Tips for Trauma Fatigue

Being an informed citizen is important, knowing what is going on around us is essential to how we conduct our day to day activities.  From knowing whether to grab the umbrella or understanding the genesis of tragedies that happen in our communities and others, knowing what is happening can be helpful.  It can also be exhausting.  It was a week when passive media consumers and active first responders were all collectively begging that no more tragedies would happen; enough was enough.  While many of us were relieved to discover that the Boston bombing suspects had been taken dead and alive (respectively) either because we were obsessively following the story or we happened to come across it later on, tweets of an earthquake and of bird flu just kept rolling in. It’s enough to give a person “mean world syndrome” or even mild to severe symptoms of PTSD from constantly watching or reading about the events this past week and beyond.

1. Understand that a controversial label ; “media PTSD” has been suggested and children that watched footage of the 9/11 were found to have symptoms of the disorder.  Children should be kept away from images, but not a healthy and age-appropriate dialogue of what is going on around them.

2. It is quite common for people to feel a sense of helplessness when so many things around us seem to be going wrong. We can’t control what others do, but we can control how much media we consume and know when enough is enough.  We can also get our own family, work, and community affairs “in order” so that we don’t feel a domino effect of constant negatives.

3.  We can be helpful to other people in small to large ways, depending on our skill set.  Community Service is a win/win situation.  However, jumping on an internet platform to criticize or stir up controversy just confuses people.  Yes, Free Speech is a fundamental right, but who does that speech help?  If it is just a way of “venting”- find another way; like journaling or talking to a trusted friend.

4. Don’t lose sleep.  It is easier said than done if we believe a storm is going to hit in the middle of the night or if a story if developing and we are afraid we will miss something.  Occasionally there are times when we need to take the family to the basement if a storm is impending, but if you find yourself awake late most nights you may be overly vigilant and that isn’t good.  Talk to someone.

5. There is a difference between hypervigilance and having situational awareness.  Situational awareness is what we employ when we are “defensive driving”; knowing where the cars around us are, the speed limit, road conditions, etc… It is helpful and it keeps us safe.  Hypervigilance is irrational and keeps us on the “edge” when no real threat exists to us.

6. Take your own advice.  If you are a parent or have a career that dictates you care for and/or lead others, it is second nature to give advice and be helpful.  Sometimes those in the “helping professions” can feel better when they are leading and managing others, but we can’t lose sight of our own needs in the process.  Setting a good, strong example is a positive, but we have to take care of our own needs and acknowledge when we are not doing just that.

Now go turn off the computer and relax!