Hearing the disturbing news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas that has left more than 55 people dead and another 500 people injured may leave you feeling tired, depressed and scared. Situations like this can also bring back feelings and memories of previous tragic events.
Our thoughts today are with families who are coping with loss of life and those who are at the bedside of the injured. We salute the Las Vegas doctors, nurses and first responders – the quiet heroes who remind us of human kindness, hope and love.
The repetitive nature of these horrific events can have a cumulative effect on our well-being, according to UCHealth Memorial Hospital Rev. Nathan Mesnikoff, director of Spiritual Care.
During times of stress, it’s especially vital for us all to make a conscious effort to take good care of loved ones and ourselves.
Here are some suggestions from Mesnikoff and the experts at UCHealth’s Mountain Crest Behavioral Health in Fort Collins.
- Limit your media exposure. Being informed is good, but it’s all too easy to overdose on news.
- Keep up basic self-care. Take a walk. Spend time with a child. Cook a nourishing meal. Read a novel. Listen to music. Call a friend. Take a bath. Mediate. Get a massage. Write in a journal. Or use aromatherapy and essential oils.
- Do something kind for someone.
- Get enough sleep
- Take a few minutes to try a grounding or breathing exercise to help you live in the “now,” which can help you feel more peaceful and clear, even when external circumstances are difficult.
- Practice deep breathing. Breathe in slowly from your belly. Hold for 4 counts, then exhale for 5 counts.
- Do a 54321 exercise where you identify 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste.
- Be honest about your feelings. Talk with family, friends, clergy, or a counselor — especially if such events trigger traumatic memories. Call 911 if you feel you or someone else is in immediate danger.
- Reassure children. Provide age-appropriate information. Kids can have a harder time placing such events in context. Remind them there are lots of people whose job it is to keep them safe: parents, teachers, police, Fire/EMS, nurses and doctors, etc.
- Remember that individuals react to and cope with traumatic events in different ways, including expressing emotions, needing to talk about it, and spending time personally reflecting.
- Educate yourself on common reactions to traumatic events in order to recognize them within yourself, patients, and loved ones, including: shock, anger, confusion, edginess, fatigue, anxiety, sadness or feeling retriggered about previous trauma.
- Stay connected to other people and avoid isolation. Even if you process grief and trauma internally, it is still important to reach out to others and remain connected to people you trust and feel comfortable with.
- Avoid using substances to “treat” yourself. If you’ve struggled with addiction in the past and are in recovery, consider going to an AA or NA meeting.
- The University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Psychiatry Clinic may be reached at 303-724-1000 to help those who may be having reactions to this tragedy.
- For support in helping your children cope: https://www.oumedicine.com/docs/ad-psychiatry-workfiles/parent_disaster_media_factsheet_2011.pdf?sfvrsn=2
- This is a website from the VA about responses to disasters that provides appropriate information that can be applied to the general public as well: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/handouts-pdf/Reactions.pdf
- Grounding techniques: http://www.peirsac.org/peirsacui/er/educational_resources10.pdf
- 5-minute breathing exercise practice: https://healthypsych.com/5-minute-mindful-breathing-exercise/
- Mindfulness exercises: https://www.pocketmindfulness.com/6-mindfulness-exercises-you-can-try-today/