all of your spare time to be productive, healthy, meditate, and teach your kids the ancient art of kah-rah-te. By the time we’re out, you’re perfectly behaved, totally happy kids will all have their purple belts.
Up until this week, much of my coping has been built around the idea of forward momentum and productivity – I have this deeply held fear that if I stop moving or cease producing for even a day something terrible will happen. Taking a break would mean I’d wither up and die a sharky death.
I spent all of last weekend sitting in bed with my laptop – and landed on Monday already fantasizing about the weekend when I would take a day off. I was not refreshed, I was not rested, and I was angry, tired, and – for some reason – constantly hungry. I realized I needed to cope a little differently this week and have grace with myself and for others – however they’re coping with this.
The Weill Institute for Neuroscience at the University of California – San Francisco shared a guide to coping, with one line in particular we can start every day with: “Be extra kind to yourself. This is a hard time for everyone. Humans across the world are sharing this experience with you.”
And the Weill Institute shared a helpful guide to coping and managing what you can control, encouraging you to focus on the things in your control.
And as we learn to have grace with ourselves, it’s also important to recognize how you’re coping and why. According to Good Therapy, coping comes in all shapes and sizes.
“Coping styles can be problem-focused—also called instrumental—or emotion-focused. Problem-focused coping strategies are typically associated with methods of dealing with the problem in order to reduce stress, while emotion-focused mechanisms can help people handle any feelings of distress that result from the problem. Further, coping mechanisms can be broadly categorized as active or avoidant. Active coping mechanisms usually involve an awareness of the stressor and conscious attempts to reduce stress. Avoidant coping mechanisms, on the other hand, are characterized by ignoring or otherwise avoiding the problem.”
And right now, depending on who you are, and your life, family and job, your coping needs will look different from one day to the next.
The coping styles of those in your orbit are going to look as different day-to-day as yours. Grant the same grace to your friends that you’re giving to yourself. Because #CopingIsBetterWithFriends.
So here’s to all of the ways we’re coping (told to you in The Good Place gifs – my love language)
Earth is a mess: You read a lot of the news. You probably also went on Twitter. Yikes.
Everything OK? Nope 👍. You have kids.
Talk to no one, go no where, do nothing. Well, you’re just following the rules.
Your best approximation of a human crying. Let it out. It’s OK if feelings come out of your eyes (It’s better than anywhere else).
Margaritas. This may or may not be a part of your process. Take it sleazy on the margs and enjoy in moderation.
Go get it, girl. This is the “distracting yourself from sadness” phase. May include online shopping, Pinterest, and crafts.
This time, the Xanax took me. You built yourself a nice little self-care routine.
Things are getting cuter. Your pets are multiplying. You may or may not have consulted your significant other or roommates.
Disco Janet: You joined TikTok.
Acting is reacting: You’ve watched so much content, you’ve started referring to moves as “cinema” and you’re talking to your friends about the writing, acting and directing.
Your challenge this week: Give yourself and the people around you grace to cope.
NO ONE is right in their coping right now – each person needs a different thing for different days and waves of emotions. The best gift you can give to the people in your life right now and yourself is to check in: How are you feeling and what do you need are two questions that will go a very, very long way.