As we learn of more cases of Coronavirus and its impact world-wide and more specifically here in Georgia, many of you are nervous and scared. This fear grips our students just like it does you as an adult. Events like COVID-19 threaten our sense of safety and security.
For many people, this nervousness and fear about COVID 19 produces trauma. We all react to trauma in different ways, experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions. Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Adults often struggle with the effects of trauma, even though they understand them. But children react differently based on their personality, age, and circumstances.
ADAA member Aureen Wagner, PhD, Director of The Anxiety Wellness Center in Cary, North Carolina, offers this recommendation for parents:
- Remain as calm as possible
- Watch and listen to your child to understand how upset he or she is
- Explain a traumatic event as accurately as possible, but don't give graphic details. It's best not to give more information than your child asks for
- Let you child know that it is normal to feel upset, scared or angry.
- If older children or teenagers want to watch television and read news online about a traumatic event, be available to them, especially to discuss what they are seeing and reading.
These tips are important for children and adolescents of all ages:
- Reassure them that you’ll do everything you can to keep them and their loved ones safe.
- Encourage them to talk and ask questions
- Let them know that they can be open about their feelings.
- Answer questions honestly.
- Protect them from what they don’t need to know.
- Avoid discussing worst-case scenarios.
- Limit excessive watching and listening to graphic replays of the traumatic event
- Stick to your daily routine as much as possible.
Most children and teenagers will recover from their fear. Below are a few tips to help both of you recover from a trauma.
Tip 1: Get moving
- Trauma disrupts your body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. Exercise and movement can help repair your nervous system.
- Try to exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days.Or if it’s easier, three 10-minute spurts of exercise per day are just as good.
- Exercise that is rhythmicand engages both your arms and legs—such as walking, running, swimming, basketball, or even dancing—works best.
- Add a mindfulness element.Instead of focusing on your thoughts or distracting yourself while you exercise, really focus on your body and how it feels as you move.
Tip 2: Don’t isolate
- Following a trauma, you may want to withdraw from others, but isolation only makes things worse. Connecting to others face to face will help you heal, so make an effort to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone.
- Ask for support.While you don’t have to talk about the trauma itself, it is important that you have someone to share your feelings with face to face, someone who will listen attentively without judging you. Turn to a trusted family member, friend, counselor, or clergyman.
- Participate in social activities,even if you don’t feel like it. Do “normal” activities with other people, activities that have nothing to do with the traumatic experience.
- As well as helping others, volunteering can be a great way to challenge the sense of helplessness that often accompanies trauma. Remind yourself of your strengths and reclaim your sense of power by helping others.
Tip 3: Self-regulate your nervous system
- It’s important to know that you can change your arousal system and calm yourself. Not only will it help relieve the anxiety associated with trauma, but it will also engender a greater sense of control.
- Mindful breathing. If you are feeling disoriented, confused, or upset, practicing mindful breathing is a quick way to calm yourself. Simply take 5 breaths, focusing your attention on each ‘out’ breath.
- Sensory input.Does a specific sight, smell or taste quickly make you feel calm? Or maybe petting an animal or listening to music works to quickly soothe you? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment with different quick stress relief techniques to find what works best for you.
- Allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it.Acknowledge your feelings about the trauma as they arise and accept them.
Tip 4: Take care of your health
- Having a healthy body can increase your ability to cope with the stress of trauma.
- Get plenty of sleep.After a traumatic experience, worry or fear may disturb your sleep patterns. But a lack of quality sleep can exacerbate your trauma symptoms and make it harder to maintain your emotional balance. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. Avoid sugary and fried foods and eat plenty of omega-3 fats—such as salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseeds—to give your mood a boost.
- Reduce stress. Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Schedule time for activities that bring you joy such as your favorite hobbies.
Compiled by Kyri Harris, Professional School Counselor
 Information obtained from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm