Contributed by Shannon Braasch, MA, Clinical Outreach Specialist, Reasons Eating Disorder Center
We are living in a world filled with crisis situations, which feel even more apparent as a result of social media. As I witness the turmoil of Hurricane Harvey from afar; feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, relief, sadness, anger, curiosity, confusion, helplessness, hopefulness, and grief are all stirring around inside me. These feelings, some contradicting, can become ruminating, stressful and consuming. I have noticed that these feelings come up more often as our nation and world are constantly faced with crisis situations, including terrorism, natural disasters, and social injustice. In addition to all of the external crises we are confronted with, we are also faced with personal crises, possibly within our families, relationships and careers.
With all that we are constantly challenged with, how can you protect your recovery? Below are a few ways that you can help to navigate the stressors and emotions that come up during a crisis situation.
- Educate yourself – Take a moment to evaluate where you are gathering your information from. Is it a reliable source? Sometimes the news stories and information that we see on our social media pages and websites are not true. The distribution of false information and new stories across the internet has become more prevalent and unfortunately tends to be over exaggerations of the truth, or may not even resemble the truth at all! This false information creates unnecessary anxiety and distracts us from being able to effectively stay safe, take action, and/or make educated decisions. It is important to have a trustworthy source for information, and do your due-diligence to fact check and cross check sources to compare information before reacting to a situation. Keep in mind that this can be true within our personal lives as well; unintentionally, information and facts can get diluted from person to person.
- Check in with your thoughts – Notice, are you experiencing ruminating thoughts about the crisis? These thoughts can increase anxiety and stress levels. Find a way to distract yourself; watch a movie, read a book, go to an art gallery, or maybe find a local event/activity to participate in such as a street fair. There are many ways to distract yourself, it is important for you to identify the ways that are best going to help you and have them readily available as needed.
- Set boundaries – Take care of yourself, it is okay to limit your exposure to news stories, conversations and information about the crisis situation. It may be necessary to voice your need to limit conversations about the situation to the people around you. Or, if it applies, turn the channel, unfollow Facebook posts, and limit your social media and internet use. Unapologetically, do what you need to do to set a healthy boundary for yourself!
- Recognize and honor your feelings – There is no one correct way to feel about any situation. It is important to take notice of your feelings during a crisis situation and give them the attention they deserve. Start by naming the feelings that you notice and do this periodically throughout the day. Also, be gentle with yourself; keep in mind that all feelings are valid, even when you don’t understand where they are coming from. Allow space and time sit with these feelings and notice how your body responds
- Radical acceptance – Often times the crisis at hand is beyond our control. It is easy to get hung up on the what if’s, but by focusing on the things that you cannot change and are out of your control, you may experience an increase in anxiety and frustration leading to suffering. The article, The Importance of Practicing Radical Acceptance, is a great place to find more details and information about this.
- Offer support – There are ways that you can offer support, even in a situation that feels helpless. Outside of financial contributions and volunteering, you can offer support through the power of positive thinking. Focusing on the positive not only helps you, but can help others suffering around you. You can create a sense of hope and positivity for others, just by letting a person know that they are in your thoughts and/or prayers.
- Lean on your resources – A crisis situation may trigger thoughts and feelings that can become overwhelming and feel unmanageable. Remember that you are not alone. Talk to your friends and family members. It is quite possible that they have similar experiences and the support and connection to one another can be healing. Also, it is okay to seek support from a clinician or local and online support groups. If you feel that you are unsafe, and/or are in an emergent situation, call 911 for immediate assistance.
Unfortunately, crisis situations happen, and whether or not you are in recovery it is important to take care of yourself! You are worthy — remember to pause and check in with yourself, show compassion to yourself and others, and ask for help if needed!