Because I know ways to help me improve my coping and recovery from the trauma so many concerned and sympathetic people are experiencing, I thought one of the best ways I could respond to my own needs would be to not only use those tools myself, but also share them with others.
I'm a change specialist, studying the process of change for many years. I've worked as a personal coach, helping my clients make personal changes, including helping them deal with painful memories and experiences. I'm not working professionally as a coach now, but I maintain a web site I created for my clients that contains tools and techniques I taught them and helped them apply successfully.
I want to welcome everyone reading this to visit the site and use resources there for their own change needs, including recovery from the pain and ongoing sadness resulting from learning details about the Sandy Hook massacre. The site is at http://www.changemaking.com
What You Can Do To Help Yourself Recover
Respect Your Own Toleration Limits
Everyone has their own emotional boundaries and stress limits. Those limits vary not only from person to person but from time to time and situation to situation. Avoid overloading yourself with too much information.
That's easier said than done. I know to avoid that, but have found it almost impossible to not read about details at length online. I'd decide to avoid the subject online and on TV, but find that I felt I had to know what had happened or was happening.
A horrible, unutterably cruel and senseless act activates our human need to find out enough information to ease our anxiety, grief, and confirm that the world makes sense. We also want to help the ones who have been victimized in some way, even if that is only standing by as sorrowing and grief-stricken witnesses to their own sorrow and grief.
Eventually I realized that I wasn't recovering from my initial emotional response to the events unfolding on TV. I couldn't go to bed until very late at night, didn't feel like working at my necessary tasks, all small irritations became much larger in their effects on me. I felt cranky and cried easily, felt like a failure whenever a small blip in my effectiveness occurred.
So, I said to myself, I'd better get out my changework toolbox and use what I know to help myself.
The thing that kept haunting me the most was the images from TV and online of the shooter. I'd done a search on his name and saw the stark black and white photo from high school and a couple more that kept coming to mind and prompting the thoughts and feelings so many of us have been experiencing.
I used a visual technique of sending that photographic image of the shooter away into the distance, in my imagination, swiftly zooming it off into the sky until it became a small dot, then allowing it to disintegrate into tiny specks too small to see, that fall into the sea and eventually become composted sediment that is good food for fish or, in a thousand years, fertilizer for flowers.
I repeated the process with any image of the shooter that recurred unbidden and unwanted or accompanied by emotional responses I wanted to reduce or neutralize.
The images of the children caused great sadness, and I did not want to send their photos off into the distance and dispose of them. I wanted to change how I responded to them, but not dishonor their memory. I haven't done this yet, but I intend to just change the picture in my thoughts gently to lessen the intensity of the feelings that had become attached to it in my own mind. To do that, I'll try muting the colors a little, moving the photo a little further away, maybe make it smaller. I'll experiment with small changes to find what works for me.
Add Extreme Self Care
This is a time to be gentle with yourself. Do what makes you feel safer, more comfortable, loved, and provided for. You might add more physical comforts, emotional support, more contact with people and pets you love.
Add Kindness To Others
There is an online movement to do 20 or 26 random acts of kindness as a way of honoring the victims' memories and supporting those who have been affected as so many of us have been. Read more about it here.
Take Action To Help Prevent Harms
You can contribute to causes that you believe will help prevent shootings, provide for families affected by violence and loss, prevent mental illness, provide treatment for the mentally ill, improve education for all children, support teachers and parents, improve school safety, and others. You can start your own movement if one does not exist that you believe needs to be created.
Move Your Body
When we are stressed we create body chemicals to help us physically escape danger and/or help others. These chemicals fit us for using our large muscles to do hard work. Use them to walk, run, or engage in physically demanding activities.
Some people binge eat when stressed, others lose their appetites. I'm a lose their appetite person. I can completely forget to eat, and also just plain not want any food. Try to eat what your body needs, even if that is not very much. And, since chocolate contains a harmless mood elevator, a bit of chocolate might be a good thing to eat too if it appeals to you.
Invest in Your Future
There is a future for the living. Those who are in pain now can look forward to a time when other things will once again be in their thoughts. For some people, time will heal their emotional wounds, for others, it will take applying changemaking tools and/or engaging the help of supportive professionals.
Although the ones who died do not have the future we believed they would have, the living can create futures for their memory and in their names that will last.
We can use what we can learn from the incidents of the past week to help many people, including ourselves. What have you, can you learn from what you have seen and heard? What can be used to enrich and help you and others in your and their futures?