Granted, there are people experiencing much worse than we have on a daily basis, but sometimes, that can make coping with such tragedies more difficult.
The terrorist attacks were frightening and the general election, exhausting.
But the horrific events that transpired this time last week at Grenfell Towers have left most of us shell-shocked and in utter disbelief.
I was not directly affected, in that I don’t personally know anyone who lived in the block of flats. However, like many across the country, my heart has felt heavy ever since I saw the first images of the burning block.
I’ve felt helpless and uneasy.
I don’t understand how this was allowed to happen. And yet, I overstand completely.
I am heartbroken for those who have lost loved ones or who, worse yet still don’t know the fate of their friends and family – and sadly may never know.
Through social media, it is evident that many people are experiencing similar feelings of sadness, anger and an overall emotional heaviness that comes with grief.
Yet, this is just the beginning.
Due to the circumstances surrounding the cause of the fire, it is clear that we have to keep talking about this devastating event, despite it being extremely painful.
In order to ensure the Grenfell Tower residents and victims get the justice they deserve, we cannot allow the powers that be to simply brush this under the carpet.
It will be a long and emotional battle and self-care will be essential.
We can all be impacted by a disturbing or particularly distressing event even if we are not involved in it directly.
As a result, you could be experiencing trauma symptoms and not even be aware that they are linked.
Symptoms of trauma can show up in a number of ways and can surface anywhere from a couple of days to a few months after the event.
Possible symptoms after a traumatic event can include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of concentration
- Heightened fear and hypervigilance
- Feeling disconnected, sad or helpless
- Withdrawal from others
- Muscle tension
Whenever something on this scale happens, close to home or further afield, I personally struggle with guilt.
I want to show my support for those affected and express my outrage in an effective way, but at the same time, I frequently find myself feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by it all.
I often feel that I should be doing more but I know that for the sake of maintaining my emotional and mental wellbeing, I am unable to.
How to Take Care of Yourself After a Traumatic Event
If you can relate or you have been experiencing any of symptoms listed above, here are 9 ways that you can take care of yourself after a traumatic event:
Minimise media exposure
With smartphones, most of us are constantly connected to social media and the latest updates.
Be mindful of how much time you are spending reading reports, watching the news and scrolling through your timelines.
Avoid checking updates before you go to bed or as soon as you wake up.
Also, consider turning off any alerts you have setup so you are in control of when you are exposed to any news.
Express your emotions
Give yourself permission to cry, rage and otherwise express your feelings in a safe and healthy environment.
This could be with loved ones or friends.
Alternatively, as I always say, journaling is an excellent way to share how you’re feeling without fear of judgement or conflict.
Avoid using alcohol or recreational drugs to numb your feelings.
Take care of your physical well-being
Ensure you get proper rest and sufficient sleep.
Eat well and regularly. Avoid excess caffeine, sugar, alcohol and fast food.
Exercise and move more. If you’re having trouble sleeping or experiencing headaches or muscle tension, something like yoga or Pilates could be a good option.
Spend time outside in nature and get as much natural light as possible.
Do things that help you to relax, feel nurturing, allow you to regain peace of mind and bring you joy.
Create an environment of peace and tranquillity wherever you are whenever possible.
Spend time with loved ones
After a traumatic event, you may find you want to spend more time alone.
If you need to take time for yourself, do that but be careful not to isolate yourself.
Find safe spaces where you can talk about how you are feeling and affected as much as you need to.
Reach out to people you trust and feel supported by and spend quality time with them.
Most importantly, avoid people who drain your energy and trigger feelings of anxiety or discomfort.
Maintain your normal routine
Traumatic events can create a feeling of uncertainty.
Continuing with your normal daily activities provides structure and familiarity which can help you to regain a sense of security and stability.
At the same time, be mindful of anything that induces feelings of overwhelm or anxiety and scale back where necessary.
Become aware of your emotional triggers
Perhaps it’s watching the news, certain songs or social media.
There will be things that may cause difficult and painful emotions to surface.
It will not always be possible to control or prevent this happening, but becoming more aware of your emotional triggers can help you to manage any unexpected feelings as and when they arise.
Distressing events can leave you feeling helpless, especially when you are not directly involved.
Find a way to help the cause through volunteering or other means.
If you are unable to help the cause directly, find something else you can connect with that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.
Get professional support if necessary
Sometimes you do all of the things above and it still isn’t enough.
Please do not suffer in silence.
There are professionals, helplines and support groups who are trained to help people dealing with the effects of trauma.
If you need to, reach out to them. They are there to help.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where terrible things will continue to happen.
It is important therefore that you have strategies that you can use to take care of yourself after a traumatic event and support your healing.
I encourage you to bookmark this post so you can always come back to it and share it with friends and family so they too can prioritise their own self-care.
And to anyone that has been directly affected by the terrorist attacks, the tragedy at Grenfell Towers or any other traumatic event, my sincerest condolences go out to you and your loved ones.