We live in an age when words like “traumatized”, “anxious”, and “depressed” have become common descriptors for far too many of us. And the phrase “global pandemic”, on its own, aptly describes how we got here.
However, the past year or so has also provided a seemingly endless succession of life-altering events. For example, the patchwork of virus mitigation tactics we’ve endured spawned problems like an economic crisis, a growing wave of mental health concerns, and a rising level of financial insecurity.
Again, those factors alone would be enough to cause trauma.
Still, there are even more. Racial strife and political unrest divided neighbors and households. The resulting disagreements and very public discord even seem to threaten the norms of civility.
You wouldn’t be alone if you felt it was all becoming too much for you. But how do you know if the word “traumatized” really does apply?
How to Know If You Are Traumatized By Political Unrest
The first clue is your immediate response. You may experience very strong emotional and physical reactions to what you’ve witnessed or read about. On its face, this is not unusual. In light of current events, it is normal to feel deeply or have a passionate response. Concerns about trauma, though, become more urgent as time passes. It’s important to be aware, otherwise, it’s possible that unresolved trauma can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Here are several types of trauma symptoms to watch for:
- Feelings can range from anger and shock to emotional numbing and detachment
- Guilt and shame related to where you stand on the social issues at hand
- Depression and low/dark moods
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Excessive worrying or controlling behavior
- Disturbances affecting sleep and eating patterns
- Easily triggered startle response
- Unexplained aches, pains, tension, and fatigue
- Racing heart, trembling hands, shaky voice
- Sexual dysfunction
- Intrusive thoughts
- Nightmares, flashbacks
- Inability to remember details of the event(s)
- Confusion, loss of concentration, mood swings
- Diligent avoidance of anything that triggers memories
- Losing interest in activities that once pleased you
- Withdrawal and social isolation
Any combination of these symptoms would warrant professional help (see below). In the meantime, however, there are some very useful self-help steps to consider.
5 Ways to Cope With Such Trauma
1. Moderate Your Screen Time
As tempting as it is to check for headlines and notifications, this can be a very unhealthy option. Everyone needs tech breaks, given our COVID reliance on screens for work and social interaction. Those struggling with trauma must put down their devices many times throughout each day.
2. Spend Time With “Non-Political” Friends
When political unrest occurs, most people are quick to take sides. Seek out those who can keep a friendship regardless of some differences of opinion. Yes, that’s easier said than done, but it’s well worth the effort to put ideology aside for the sake of friendlier interaction.
3. Practice General Self-Care
You will need resiliency to heal. A really big part of that is sticking to some daily self-care basics. Helpful elements of a self-care regimen include:
- Relaxation techniques
- Regular sleep patterns
- Healthy eating choices
- Daily activity and exercise
4. Help Others in Need
Being traumatized by political unrest can make you feel stuck inside your own head. Look outward. Seek balance by reaching out to help those within your reach. You can choose to volunteer. Or you might do your own thing — from checking in on homebound senior citizens to feeding local stray cats.
5. Recognize How Social Media Works
You are not alone. Social media algorithms — run by artificial intelligence — are designed to capture your attention. Every single one of us is targeted. We all fall prey to this agenda. The more you learn about it, the less you will blame yourself. You can learn how to ween yourself off social media. You can and will recapture your ability to think independently. Free your mind and give yourself quiet time to be creative and introspective.
When You Need More Than Self-Help
Trauma and PTSD are serious business — no matter what the cause. Take the steps outlined above but do not resist asking for help. Working with a therapist is a proven path toward recovery. Please read more about anxiety and trauma treatment and let’s connect soon. Reach out for a consultation to get you started on the path to peace of mind.