opioid crisis

Emotional First Aid During The Opioid Epidemic

Every day, 140 individuals in the United States die of a drug overdose, 91 of them specifically due to opioids. 

 

Opioid addiction is an epidemic that has spread like wildfire across the United States, devastating communities, and forever changing the lives of those affected.

 

Most of us know someone who has faced addiction and maybe even lost their life to it. The death toll due to opioid overdose continues to rise, and that’s why at Seeking Hope, we’re focusing on how each of us can use emotional first aid to make a difference and save a life.

conversation about emotional trauma

What Is The Opioid Epidemic?

The opioid epidemic specifically refers to the growing number of deaths and hospitalizations from opioids, including prescriptions, illicit drugs, and analogs. Common types of opioids include heroin, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone. 

In recent years, death rates from these drugs have ramped up to over 40,000 a year, or 115 a day, across the U.S. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, largely due to the opioid epidemic. The opioid epidemic first gained notoriety around 2010, but the factors behind it had begun several years earlier.

Every day, opioid overdoses take the lives of our family, neighbors, classmates, and friends. And, according to an analysis conducted by The Health Initiative, the number of opioid deaths is continuing to peak, and there is no end in sight.

Opioid addiction is a disease. 

Addiction, also called opioid use disorder, is a serious medical condition. It is a chronic, relapsing brain disease with symptoms that include compulsive seeking and use of the drug, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive behaviors. While the initial decision to use drugs is mostly voluntary, addiction often takes over and impairs a person’s ability to self-regulate. 

opioid crisis

How to Avoid Opioid Dependence

If you or someone you care for lives with depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, here are a few things you can do to avoid dependency on opioids:

 

 

1. Care for your mental health

 

writing emotional self care

Avoid using opioids as a mental health treatment. Instead, see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional to discuss a different therapy that may work for you. Treatment may involve antidepressant medications, counseling, and social support.

 

 

2. Follow directions

If you need to take opioids after surgery or an injury, use only the amount your doctor prescribed. Once you’ve finished the dose or you’re no longer in pain, stop taking the medication. Staying on these drugs for less than two weeks makes you less likely to become dependent on them.

 

 

3. Watch for signs of dependence

If you’re taking larger doses of the opioid to get the desired effect, you may be dependent. Going off the drug will lead to withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, and shaking. See your doctor or an addiction specialist to help you stop using these drugs.

 

This epidemic is far from over. But every one of us has a part to play in this epidemic. Just by listening and being kind to somebody, you can make a difference in their lives. 

emotional support

Take Action Today

The statistics say it all.

It is more important now than ever that everyone is trained in Emotional First Aid to have the wisdom and tools to respond during a crisis. Sometimes all it takes to make a difference in the life of someone living with a mental health or substance use challenge is knowing how to start the conversation.

The CARES online program can help you recognize and respond to moments of crisis, like an opioid addiction or someone experiencing an overdose. 

The training is designed for individuals, professionals, and organizations who are working to prepare and have a plan in place for crisis and the after-effects of trauma.

Your training will challenge your perspective on crisis and prepare you for the realities that interrupt the flow of life in you and in almost everyone around you on a daily basis.


help children with grief

Helping Children Deal With Grief

Children have the same emotional needs as adults, but sometimes these needs are ignored or taken lightly. Many times adults are too full of grief to reach out to their children.

 

You can’t protect your kids from the pain of loss, but you can help build healthy coping skills.

 

As a parent, you can’t protect your children from grief, but you can help them feel safe. And by allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings, you can help him build healthy coping skills that will serve him well in the future.

emotional first aid for families

How To Tell A Child Someone Has Died

It will never be easy telling your young child that a loved one or a pet has died. You may be wondering How and what do I tell them?” 

Before you begin the conversation, take a moment to evaluate your own emotional state regarding the death. 

Do you need someone with you? 

If so, reach out to family, a friend, or a clergyperson. Then, you can break the news that someone has died in a caring way.

 

  • Be honest. Give them clean, correct facts about death compassionately and lovingly. Be careful not to over-explain.
  • Keep it simple. Use “died,” not “He/She is sleeping/passed away.” 
  • Listen carefully to their questions and answer them truthfully. 
  • Tell your children about the death, even the young ones.
  • Encourage your children to share their grief with you and with trusted friends.
  • Be aware of children’s possible guilt feelings. Assure them that the death was not their fault.
  • Give him or her choices in what to do. Some children want to go to school the day of the death. Familiar routines are comforting. Inform the school of the death before your child returns. 
  • Reassure your child that he or she will be cared for and explain the plan.

emotional first aid for children grieving

What To Say To A Child Who Is Grieving

Offering support to a grieving child can begin with a simple statement or open-ended question. Try to avoid euphemisms like, ‘She’s in a better place,’ because they can be scary or confusing for young children.

 

Here are some conversation starters:

 

Initial statements:

  • “I’m so sorry your mom/dad/sister died.”
  • “What was your dad/mom/brother like?”
  • “Tell me about your ________________________.”

 

If some time has passed:

    • What do you miss the most?
    • What is the hardest part for you?
    • What is the hardest time of the day for you?
    • Can you tell me something he said that made you laugh?

emotional first aid for children

Anytime:

  • I care about you. I care about how you’re feeling. Can you think of something that we can do that might help you feel better?
  • I’m available if you would like to talk.
  • Whenever you want to talk about it, I’m here for you.
  • I’m thinking about you, especially today because I’m aware that today is your mother’s birthday (anniversary of the death, your birthday, etc.). I’m here to listen if you want to talk or just spend time together if you don’t want to talk.

Examples of Appropriate Conversations

Children think in literal terms, and therefore what we say is what the child will believe. Always tell the child the truth about death. To soften or tell a white lie is to plant the seeds of confusion and distrust.

  • Communicate your experience. Express what you are feeling in whatever ways feel comfortable to you. Whether you want to tell your story to friends and family, or you prefer to write or draw your feelings, expressing them will help you process and move forward.
  • Find a local support group led by professionals. Support groups are frequently available for survivors. Group discussion can help you realize that you are not alone in your reactions and emotions. Support group meetings can be especially helpful for people with limited personal support systems.

Inappropriate: Grandpa went to sleep last night and he is now in Heaven.

Child’s Response: Fear of sleep, fear of the dark, nightmares

Appropriate:  Grandpa died last night. This will be a sad time for all of us, but we will get through it together.


Inappropriate: God loved Daddy so much that He took him to Heaven to live with the angels.

Child’s response: Fear of God. Fear Mother will also die. Fear of love. Rejection of spiritual values.

Appropriate:  We believe that Daddy is in Heaven with God and that God knows how much we miss Daddy.


Inappropriate: Grandma went on a long trip and won’t be coming back.

Child’s response: Why didn’t Grandma say goodbye before she left? Doesn’t Grandma love me? Fear of loss of Mom and Dad leaving for a while (i.e., to work or shopping).

Appropriate:  Grandma was very sick; she died. God said she could come and be with Him in Heaven.


Inappropriate: Well, you know what they say, only the good die young.

Child’s Response: If the good die young, I don’t want to die, so I won’t be good. Or does that mean that I am bad?

Appropriate:  How sad that such a young child died. I wonder if there is anything I can do to help the family?


Inappropriate: You must always be a good little girl because Daddy is watching you from Heaven.

Child’s Response:  Paranoia. Fear of making mistakes. Extreme guilt feelings when not behaving well coupled with an inability to make it up to the deceased parent.

Appropriate: Daddy’s love for you can never die. He is not with us like he used to be, but we will always remember and love him.


For more guidance on having these types of conversations, click here to read our post, How To Have a Conversation About Emotional Trauma

Activities To Help Children Cope With Grief

Whether a student has lost a parent, sibling, grandparent, or another relative, or if the student is struggling with loss on a larger scale, he or she needs opportunities to express his or her feelings and learn about grief.

 

Make a Collage

A collage is a poster of pictures or words. You can cut pictures or words from magazines or newspapers. Please ask for permission before doing so, and you may need help with the scissors. Look through the magazines or newspapers for pictures or words that remind you of the person who died. Maybe you’ll find his/ her first name or the name of the city he/she lived in. There are many things you can find to help you remember this person who has died.

 

Art

Sometimes there are no words for what your child is going through. drawing can be one way to express their feelings of loss or sadness. Drawing a picture of the deceased person creates a memorial, while drawing pictures of the family before and after the death helps children process the changes in their lives.

children dealing with crisis

Writing

Write a letter to the person who died; write a letter from the person who died to you; make a wish list; write in a journal; write poems about feelings or memories; make a goodbye card.

 

Storytelling/Reading

Tell stories to each other about the person who died. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say. Read stories together to create your own life story.

children grieving

Grief is a heartbreaking road, especially for children. Children who are dealing with loss have many of the same feelings and needs that the adults around them do, but because they are kids, they have far fewer resources and abilities to cope with their feelings. 

It’s up to us to provide them. And there is no shame in needing help with that. The healing process takes time, but you’ll get through it together.

For specific guidance on caring for children during a time of loss, you can download our free CARE for Children card.


natural disaster recovery

Recovering After A Natural Disaster

Disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, transportation accidents, and wildfires are typically unexpected, sudden, and overwhelming. 

These events disrupt, suspend, and, at worst, destroy lives.

Every year natural disasters kill around 60,000 people and affect close to 160 million people worldwide!

Disasters bring an incredible range of emotions, from disbelief and anger to a euphoric spirit of teamwork. 

 

But long after the skies have cleared and the chaos cleaned up, what remains are the storms within. 

recovering after trauma

Temporary homelessness, damaged personal belongings, and an uncertain future weighs heavily on survivors. 

Understanding how to respond properly and having strategies to cope after distressing events can help you and the ones around you live through the difficult times after a natural disaster but more importantly along the path to recovery. 

 

What To Expect After A Traumatic Natural Disaster

People react to the trauma of natural disasters, whether or not they were directly affected. 

Knowing what to expect can help to normalize your experience and reduce stress. 

The reactions are usually temporary, may vary among individuals, and can fluctuate over the coming weeks. These symptoms will generally lessen during the natural healing process, which takes time, attention, and support. 

Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. But for children, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and people who may not speak English fluently, disasters bring a higher risk and they are likely to need additional support.

But everyone, even the leaders that others look to during disasters, deserves support in their recovery process.

 

Common Reactions To A Natural Disaster

It is natural to feel stress, grief, anxiety, and worry during and after a disaster. 

And as time moves forward after the initial event, your feelings will change, too. The most common reactions, some of which may be subtle, are: 

  • Physical signs, which may include discomfort, muscle aches, cold/flu symptoms, headaches, malaise, fatigue, and appetite changes. 
  • Feelings of shock, numbness, disbelief, and uncertainty over how to make sense of what has happened. 
  • Increased sense of vulnerability and decreased sense of safety and security. 

Wide-ranging feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, abandonment, fear, frustration, irritability, anger, anxiety, sadness, moodiness, depression, guilt, grief.

helplessness after trauma

  • Behavioral changes that seem to be more impulsive, like taking greater risks, using or abusing substances, and developing sleep disturbances. 
  • Interpersonal conflicts with a spouse, partners, family members, friends, co-workers, colleagues, neighbors, or strangers. 
  • Cognitive and perceptual changes, such as difficulty concentrating, dulled awareness or thinking, confusion, forgetfulness, and intrusive thoughts or images.
  • Changes in social outlook: wanting to isolate yourself from others, feeling detached, or having a lack of interest in people or things. 

alone with emotional trauma

Ways To Cope After A Natural Disaster

Taking care of your emotional health during and after a natural disaster will help you think clearly and protect yourself and your family. Self-care during an emergency will also help your long-term healing.

Whether you experienced a disaster firsthand or were indirectly affected by it, it’s important to take steps to recovery. 

 

Here are a few steps to help you cope:

  • Give yourself time to adjust. Anticipate that this will be a difficult time. Allow yourself to mourn the losses you have experienced.
  • Ask for support from people who care about you. Social support is a crucial component of disaster recovery. You can find support from family and friends, as well as those who’ve also survived the disaster. You may also want to reach out to others not involved to provide greater support and objectivity.

women emotional first aid support

  • Communicate your experience. Express what you are feeling in whatever ways feel comfortable to you. Whether you want to tell your story to friends and family, or you prefer to write or draw your feelings, expressing them will help you process and move forward.
  • Find a local support group led by professionals. Support groups are frequently available for survivors. Group discussion can help you realize that you are not alone in your reactions and emotions. Support group meetings can be especially helpful for people with limited personal support systems.

emotional first aid support

  • Engage in healthy behaviors to prevent excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. If you experience ongoing difficulties with sleep, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can be a numbing diversion that could detract from as well as delay active coping and moving forward from the disaster.
  • Establish or reestablish routines. Routines can include eating meals at regular times, sleeping and waking on a regular cycle, or following an exercise program. Create routines to have something to look forward to during these distressing times, like pursuing a hobby, walking through a park, or reading a good book.
  • Avoid making major life decisions. Switching careers or jobs and other important decisions tend to be highly stressful in their own right and even harder to take on when you’re recovering from a disaster.
  • Express as best you can to people who feel supportive to you. This combats internalizing the experience and may promote a greater sense of control. 
  • Above all else, if you feel overwhelmed, ask for help.

 

Fortunately, research shows that most people are resilient and, over time, can bounce back from tragedy. 

 

After a few months, most people can resume functioning as they did before the disaster. There is hope for restoring your feelings of safety and returning to your normal lifestyle! 

At Seeking Hope, we have the unique privilege of training people to provide support to victims on what is possibly the worst day of their lives. We’re here to help you learn how to help survivors and communities rebuild – physically and emotionally. 

The road to recovery is long, hard, and seldom straightforward, but remember – you’re not in this alone. 

Whether you want to help others through crisis, overcome your own struggles, or find hope in the world, Seeking Hope has a solution to help you grow. Click here to learn more about our online training program, CARES, so you can be better prepared when your or a loved one faces a crisis.

 

Sources:

https://ourworldindata.org/natural-disasters

https://www.who.int/environmental_health_emergencies/natural_events/en/


2020 emotional self care

5 Emotional Self-Care Resolutions For 2020

The new year is just around the corner, and most of us are probably more than ready to leave 2019 in the past. It might feel like these last twelve months have been jam-packed with a whirlwind of turmoil, trauma, and stressful events. 

But now, it’s time to unwind, take a deep breath, and set an intention for the new calendar year. 

Instead of choosing one of the more common efforts like losing weight, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly, we’d like to suggest a different type of New Year’s resolution: 

 

Emotional Self-care

 

Emotional self-care is about caring for your emotional needs, identifying your feelings, and then moving forward while honoring yourself and those emotions. 

peace with emotional self care

When our emotional self-care needs are not being addressed, we tend to feel frustrated and burnt-out, leaving us with a feeling of, “how did I get myself into this mess?” and no real plan to climb out.

 Here are five emotional self-care resolutions for 2020:

 

1. Feel Your Emotions

 

Aside from happiness or anger, most adults aren’t comfortable sharing their feelings. 

Many people are willing to talk about butterflies in their stomachs or a lump in their throat because it feels less vulnerable than expressing their true feelings.

So, you may feel tempted to suppress negative feelings, but it’s healthy to feel them, accept them, and move on. Remember that emotions are not inherently “good” or “bad.” Experience what you’re feeling without judgment or guilt and allow yourself to process what you’re going through.

To stay in touch with your feelings, you can keep a daily journal where you’re honest about your feelings, write a list of “feeling words” to describe your feelings or sing along to the songs that best express your emotions.

writing emotional self care

2. Improve Your Relationships 

It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that you don’t set aside time for friends and family. But, studies show that spending time with loved ones is critical to your emotional well-being. 

Wherever you’re at and whatever relational needs you may have at the beginning of this year, keep seeking out connection and friendships. 

Life is astounding and a beautiful journey, but it can often be lonely. 

friends emotional self care

As Maya Angelou so brilliantly put it, 

“We need each other as we need the earth we share.”

3. Develop A Positive Perspective

Having a positive outlook can help you as you tune in to your emotions and actively care for yourself. 

Start your day with a positive affirmation. Although it may feel weird at first, starting your day with affirmations can help shape your mindset for the day. 

It also helps train your brain to think positively and boosts your self-confidence. 

Or instead of saying affirmations, start each day by writing three things you’re grateful for. Because even if things look tough for a day or the next few months, we can always find something to feel very thankful for in our lives. 

Stop and take a moment to list some good things in your life, and then thank the Lord for them.

 

4. Intentionally Create Quiet Time  

emotional self care

Life is full of emotional chaos, and we need moments of peace to be able to rest and rebalance our emotions. 

Whether you draw a hot bubble bath, go for a walk, or sit down to paint, take some time to feel refreshed and recharged. 

During this quiet time, silence your phone and learn to enjoy your own company and your thoughts. Let your thoughts roam free, and process all those suppressed and built-up emotions that cross your mind.

Infusing periods of quiet time into your everyday life can bring feelings of calm, patience, and rest and help restore your emotional health.

 

5. Heal Emotional Pain

Life dishes up so many hardships: heartbreak, illness, injury, death, abandonment. And sometimes we try to bear the burden of emotional pain and stop short of facing the sources of the pain. 

But pain is an invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. 

We can go straight to the heart of the problem with a biblical solution. “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray” (James 5:13). No matter how vast our pain, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. 

prayer emotional self care

And James 4:8 says, 

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” 

 

This verse reminds us that when we draw near to Him, God will draw near to us. 

When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation. If we ask Him to help in the darkness of our hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

 

Here’s to a healthier, happier, and more hopeful you in 2020!


Understanding Emotional First Aid

Our way of everyday life is constantly threatened by events that loom in the near future — including natural disasters, economic crashes, and health epidemics. Reports show that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience at least one traumatic event during their lifetime. Surprisingly, much of this trauma can occur in the formative years of life — 40% of children and adolescents are exposed to a crisis, even in their early age.

Learning The Language

Before we can offer emotional first aid throughout the healing process we must first understand the following terms: 

 

Emergency A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action 

Crisis A time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger that can be experienced both immediately and over time 

Trauma It is not the event that determines whether something is traumatic to someone, but the individual’s experience of the event and the meaning they make of it.

Critical Incident (Event) An event that can potentially overwhelm one’s usual coping mechanisms, resulting in physiological distress and impairment 

Psychological Crisis (Response) An acute response to a crisis, trauma, disaster or other incident overpowers one’s usual coping mechanisms 

Crisis Intervention (Emotional First Aid) Crisis intervention targets the response to the event. Psychological first aid, goals to stabilize, symptom reduction, return to adaptive function, facilitate access to continued care. 

Iceberg Effect (80/20 Rule) During a crisis approximately only 20% of the people are affected both physically and emotionally, while the other 80% are emotionally impacted. 

Secondary Injury A secondary injury is when the person in the midst of a crisis doesn’t get the support they need during the event. 

Catastrophic Events A crisis can turn into a catastrophic event when these factors are involved: 

  • Intensity of loss
  • Presence of children
  • Hazard in the aftermath
  • Duration of event 
  • Media involvement 
  • Size of the community 
  • Safe place non-existent

support with emotional first aid

Providing Care & Emotional First Aid

We’ve covered the different terms from emotional first aid, and now we can respond with compassion and CARE to prevent further damage and suffering. 

It is the biggest gift that you can give someone. Acknowledging that they’re in pain, being there ready to listen, being open, and being available.

And that doesn’t mean just physically being there. That means looking at them. Really truly, opening up your heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to come through and be their cushion, be their safe place.

The CARES Model

Here at Seeking Hope, we have the CARES model. That’s what we use to go through all the steps to understand how we care for someone. Christ asked us to care for his children. But how do we do that? This model will help break down the steps and what we look at to care for those in crisis.

 

C – Connect

The ‘C’ stands for connect. Making a connection and establishing rapport with someone who cares, acknowledges, and provides support during the crisis help victims recover. It is important that you, as the responder, were not directly affected by the current event.

A – Assess

The letter ‘A’ in the CARES model is for assessing. A responders role is to assess the specific symptoms and help the person in crisis express their feelings. Asking thoughtful questions helps a crisis victim discover the root cause of their pain and dispel any myths about the situation. By assessing these things we can move forward, create a plan, and help  victims to know that there’s going to be balance and that they can find hope moving forward. 

R  – Reassure

The ‘R’ in the CARES model. For our client, it’s unrealistic, for us it’s reassuring. Our client is facing some unrealized and unrealistic expectations. They want a dead person to come back to life. They want this to be different. They want a job that disappeared to show up again.

Their expectations are not realistic at all. How do we help find them? By reassuring that they have an opportunity to find balance in the circumstance that they find themselves in. It’s not easy, but by reminding them that there is hope, there is a tomorrow, and how to get there, we’ll make it happen. Our presence alone creates an environment of strength, stability, and balance. That’s what reassuring does. That’s our ‘R’ in the CARES model.

E – Enduring

The ‘E’ in our CARES model is enduring.  We know that a crisis isn’t resolved instantly, and caring for victims of trauma includes enduring through the stages of grief. As we help them to endure, it gives them hope, help them find their psychological balance so that they can move forward and make their own decisions. We give them a time pace, so they don’t feel rushed. But show them that they can endure this horrible tragedy and still come out tomorrow. That’s our ‘E’ in CARES model.

S  – Spiritual

The final in CARES is the ‘S’ – spiritual. After experiencing a traumatic event, as caregivers, we can come along as their spiritual guide. By gently providing guidance, we can remind them of God’s promise that they are not alone in their crisis. We believe that true hope is found in God, and we can bring that hope and give them the sense that they can move forward. That’s the ‘S’ in CARES.  

friends help with emotional first aid

Learn how to help others through emotional crisis the healthy and safe way. Click here to download your free CARES card and guide. Having your own CARES card to reference any time helps you provide an appropriate and powerful response to those who are struggling with a trauma.


talk through emotional trauma

How To Have a Conversation About Emotional Trauma

More than half of Americans will go through a traumatic event at least once in their lives. 

“Trauma is extremely common,” says Kristen R. Choi, PhD, a registered nurse and researcher at UCLA who studies trauma.

It can be challenging to know how to help someone you love and care for when they have gone through a crisis or emotional trauma. Starting the conversation and supporting them through their recovery is a great way to care for them. 

Don’t ever underestimate the power of person-to-person contact. Coping with trauma and crisis can be overwhelming, and your support may make a vital difference in the recovery process.

 

How Do You Start a Conversation About Trauma?

help with holiday stress

It’s natural to want to help someone you love to feel better again, but it’s essential to accept the trauma that has happened. Offering support to a loved one who is suffering can begin with a simple statement or open-ended question. 

  • “I’m so sorry ______ happened.”
  • “Can you tell me what happened?”
  • “How are you holding up right now?”
  • “What are you thinking and talking about in terms of ____________?”

And if some time has passed since the initial traumatic event, you can still start conversations about the event.

  • What do you miss the most?
  • What is the hardest part for you?
  • What is the hardest time of day for you?

When you first ask, the trauma survivor might say no and not want to talk. That’s okay. Asking helps to establish that you’re willing to listen, and you are someone they can trust if and when they are ready to talk. Your support and presence means more than you think.

 

Continuing The Conversation

conversation on emotional trauma

Once you’ve started the conversation about emotional trauma, it’s important to continue it and help them talk through their feelings. You can say:

  • I can’t imagine know how you feel, I only  remember how I felt when ________________ happened. (But don’t go into details unless specifically asked.)
  • I care about you. I care about how you’re feeling. Is there anything I can do to help?
  • Is there anything in your room/home you would like to change to feel more comfortable?
  • Would you like to talk about it?
  • I’m available (be specific, time, date, place), can we get together to talk?
  • When you are ready to talk about it, I’m here for you.
  • I’m thinking about you, especially today, because I’m aware that today is ________ (anniversary of the event, your birthday, etc.). I’m here to listen if you want to talk or just spend time together .
  • When is your special event (game, recital, rehearsal, etc.)? Would it be okay if I stop by?

 

When To Pause The Conversation

While talking through emotional trauma, there may be instances where talking could do harm.

Some trauma survivors find it difficult to talk about what happened. Don’t force your loved one to open up but let them know you are there to listen if they want to talk, or available to just hang out if they don’t.

  • Try not to discuss the trauma and/or post-traumatic stress symptoms at times of high stress or tension. If possible, wait for a time when you and your loved one are calm and when there are no distractions.
  • Avoid any further discussions with your traumatized loved one if he or she reacts strongly while discussing the trauma–or if you fear that he or she will. Wait until you can solicit the help of a mental health professional to facilitate the sharing process.

 

What To Expect

talking about emotional trauma

Discussing trauma can be hard for the survivor, and it can also be hard to hear the details as a supporter. Although every trauma and conversation is different, there are some common themes on what you can expect during your conversations:

  • Prepare yourself mentally and spiritually to hear things that may be difficult to listen to. Practices such as meditation, prayer, reading an inspirational passage, or making a call to a friend or a sponsor before you talk with your loved one about the trauma may help you stay calm and at peace, despite the difficult topic.
  • Plan to take things slowly– don’t expect a loved one to pour out every detail of his or her trauma the first time that you discuss it. It may take weeks, months, or even years to fully comprehend what your loved one has experienced. Be patient enough to let your loved one share as little or as much as he or she chooses and at a comfortable pace.
  • Focus on listening, instead of asking. During your conversations, asking too many probing questions could feel threatening and very unsettling. 
  • Respect your loved one’s wishes as they relate to creating a comfortable setting. Your loved one may want you to touch him or her as the two of you talk (holding a hand or putting a hand on an arm or leg), or he or she may reject any physical contact at all. Your loved one may want to sit face-to-face or prefer not to look at you at all. “It was hard for me to accept, but Sean usually preferred to sit in a chair across the room from me or stand behind me when we discussed anything related to his trauma or his post-traumatic stress symptoms.”

 

There is Hope

hope after emotional trauma

People can recover from trauma, and having a conversation can often be the first step. “Traumatic events are things that stay with us forever,” Nelba Márquez-Greene, a professional therapist, said. “They don’t have to negatively impact us forever, but they stay with us forever.”  With assistance, the right treatment, and a solid understanding of the healing process, you can help loved ones overcome trauma.


cope with christmas stress

Finding Hope During Holiday Season Stress

Welcome to the holiday season, a whirlwind of gift-giving holidays, parties, and activities galore that starts at the beginning of November, builds at Thanksgiving, and continues gaining momentum through the end of the year.

And while this season is meant to bring feelings of love, togetherness, and cheer, it also brings stress and sadness for many. 

The Mayo Clinic reports that unwelcome guests like depression and anxiety are common during the holidays. But with a few practical tips, you can minimize your stress and better cope during the holidays, so your Christmas is more white than blue.

 

Acknowledge Your Feelings

Sadness and stress are common during the holidays, especially if someone you love has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones. 

Your feelings are entirely normal and understandable, and you can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. It’s okay to take time to express your feelings. 

 

Reach Out or Volunteer

help with holiday stress

If you feel lonely or isolated, consider inviting a group of friends to your home. You can also seek out social events in your community that will offer opportunities for support and companionship. 

And, if everyone you know is with family during the holidays, you could volunteer to help those less fortunate than yourself. 

Volunteering during the holidays is an excellent way to lift your spirits and connect meaningfully during the holidays. Many volunteers express how fulfilling their experiences are and how grateful it makes them feel.

 

Take Care of Yourself 

holiday season stress

Don’t throw healthy habits out the window because you’re feeling sad, stressed, or a mix of emotions. 

Taking care of yourself during this season includes getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, and continuing to exercise. 

Exercise is crucial in reducing stress levels because physical activity produces endorphins, which improve your ability to sleep and reduces stress. Whether it’s a long workout at the gym, or a walk through the neighborhood to look at the lights and decorations, exercising will help you cope during this season.

 

Be Realistic

The holiday season is particularly stressful when you have too much on your plate. This might be the case if you’re welcoming out-of-town guests and hosting family festivities. 

You don’t necessarily have to cancel your plans, but make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. 

The holidays don’t have to be perfect, and they may not be the same as last year. As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. 

For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, calls, or videos.

 

Manage Your Expectations

With family and friends, it’s crucial to be aware of your own expectations and limitations. Reflect on previous years and try to pinpoint how much you and your family can handle before feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

 

Set Aside Differences

end of year stress

Being in close quarters with some of your family members for long periods of time can be stressful in itself. 

When they are visiting, try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. 

Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

 

Plan Ahead

help during holiday stress

Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list to help prevent last-minute scrambling and shopping forgotten ingredients. 

 

Take A Breather

Setting aside time for yourself is another great way to cope with stress during the holidays. Find something to reduce stress and clear your mind, like listening to music, sipping on some hot cocoa or reading a book. 

These activities can refresh you enough to help you maintain your sanity as you juggle family obligations, social events, and holiday shopping. 

 

There is hope for coping during the holidays! 

Don’t let this season become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prepare for the sadness and prevent the stress that can descend during the holidays. With a little planning, some positive thinking, and prayer, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Psalm 42:11 tells us, “O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”

Put your hope in God this holiday season, and He will carry you.


crisis training

Crisis Training: Learning To Respond Instead of React

Imagine going to the doctor for medication and returning for a follow-up visit. In one case, the doctor says you are reacting to the medicine; in the other case, the doctor says you are responding to the treatment. Zig Ziglar uses this example to show there’s a big difference between responding and reacting.

A reaction is instant. It’s driven by the beliefs and biases of the unconscious mind. It’s when you say or do something “without thinking.” A reaction is based on the moment and doesn’t take into consideration the long term effects of what you do or say. A response, on the other hand, is slower, formed after considering multiple factors. A response will be more encouraging and supportive, helping you show love, and helping those in crisis to feel heard and encouraged.

Most people aren’t sure how to provide comfort or respond appropriately to the emotional whirlwind of crisis. Instead of listening and taking the time to offer a constructive response, they jump to conclusions. They say the first thing that comes to mind, or in other words, they react. Reaction responses can be unhelpful and possibly even detrimental to the person in distress — the most helpful way to respond starts with thinking beyond your initial reaction.

 

Reactions & Responses

Understanding appropriate responses can be challenging. Based on my personal experience and my experience as a chaplain, here are some common reaction pitfalls to avoid and ideas on how to respond.

 

Dismissing or Minimizing 

Imagine experiencing a crisis, and someone comes to you and says, “it could be worse,” or “it’s not even that bad.” Or, they share a story that happened to compare and contrast your experiences. Dismissing or minimizing trauma makes it seem as if it doesn’t matter. It can make someone who needs help feel alone, or guilty for mentioning what they’re going through. 

 

Offering Unsolicited Advice

As humans, we naturally want to fix things. When someone comes to us with a problem, often our first instinct is to solve it. Giving advice when it isn’t requested can be unhelpful, especially if you’re qualified or familiar with the person’s situation. Very often, someone in the middle of a crisis wants to vent and release frustrations. So, if they ask for advice, give the best advice and guidance you can. But if not, don’t assume someone needs it. 

 

Validation 

Instead of dismissing feelings or giving unsolicited advice, validate them! A person going through trauma wants to feel heard, understood, and comforted. You can say things like, “I’m sorry you went through that” or “You’ve been through a lot.” Responses like this mirror feelings and show that you’ve been listening, you care, and you’re acknowledging what they’ve been through. It’s a chance to show that you empathize with their struggles, and you’re there to help them.

 

Reframing

Reframing your friend’s negative lens is another way to respond with love to them thoughtfully. Crisis and trauma can create a negative or hopeless perspective, and you can help them to find the positive and hopeful side. For example, the crisis was a setback or an unexpected event, but it doesn’t define them. You can remind them that God is in the business of building things out of broken people and broken situations. You can also complement them by reinforcing their strengths, skills, and accomplishments. 

 

Having A Sense Of Humor 

Bringing joy and laughter can be a great way to make someone feel better. But it’s essential to assess the needs of who you’re talking to and their communication style. Do they like to laugh things off? Or would they prefer you to be serious? You may be able to tell based on previous conversations, or you can always ask. Everyone has different needs at different times.

 

Instilling Hope

Experiencing trauma can make a person feel hopeless because the person in crisis has lost their normal. Their life has been turned upside down, and their view of the world may be clouded by darkness. But you can help them feel hopeful.

Remind them that there is help, resources, and support out there, from you as a friend, and from licensed professionals. You can also provide consistent support and reassurance, offering to pray for them, speak the truth, and share uplifting words and Scripture. Let them know that you are there for them and will support them every step of the way. 

 

We all experience crises. The key is to be prepared to respond to moments of crisis, consciously. By choosing to respond instead of reacting, we can support those during a crisis, inspire hope, and bring love and light to times of darkness.


workplace crisis training

How to Handle a Crisis in the Workplace

The reality is there are crises happening every day. Working for a company that’s experienced a layoff, a lawsuit, or another trauma can feel like swimming in the ocean. It gets hard to keep track of where you’re going, and sometimes, it’s challenging even to stay afloat.

These situations get even more complicated when you’re managing other employees through the chaos. Not only do you have to minimize your levels of stress, but you also need to help your team, all while maintaining productivity and morale.

While a crisis feels overwhelming, there are some steps to help you move past obstacles and support your team, amid even the most tumultuous environment.

1. Organize the Chaos

During this crisis, chances are you’ve got a lot of new responsibilities and tasks on your own plate. Start with a crisis management plan so you can reorganize and rebuild. 

It’s essential to do everything you can to maintain a normal business routine. Sticking to your routine helps you stay afloat and instills confidence in your team that the situation is under control. So while you may feel a sudden blizzard of panic and urgency, you set the standard for the rest of your team. 

Delegate tasks according to your team’s strengths, and ask for help from your employees. They need and want to help!

2. Be Open and Honest

This might seem obvious, but sometimes our natural reaction during a crisis is to withdraw. Instead, acknowledge the tragedy and provide information. You don’t need to wait until you have all the information to share an update. 

Share what the company did or will do. Acknowledge any lack of information and explain when the information will be available. When you keep a constant stream of information, your team feels informed, included, and valued. 

Honesty plays a powerful role in being open with your team. You’re respecting your team when you share honestly with them. When you’re honest with them, they’ll be honest with you and trust your company. 

3. Actions Speak Louder

Remember the saying we heard as children? 

“Actions speak louder than words.” 

Leading a successful business is not just the words you speak …it’s the actions you take. During a crisis, use your actions along with your words to provide comfort to your team. Protect your employees from further harm, and media. 

It’s a good idea to check in and update your team every couple of days, if not daily. Take the time to check in with each person and ask “How are YOU holding up?” Your presence will be reassuring and they’ll appreciate having face time with you.

You can also support your team by encouraging times of reminiscing, holding meetings to share concerns, and “saying goodbye” rituals.

4. Find Hope

Finding hope in the midst of crisis is the key to success. Despite the trauma your team experienced, there are opportunities for hope. As a leader, take the time to provide comforting information about the victim’s family. 

For your employees, you can point out what they did right, reinforcing their positive thinking, and thank them for their help in managing the crisis.

These tips can’t prevent a crisis, but they can help you and your team get through one. 

Click here to download your FREE crisis management checklist

overcome trauma

How You Can Help Others Overcome Anything in Life

The topic of resilience is close to my heart as I am reflecting on the recent “Poway Synagogue Shooting” in my hometown of Poway, CA. It is impossible to understand the emotions associated with a mass shooting until you are in the midst of the fallout of one. Families, communities, and organizations have come together and demonstrated a resilience that is truly astounding.

Whether people realize it or not, this kind of strength and resilience to bounce back from tragedy is inside of every person, and although we bounce back we are never the same.

From the day we were born, we begin to learn how to overcome and respond to a crisis.

Though my childhood was tumultuous and traumatic for most of it, I can look back today and see how in the midst of trials there was a greater story building strength and resilience in me.

The following statements are taken from “The Resilience Test“.

1. I believe I was loved by my parent/guardian when I was a child.

Reflect back on your childhood. Can you say you believe you were loved by your parents? While sometimes you may not have felt loved, do you believe that you were loved?

For myself I know I was loved, but more than often I didn’t feel it. There is a difference. As an adult, I can look back and say “yes, they did love me.” Even though they didn’t show it in a positive way. My mother was an alcoholic and abused pain medication. She didn’t have the capability of showing me love in a positive way. However, I know she loved me.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

2. When I was a child, someone other than my parents helped take care of me and seemed to love me.

Did you have a relative, a friend’s parent, or a neighbor help care for you? Did you feel loved, safe and cared for by someone other than your parents?

While I was a child I had a friend’s mother that included me in their family. I ate, helped, prepare meals, did chores and regularly spent the night at this family’s house. They treated me like one of their own children. I knew I was safe and felt loved when I was with that family.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

3. My parents and/or family shared playful and joyful experiences with me as an infant.

Do you have pictures of yourself as a baby laughing and having fun? Did you hear stories of playful, fun or joyous times when you were an infant?

I have seen pictures of myself as a baby, laughing and having fun. My aunts would tell me stories that they use to play with me all the time when I was very small. Even if this didn’t happen all the time, you were still building resilience as you were joyfully played with and loved as an infant.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

4. There was a relative in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried as a child.

Was there someone who tried to make you feel better about a situation? A relative that wanted to make things better for you somehow?

For me, this is a “sometimes” answer. I remember a time after I was scolded, my grandmother came and gave me a hug and said it would be okay. That little bit can bring hope to the smallest child. Grandparents or older relatives have more maturity and can bring a bigger perspective to a situation. Sometimes, when parents are just overwhelmed at spilled milk, a grandparent might brush it off as just an accident. They may even laugh at the situation, while they help clean up the mess.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

5. As a child, my neighbors or friends’ parents seemed to like me.

There is a difference between like and love. Did you feel welcome at a friend’s house? Did the neighbor smile or wave to you when you were outside? Did the neighbor say thank you with a big smile for bringing their paper to the doorstep?

It’s the little things that count and build resilience.

For me, there was a woman across the street that often needed help cleaning her house. After I was finished with my chores at home, I would ask her if she needed any help. She poured on the praise when I would clean the dishes, mop the floor or dust the living room. This genuine appreciation of what I did for her gave me confidence. It showed me that I was valuable and she was glad I was there.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

6. Teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or ministers were there to help me when I was a child.

Did you have someone outside your family that you could talk to? Was there a teacher that took an interest in you and wanted to see you succeed?

Outside support is essential to building resilience and success in a person.

For me, there were a couple of teachers that seemed to really enjoy having me in their class. I would spend extra time in classrooms where the teacher really cared about me. This only fortified my relationship with this person and allowed me a safe place to talk openly. I also had a Girl Scout leader that made all of our troop feel like we were special and could come to her at any time. My questions were never considered stupid. This woman even called my home to offer help and support, saying I was worried about my mom. Unfortunately, my mother took that as betrayal and I was severely scolded for it. I never revealed this to my scout leader, but she always took the time to ask how I was doing.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

7. Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.

Was there someone who was interested in your grades? Did anyone praise you for a great paper or the lead in a play? If you were doing poorly in a subject, did they offer help?

I always felt I had to do good in school, or else. It wasn’t that my parents cared, from a supportive way, rather I was expected to do well or there would be consequences.
I remember bringing home failing grades in spelling. My mother was determined to improve those grades. I would spend hours practicing the spelling words for the next week at the end of our dining room table. She would test me each night and I would have to write those words over and over again until I got them correct on the next test she gave. I started to get 100%, but it was based on fear. I just used memorization to get through these weekly spelling tests. My father took great pride in my math ability and tried to help when necessary. Math was “different” then and I ended up teaching him a couple of things. We still laugh about it to this day.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

8. As a child, my family, neighbors, and friends talked often about making our lives better.

Was there an attitude of improvement for yourself or your family? Were there goals that were shared?

I often heard people talking positively about improving their lives. When you are surrounded by negative conversations such as, “Our lives are bad”, “It will never get better”, “I can’t change anything”… it has a major impact on how you view your own set of circumstances. When you listen to the adults around you talking about changes they can make to improve their life or your own, it has a positive impact on you. My parents would talk about saving for a better future, a bigger house, better cars, vacation, etc. These all point to living a better life. Then when those things did happen, it gave encouragement that I too could plan and make changes in my own life for the better.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

9. I had rules in my home and they were expected to be kept.

Did you have chores? Was there a curfew? Were you taught and expected to use your manners? Were the consequences for your actions spelled out?

There were definitely rules in my home, and if not obeyed there were consequences. While by today’s standards those consequences would be considered extreme, I knew what those rules were and understood the consequences if I choose not to follow those rules. Rules are necessary and provided for a stable environment. They also set the stage for being an adult. Society is based on rules. If you don’t pay your electric bill, you won’t have lights at night. Simple. There are no excuses. It’s very simple and spelled out. There are moral, ethical and legal rules that all should follow. I learned early on that your actions and decisions dictated the outcome of your life.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

10. I could almost always find a trusted person to talk to when I felt really bad.

Was there someone in your life could you go to when things were bad? Can you identify someone that offered wise counsel?

It is important not to confuse wise counsel versus having a person “fix” our problem. No one else is responsible to “fix” our issues.

For me as a child, I could always reach out to my friend’s mother. I always talked to my best friend and if my friend ended up worried after we talked she would go and talk to her mom. While at first, this seemed to be a betrayal, it was not. When the situation is more than a child can bear, an adult should be brought in. Looking back, I often felt betrayed, why? Because the situation was about to change. That meant I was going to have to do something different. That’s uncomfortable. It is so much easier to complain, whine and blame others. It’s also easier to stay in a bad situation because it’s what you know, even if it’s bad. Having a trusted friend and adult is necessary to help us grow.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

11. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.

Did you ever receive praise for a job well done? Were you the go-to-person in your family, organization, school, etc?

I can answer this with a capital YES. Even with everything that I endured in my life, I was definitely this person to so many. I took great pride in being organized, could see how things needed to be done efficiently, and liked that people asked me to help.
I would work really hard to get praise and feedback that I was a “good” kid. When others see an asset in you, you can take that truth and realize how capable you are in your own circumstances. Turn that can-do attitude on yourself. See in yourself what others see in you. Learn that you are a “good” person, and loved.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

12. Even as a child I was independent and go-getter.

Could you take on a project and complete it without much oversight? When you saw a problem did you take initiative to help solve the problem?

This is a built-in resilience trait. This automatic response is part of your self-confidence. Some people are just wired this way.

I am one of these types of people. I have a sense of justice and want to see fairness exhibited to all people. This trait is also learned. Growing up with an alcoholic mother, I found myself needing to take care of my younger brother. I didn’t want him to experience the neglect that I did. To ensure he was cared for, I took the initiative to make sure he had lunch money, got up for school, had clean clothes and ate breakfast. This spilled into the rest of my life. If something or someone needed to be taken care of, the only person I could count on was myself. This trait ended up serving me well. I usually got any job I interviewed for, I was promoted early and frequently and started numerous organizations and ministries to serve others.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

13. I believe life is what I made it.

Did you feel responsible for you? Were you able to examine your actions and evaluate the role you played in any given situation?

For better or worse, I was always blamed for anything negative that went on my home. I was the easy scapegoat. As a small child I really felt that I was responsible for everything, even my mother’s drinking. It didn’t help that she told me I was the reason she drank. By the time I hit 9 years old I was seeking out wise counsel. Asking those trusted adults, if this was really my fault. I was blessed to have people that cared about me and how I viewed myself. Because of my sense of justice, I would question why something was my fault. This led me to the ability to sort out what was true and what was a lie. I also recognized when my behavior or actions exacerbated the situation. I would think of how I could do things differently and change the outcome. I could choose to be happy, find the good in all situations and put things into place so I wouldn’t make that same mistake again.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

14. There was a spiritual belief system in my home growing up.

Did your parents take you to church? Were there conversations about God in your home? Did you witness and take part in prayer?

For the better part of my childhood, we were lukewarm Christians at best. We usually went to church on Easter and Christmas. We said the same prayer at dinner every night and another at bedtime. However, there were stretches of time where we went to church weekly and then wouldn’t attend for years at a time. This was very difficult for me. I had a need to be in the presence of God. When my family wasn’t attending church, on Sundays I would knock on the neighbor’s door to see if their family was going to church and ask if I could join them. I attended many different churches, because of this. Jesus was always talking to me. I would spend hours singing Jesus Loves Me on my swing set in our backyard. At one point, I even asked my parents to attend a Christian school. I thank God every day for his diligent presence in my life. I would have never made it through my childhood had I not witnessed his love and grace.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

Hopefully, now you see a clearer picture of all the positive results of your childhood experiences. It is through this that all can learn to see the hope of God’s faithfulness. Resilience is not just stumbled upon, it is forged in the trials and tribulations of life, causing us to become mature and complete (James 1:3-4).

Taking this perspective, you can help others see the light at the end of the tunnel, the gold in the rough, and the hope of a better tomorrow. Being a resilient person requires learning how to reflect on that which made you stronger and applying it in your current situation.

Click Here to Take the Resilience Test