It has been a month since the accusations of sexual harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein against numerous women was splashed through the headlines. This was followed by the revival of the #MeToo campaign originated by Tarana Burke in 2006 – which has subsequently gone viral. Whether or not you chose to participate, there have been substantial effects that have rippled through Hollywood, the media and politics. Powerful men have been identified as perpetrators and the consequences have been loss of careers, income and social standing.
Whether or not you choose to share your story with others is a personal decision that only you can make. There is no right or wrong way to handle these events but there are effects nonetheless. Just hearing about others’ experiences may bring up memories of your own. You may have also noticed some physical symptoms like insomnia, stomach pains, headaches, etc. – all normal manifestations of anxiety, stress and trauma. We also cope with this trauma in a variety of different ways that will be unique to you and your given circumstances. Some of these coping strategies (alcohol and drug use or compulsive behavior such as shopping, exercising, eating, gambling and others) may have their own negative impacts over time.
So, how to manage the thoughts and feelings that are coming up for you?
The following strategies are worth exploring to maintain healthy coping:
Getting back to basics.
This means looking at your sleep patterns; diet and nutrition habits; physical activity and daily routines. What is your quality of sleep like? Are you sleeping through the night or experiencing interrupted sleep? Are you getting the appropriate quantity of sleep? Are you engaging in healthy eating habits such as incorporating a variety of food sources throughout the day? Do you eat a lot of “fast food”? Are you restricting your food intake? What kind of physical activity do you participate in? The physical activity should be something that raises your heart rate such as walking, running, skateboarding, cycling, swimming, yoga, various sports activities or going to the gym. And last, but certainly not least, is maintaining your daily routine around home and work. All these things will impact your overall sense of well-being – physically, mentally and emotionally.
I have mentioned this in a previous blog post. It can be beneficial to take a social media break. We have become a very “connected” society but is that connection helping or harming you? Sometimes we need to take a step away from the 24-hour news cycle that shows up in our various news feeds. This will also provide a much-needed mental and emotional health break.
Find the fun.
Engage in your favorite fun and/or leisure activities, whatever they may be. When you engage in pleasurable activities, you are activating the dopamine release in the brain. This release of dopamine can work to counteract the stress response in the body – at least temporarily.
Being present in your body.
Engage in some kind of mindfulness routine such as meditation or yoga. Focusing on your breath is a great place to start and you can decide how much time you want to spend engaging in following your breath as you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. The act of taking deep breaths in and out will start to reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety. It may also be helpful to start off with a grounding strategy that incorporates all your senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste.
Look around you and identify:
5 things you see;
4 things you feel;
3 things you hear;
2 things you smell;
1 thing you taste.
Spend time with “your people”.
We are social creatures who look for belonging in a variety of ways, so it is important to maintain connection with the people in your life that will support you and care about you unconditionally. These people may not necessarily be family but can be friends who you can talk to safely. These are the people who will connect with you and take you out for coffee, a walk, a movie or any other social activity.
Inspirational words or positive affirmations.
In a world of seemingly bad news all the time, it is important to find ways to remain positive in our daily lives. While this may seem “hokey” or some kind of “woo-woo” strategy, there are numerous studies that show how positive thinking impacts the brain and how you view the world. You could even try a little experiment with yourself and notice how your body reacts when you say something negative about yourself versus when you say something positive about yourself. You may notice that your body tightens up when experiencing negative self-talk (the shoulders up near your ears, hands clenched, stomach tensed, breathing restricted, to name a few). This may feel like a foreign concept and there is a certain wisdom to the saying, “Fake it until you make it”. This strategy, like any other, requires practice and will result in subtle changes over time.
There are many online resources available as well as support groups and individual therapy. Depending on the nature of the events that have taken place in your life, you may need to access therapy to “unpack” what happened in the past and your own responses to those events. Try as we might, ignoring the events and our feelings about those events is not a long-term successful strategy. These thoughts and feelings will make themselves known in one form or another.
To find out more about how therapy can help sort through your thoughts and feelings about past events, contact me to arrange a free 30-minute telephone consultation.