Colorado Shootings and Trauma; Tips to Cope With Tragedy

Upon wakening today, many of us saw the horrific news that at least 12 people, and perhaps as many as 50 others were wounded while watching the latest “Batman” movie.  According to multiple news reports, the movie had only been playing for about 20 minutes, when a gas-masked gunman threw some sort of smoke grenade, and then began shooting innocent people. What can we do in the face of such horror? Here are a few tips for dealing with trauma and tragedy, once the immediate danger has cleared.

1. When in a safe place, relax: Relaxing doesn’t mean having a drink or some other mind altering substance. Relaxing means either being with people if that relaxes you, or going to a quiet place and allowing the shock and emotions to bubble up to the surface. Using a substance to “relax” will only complicate and delay dealing with the trauma.

2. Talk about it: It doesn’t matter if your loved ones have heard the story 20 times, it is important to talk about it until you have talked about it enough for you, though you may look for more than one person to share the experience with. Friends, support groups, and/or faith based groups can be some good options. Holding it in can make a person’s trauma reactions worse.

3. Express yourself: Express yourself in an appropriate manner, however you like. Maybe you’ll need to write about your experience in a blog, article, or journal. Maybe you will create art which represents your experience or your reactions to it. However you choose to express yourself, it is important, like talking about it, to allow your expressions to come out of you.

4. Exercise: Physical exercise can be immensely helpful and people may experience relief from exercise. Exercise can literally work stress hormones out from the body. Reduction in stress hormones can help a person feel more relaxed and calm. Someone may want to exercise multiple times in one day in order to keep the stress hormone at bay. (Note: Please visit your doctor first if you are not used to vigorous exercise.)

5. Handle trauma at your own pace: Everyone is different. There are people who will experience trauma and appear “fine” immediately afterwards. Others will be mildly affected. There will also be those who are tremendously impacted. It is important not to compare your response to trauma with another person. We are each unique people with different ways of responding and coping. Comparing your trauma reactions to someone else may make you feel worse.

When working with clients who have experienced trauma, I like to suggest to them to act as if they have the flu; get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, and cut yourself some slack when you just are not up to doing your usual routine. We give each other grace when we are sick, and I would encourage those who are dealing with tragedy and trauma to give themselves grace. Healing will come, and it will take some time. If someone’s reaction to trauma is beyond these tips, please consider seeing a professional for assistance. There are medical doctors and counselors who are trained in how to help people suffering from intense traumatic reactions. Some additional resources are listed below.

United States Department for Veterans Affairs: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/treatment-ptsd.asp

National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/helping-children-and-adolescents-cope-with-violence-and-disasters-rescue-workers/what-is-trauma.shtml

National Alliance for Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/

About the author: Laura Peddie-Bravo is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor for over ten years. She has worked extensively with victims of physical and sexual abuse, victims of crime, and more.  You may schedule a free 15 minute complimentary call by phoning 407-222-6239.

You can also connect with Laura via Facebook and Twitter @LPBShrink

All or portions of this article may be reprinted as long as the author’s name and contact information remain intact.

Amy Winehouse and 5 Tips To Help A Loved One Struggling With Addiction

  While it may not have been a shock, many people are saddened by the news that singer Amy Winehouse has died, seemingly as a result of a lethal combination of alcohol and drugs. Many hoped that she would be able to beat her addictions and return to singing and performing. It’s no secret that Winehouse has struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol over the years. Her inebriated behavior led to the canceling of many performances and appearances. Her death leads us to think of our loved ones who may be struggling with addiction, and ask ourselves “How do we help them?”

If you believe a  loved one has an addiction, read these five tips which may help you in your dealings with him or her:

  1. 1. Support: It’s important to be supportive of the person. Love the person, not the behavior. If your loved one feels judged, s/he may not turn to you for guidance about the help needed.

2. Know local resources: Become familiar with your local resources. For example, learn where and which local hospital deals well with addictions, and other community resources like detox programs and counseling services. If you know about these ahead of time, when your loved one is ready, you’ll be able to help guide him or her to a good and reputable resource.

3. Patience: It’s difficult to watch someone you love make bad choices over and over again. They may be damaging their health, finances, relationships and reputation, and they don’t see how bad it is or don’t care. As long as they and you are physically safe, you may have to sit by, watching the repetition of negative choices until he or she is ready to make a change. We cannot force someone to want to change, and that is where the need for patience comes in.

4. Boundaries: Having good boundaries with the addict is very important. While we cannot force someone to choose sobriety or to get help, we also do not have to contribute to that person’s poor choices. For example, if your loved one is an alcoholic, don’t go out to a bar with him.  That’s called “enabling” and isn’t helpful.

5. Involuntary Treatment: If your loved one loses the ability to care for him or her self, it is possible to involuntarily commit him or her to treatment. In Florida, there are two state laws which may be helpful to know about: The Baker Act and The Marchman Act. The Baker Act allows a person to be involuntarily sent (involuntary civil commitment) to inpatient treatment if that person cannot take care of him or herself, or is a danger to himself or someone else. The Marchman Act is specifically for substance abusers. You can click here to learn more about The Marchman Act: http://www.marchmanacthelp.com/

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be draining and stressful. These tips are very general. Your  loved one may be your spouse, and his or her choices directly impact you and possibly your children. Your loved one may be your best friend. Your loved one may be a parent. There are many services available if you would like more information and ask questions. Some professional Counselors offer complimentary phone calls where you can learn about that counselor and if that counselor’s services would be right for you or your loved one. And lastly, don’t forget to take extra good care of yourself while dealing with a loved one struggling with addiction. It is easier to show love, support and patience when you are well rested.

Additional resources:

    • Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous www.aa.org

About the Author:

Laura Peddie-Bravo, LMHC, NCC is a licensed and nationally certified counselor who has worked with substance abuse issues since 1997. Laura also works with children, adolescents and adults who deal with issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders, and more. If you would like to schedule a free 15 minute phone call with Laura, please call 407-248-0030.

The End of the Space Shuttle Program – Five Tips To Cope With Grief

Many of us are saddened that today, July 21st, 2011, marks the end of the NASA Space Shuttle program. Atlantis landed safely this morning, and this particular shuttle will remain in Florida.  People’s lives are significantly affected by the end of the shuttle program. The Orlando Sentinel, (www.Orlandosentinel.com), estimated that approximately 9,000  people who worked with the space shuttle will be losing their jobs. Combined with the grief of the loss of the shuttle program, and faced with a new career move, the stress and sadness could be overwhelming. Not only the employees are affected, but the surrounding communities will lose income and may be forced to close. People in the state of Florida, and beyond, are sad this program is over. Many of us who live in Florida may have taken for granted seeing the shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center and deeply regret never going to see one live.

The following is a list of symptoms people typically experience when faced with significant loss or intense stress. This list is not exhaustive, and if your symptom is distressing and is not listed, please seek additional suggestions:

  • sadness
  • irritability or anger
  • easily distracted or unable to concentrate
  • insomnia
  • isolating
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • suicidal thoughts

If you or a loved one is currently experiencing one or more of those symptoms, here are some tips to cope:

  • Acknowledge how you feel; ignoring or stuffing emotions may make you feel worse
  • Talk about how you feel with trusted relative or friend
  • Take extra good care of yourself, i.e. three nutritious meals per day, set aside time for sleep, exercise
  • Do your best to focus on the positive
  • Make an effort to incorporate humor into your life
  • Seek professional counsel for suicidal thoughts

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, even passive ones, please seek assistance from a professional. You may turn to your primary care physician, a Mental Health Counselor, psychiatrist, or support group. You can find providers on your insurance panel by calling your insurance company. If you do no have insurance and cannot afford professional services, there are many resources available to you through charitable organizations. If you need help with additional resources, please do not hesitate to phone a professional counselor or social worker for potential referrals.

For more information about the future of our country’s space program, there’s the Kennedy Space Center and NASA. If you can’t visit The Kennedy Space Center, http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/, you may want to check out the NASA website, www.NASA.gov and read “What’s Next for NASA?” While we are sad about the ending of the Space Shuttle Era, there are exciting plans already made and being made to continue our exploration of space.

About the Author:

Laura Peddie-Bravo, LMHC, NCC is a licensed and nationally certified counselor. Laura grew up in Orlando, FL, and works with children, adolescents and adults for a variety of mental health issues including grief, anxiety and depression. Laura operates from an overall Wellness perspective, and practices an eclectic style of counseling with a focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, (CBT). Laura believes positive change is possible in all who seek it, and she enjoys the privilege to work with all who walk through her door.