Written by The Chamin Ajjan Psychotherapy Team
The Domestic Terrorist Attacks that took place at our nation’s Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 were not just a passing event for many of us. The impact was not simply fleeting. There has been a lot of focus on how this impacts the country, what it means politically, and what may happen in the days leading up to the inauguration of President Elect Joe Biden, but there has been little talk about how it affects us emotionally and mentally. So many of us have been deeply impacted by this event, not just because it was shocking or unexpected (as it was to some but not all of us) but because the insurrection was a culmination of many other traumatizing experiences. Some examples include, being faced with the extremely difficult daily task of operating in a country that allows the murder of innocent Black people to happen without consequence, leaders to incite violence and praise the acts of white supremacists and government to uphold the practices of systematic racism and bigotry and then deny it exists.
If you are suffering, we see you. If you are having trouble leaving your house, we see you. If it has opened up old wound, we see you. If you are afraid, angry, hopeless, numb or experiencing any other difficult emotions as a result of these events, we see you. Sociopolitical and/or Racial Trauma is real and it is painful.
Our Team has put together some thoughts and suggestions for you to consider as we all try to navigate through these troublesome times.
Know Your Boundaries
It is imperative that you know your limitations and that you reinforce them. That means setting boundaries with others and for yourself. This can look different for you than it does for someone else. For some, this might mean telling family members what you are willing to discuss and what is off limits. For others, it may mean minimizing your exposure to social media and news outlets. Or it could look like not taking on the roll of “racial relations tutor” in your staff meetings. Setting boundaries for yourself is a very basic way of practicing self care during these unstable times. You are worth it and deserve it!
Learn to Feel Your Feelings
Avoiding, ignoring, or overriding emotions can lead to greater levels of guilt, shame, self-criticism, and distress in the long run.
Here are eight steps to feel your feelings:
- Name the emotion (you can look up a list of negative emotions online by Googling “list of negative emotions”).
- Identify where you feel it in your body.
- Place your hand where the emotion is felt in your body.
- Take deep breaths as if you are breathing into the emotion.
- Try to understand the emotion: “I feel anxious because…”
- Normalize the emotion: “It makes sense to feel this way because…”
- Give yourself compassion for experiencing this difficult emotion.
- Move your body to release energy.
The Little Things Help
This past year has been more than just anxiety inducing. The pandemic, political situation and recent insurrection are all things that can create reasonable worry. Staying safe and healthy has been emphasized all over the world over the last year, but now, more than ever, it’s important to strengthen our psychological immune systems while we boost our physical ones. To do this, sometimes we have to stay grounded in the present and remember to find joy even in our new not-so-ordinary life. Take time away from the news and worry to make yourself your favorite dinner, take a long bath, give yourself a manicure or just put on your favorite outfit. All of these may seem like mundane acts of self care but it’s these little things that keep the unproductive anxiety at bay.
Mindfulness for a Mind full of Anxiety
With an abundance of political unrest, unprecedented national events, and daily updates of it all through the news and social media, many of us are feeling a new type of anxiety. This anxiety feels close to out of our control, because most of what is going on feels out of our control.
One way to regain a sense of control is by using mindfulness to ground yourself. When you feel overwhelmed or your thoughts start to spiral, you can take action by bringing yourself into your physical body using something as simple as washing your hands. Put your hands under warm running water, feel the warmth and the water, see the water drip off your fingers, hear the sound of the faucet, and keep your attention on the different senses you feel. This brings you out of your spiral thoughts and into your physical reality.
Create a New Vision
What can I say as a therapist of color? None of this seems extremely shocking but rather a visual representation of the racial systemic injustices that BIPOCs have endured with resilience for centuries. The anger that my clients feel, knowing that if they would have tried to take a stand for their Black or Brown lives, in such a radical way, they would not have lived to see another day, is completely validated and supported by evidence. I am always open to hold non-judgmental space for clients to process their thoughts and feelings around diversity, racism, oppression and privilege and how the insurrection and impeachment impacted their worlds negatively or positively.
Given the consistent uncertainty of the times, hope seems like a must for this year. So, try creating a vision board to help you visualize your goals while getting “artsy” and improving motivation and concentration. Studies show it can also reduce fear and anxiety. Creating a vision board is easy, just grab some poster board, art tools, and some old magazines or print photos online of your choice and use words to make a collage about your goals in areas like your mental health, body, friends/family, work/school or spirituality.
Use your supports. Whether that support is a friend, family member, significant other or a therapist, you should not hold these complicated emotions inside. We are here to talk to you about this and anything else that is occurring in your life. Remember to honor your feelings, be aware of your thoughts and take good care of yourself.
Love, The Chamin Ajjan Psychotherapy Team