Unless you lived under a rock for the last twelve months, you know the world fell into a state of disarray. After several wildfires, a worldwide pandemic, and murder hornets, 2021 started off with rioters breaking into the Capitol Building. Every news outlet and social media platform flooded with disturbing images. These images left millions of people shaken up and rightfully so.
It almost goes without saying that when I posted having writer’s block on my social media and asked for ideas that several people immediately responded with “how to manage your mental health in today’s social climate” or at least something along those lines. Can you really blame anyone? This has been a trying year for nearly everyone. Life alone tests us. Throw all of the aforementioned events into the mix, and you have a recipe for emotional turmoil.
Let me start off by normalizing everyone’s reactions though. Together we are experiencing a collective trauma. The images you see on social media, the stories you hear from your colleagues, and the emotions from friends and family ultimately illicit a trauma response. What makes this collective trauma so difficult is that it is more along the lines of a chronic stressor versus an isolated incident. Major historic events like 9/11 and the JFK assassination left a lasting impression on many. Individuals still recall where they were when they heard the news. That is part of that trauma response. However, society grieved as one and moved forward accepting those events.
On the other hand, presently, there just seems to be more bad news day in and day out. Our society has not had a chance to grieve or heal. Instead of accepting our reality after the event and moving onward, we continually struggle with accepting our current harsh reality and trying to live within its confines. Every day those wounds remain open and raw, and we get re-traumatized with new images, news stories, and trickle down effects of the social climate. After a while, this struggle takes a toll on even the strongest of minds.
Therefore, how does an individual manage their mental and emotional health amid the societal chaos?
You are not alone. Times right now suck. Literally everyone I talk to is being affected by our social climate in some capacity. Although it does suck that so many people are getting hit hard, there is some good in that. We can all relate to each other’s woes and show some level of sympathy. We are all in this shit show together. Even just hearing “I get it” from someone else and venting can bring some peace of mind.
Use your social support. Although this one has become tougher with coronavirus limiting how much we can physically interact with others, our connections did not disappear. We merely got a bit more creative about it by using technology. Just the other night my friends had a video game party and webcam chat since we had not “seen” each other since the beginning of the pandemic. Your friends and family are still there for you. Lean on each other during these tough times.
Radical acceptance. I am not getting into the nitty gritty of what radical acceptance is since I wrote about it previously. Feel free to check that out here: https://caringcounselor.blog/2017/07/25/radical-acceptance/ What I will say is that it is a skill that can help you to see the reality in a situation as it happens. It is a highly beneficial skill during these times.
Meet your basic needs. It has been proven time and time again that a trauma response can be significantly worsened if an individual’s basic needs are not met in the time immediately after a traumatic event. This means making sure that the person eats, stays hydrated, gets some level of rest, and feeling safe/secure. This also goes for collective trauma. Follow these same rules on a daily basis.
Limit time on social media and watching the news. In 1950, there were three major broadcasting networks on television. That is it. Could you imagine? Now, the news sends notifications straight to your pocket, pops up on your social media, can be heard on talk radio or coming from the living room TV. New outlets and social media berate us constantly with a barrage of information. It can be overwhelming on a good day. During these times, it can legitimately traumatize you. It can stir up feelings of uneasiness and cause us to perceive potential threats. This, in turn, will bring about a trauma response and/or pump up your adrenaline.
Put positivity into your schedule. With such a grim atmosphere stirring overhead, we need subtle reminders that not all in the world is terrible. Embrace your family or friends sharing good news. Look up some feel good stories online. Watch some cat videos like below:
Build self-care into your schedule each day. You cannot control the social climate. However, you can control how you take care of yourself. As much as our world beats us down, we need time to refuel to get up the next day. Schedule a self-care/nourishing activity into your daily routine. It can range anywhere from five minutes to an hour. If you are need of ideas, feel check out this link: https://caringcounselor.blog/2018/04/08/everyday-self-care-ideas/
-The Caring Counselor