Download This Post to Print or Share With a Friend
The spread of COVID-19 through our nation is creating a series of ripple effects, impacting us as individuals, as a country, and as a global community. This emergency is uniquely worrying because it is open-ended. We have no idea how long this will last, just how bad it will get, or who exactly will be impacted. While connections with other people usually serve as an essential resource to healing and well-being during times of crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is also different from other emergencies for its imposed isolation. We are currently conditioned to fear other people who might transmit the virus and are competing against us for resources such as COVID-19 tests, relief funds, or toilet paper.
The result of these new facts of life during COVID-19 is collective trauma. Collective trauma is the psychological impacts of an event that affects a large group of people and causes widespread harm, changing how those group members define who they are. Collective trauma effects members of the group differently, with individuals experiencing one, all, or none of the symptoms of widespread anxiety, fear, hopelessness, depression, anger, and rage – at any giving time.
Collective trauma is a result of our brains switching to survival mode, also known as the “fight or flight” response and getting “stuck” there. While this response is helpful for short-term emergencies where a person can move to safety and recovery quickly, it is not as effective for longer duration emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some things you can do as we go through this coronavirus pandemic to manage your symptoms of personal trauma:
- Be kind to yourself. It may be hard to concentrate and be productive. You’ll have good days and bad days. You may be less patient with others than usual, and you may be very tired. This is not because you lack discipline or are immoral; this is happening because your body is trying to survive and protect yourself and those you love.
- Reach out for help. NJMentalHealthCares has started a COVID-19 specific hotline for emotional support (866-202-HELP), and NJ 211 (nj211.org) can connect people with a variety of local services.
- Practice self-care as often as you can. Mindfulness is a tool that can provide your brain a welcome reprieve from the crisis survival mode. Access our Wellness and Mindfulness guides at safe-sound.org/COVID-19/.
- Get creative and think about other ways to connect with people. Although we can’t be near each other physically, “other people” are not the enemy. Do what you can to reach out to others. Schedule frequent phone calls with loved ones, host “porch parties,” smile as you pass each other 6 feet apart on your walks, and posts signs of support in your window. You and those you connect with will feel better as a result.
- Support those who are closer to this crisis. Although we are collectively going through this pandemic, we are not experiencing the pandemic equally. Health professionals, essential workers, people who have lost someone to this disease, survivors sheltering in place with their abusers, those who have been laid off, and those who are more predisposed to getting the disease due to pre-existing conditions – all of these people and more – are now dealing with compounding traumas that will make recovery harder for them personally, and support even more critical. Do what you can to help these individuals. Make sure that everyone’s basic necessities are being met. Commit to creating a more just post-pandemic world. We will all collectively benefit from a society that responds to and prevents trauma amongst all populations.
At Safe+Sound Somerset, we are an inherently optimistic, trauma-informed organization. Every day, we bear witness to people’s stories, hearing about some of the darkest times in someone’s life. We are also privileged to stand with these same people as they build safer, more loving futures for themselves. We know that people can heal and thrive after profound trauma, and we see it every day in the work that we do. We know that as hard as things are now, our communities will emerge from this pandemic stronger and more united.
Safe+Sound Somerset’s domestic violence programs are still open and available 24 hours a day. Our hotline, safe house, safety planning and counseling are all still happening. If you need assistance or have questions, contact our 24/7 call or text hotline at 866-685-1122.