Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Terrorism and Disaster Reactions

When news of a terrorist attack occurs, it can cause suffering not only to those at ground zero, but others who witness the aftermath.

Watching a traumatic event unfold on television, radio, the internet or social media sets into motion a variety of psychological reactions, called Disaster Reactions.  

The list above shows you some of the many kinds of experiences children, teens and adults can have after a crisis. 

Tips for Coping with Terrorism

1. Stay active Falling into passivity can worsen psychological and physical disaster reactions. Children and adults need to engage in meaningful activities. 
2. Stay on track Resume a normal routine as soon as possible. Tending to your daily schedule helps ground you in normalcy. For children, this is especially important.
3. Understand trauma Remind yourself that it's expected to have these kinds of reactions in the face of the disastrous event. It's especially important to teach children that reactions like these are normal.
4. Don't numb your pain Be aware that reducing or avoiding pain with drugs or alcohol will only lengthen your traumatic response. Talk to you children about stress reactions and model healthy behavior for them.
5. Express yourself Whether it's talking about your experience or expressing it in other forms, releasing your thoughts and feelings about the disaster will help you heal. Talk openly about the event and encourage discussions. For younger children, drawing and playing can help them express disaster reactions.
6. Reach out to others While it's expected that you may want to be alone to deal with the trauma you've witnessed, studies shows that connecting to others helps us recover more quickly from disaster. If your child or teen wishes to "be alone" or disconnects from others, talk about the importance of connection and the healing benefits of staying bonded to others. 
7. Unplug from media When disaster strikes, the media tends to over-report and over-saturate the public with images, misinformation and high anxiety information. Limit nternet, television and radio experiences to help shield you - and your children - from over-exposure.
8. Be patient with others Realize that those around you are also under stress and may not act or react in a manner you would normally expect. 
9. Watch your caffeine Avoid caffeine as its effects can amplify anxiety and disaster stress response. So limit your intake of coffee, soda and tea. And for kids, too much chocolate, and caffeine drinks can heighten anxiety and irritability.
10. Celebrate goodness Remind yourself and your children that there is exponentially more good in the world than bad. Celebrate kindness and beauty, and revive your connection to humanity so your mind, body and soul can heal. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day: For Those Who Celebrate and Those Who Mourn

Mother's Day is a holiday that is marked world-wide. Countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, China and Japan, just to name a few, give moms a special day shout-out on the yearly calendar.

Historically, Mother's Day has been a day where children and other family members honor mothers or individuals who are nurturing and caretaking in maternal ways. For some, it's a day of celebration, of expressing one's love and appreciation for a mothering figure. The day is met with happiness and a full heart.

However, for others, Mother's Day is not so easy. It can bring forth sadness, loss and yearning if one's mother has died.

Or if a mother has lost a child, it can become an excruciating day filled with grief.

Or if you were never able to have children of your own.

Perhaps, Mother's Day becomes a day of anger and resentment if a person hasn't had a good relationship with a mother.

There are many more examples....too many to list in this post. 

In my work, landmark days, anniversary dates or holidays of any kind can be especially difficult for anyone who has experienced loss, death or the recognition of toxicity in a relationship.

Of all the days in the calendar year, Mother's Day and Father's Day can evoke the most profound emotional responses.

To those of you who struggle with this day, know that you're not alone.

Give yourself permission to feel and think whatever may come from within.

It's important for your to mother yourself.

Monday, May 01, 2017

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Though about 1 in 5 adults and children experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, mental illness continues to be stigmatized and misunderstood.

Learn more about mental illness, stigma and ways to educate others in my TEDx talk.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Universal Background Checks for Guns Lowers Suicide Rate

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate in the United States is now at a 30-year high. Another way to look at this is that every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide. 

Nearly two-thirds of the 32,000 gun deaths in the United States are suicides, according to

the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control. Firearm suicides outnumber firearm homicides nearly two to one. Indeed, far more Americans die by turning a gun on themselves than at the hands of others.

In the United States, firearms, particularly handguns, are the most common means of suicide. About 85 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal, whereas only 2 percent of overdoses, the most widely used method in suicide attempts, end in death. 

Despite strong empirical evidence that gun control reduces suicides, access to firearms in the United States is generally subject to few restrictions. However, a current April 2017 study published in the American Journal of Public Health is helping to kick nay-sayers for gun control to the curb - and save millions of lives. This long term study showed that handgun legislation yielded changes in statewide suicide rates. Specifically, data showed states with universal background checks had a decrease of 0.29 suicides per 100,000 people from 2013 to 2014 - nearly a 1/3 reduction in deaths by suicide using a firearm. 

Research shows the longer it takes a suicidal person to obtain a weapon, the more likely that individual will decide against dying by suicide. According to Dr. E Michael Lewiecki author of a paper on suicide and public policy, “If you have an impulse for suicide and you have easy access to a gun, you’re very likely to be successful at committing suicide. But if access to that means is not there, then the impulse may pass.”

Currently, only 18 states in the union require this simple and life-saving universal background check.  Learn more at the Law Center to Reduce Gun Violence. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tips to Build Resiliency

Resiliency is the ability to spring back from and successfully adapt to adversity.

Resilient people are often flexible in their thinking, endure difficulty with a realistic outlook and use the experience in self- empowering ways.

Experts are not all in ageement about how much of resilience is genetic. So the thought is that resilience can be learned.

Below are tips from the APA Help Center 

1. Make Connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

2. Avoid Seeing Crises as Insurmountable Problems. You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.

3. Accept That Change Is a Part of Living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

4. Move Toward Your Goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"

5. Take Decisive Actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

6. Look for Opportunities for Self-Discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of personal strength even while feeling vulnerable, an increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and a heightened appreciation for life.

7. Nurture a Positive View of Yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

8. Keep Things in Perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

9. Maintain a Hopeful Outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

10. Take Care of Yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.