As college students, going to class and work are integral parts of our day. We wake up in the morning with a general idea of what our day will look like, who we will spend our time with and where we will go. Although we are away from home, we expect to learn about ourselves and others in an environment that feels relatively safe.
When mass violence occurs, our sense of safety is suddenly and unexpectedly taken away from us. Emotional distress is common, even if we have not directly experienced the violence and there are many different types of responses we can have.
We may experience emotions like sadness, fear, anxiety and anger. We may be afraid of going to class or work for the next day, the next week, or even the next month.
It has been a year since the tragic shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, an event that left many of us feeling shaken and distressed.
Many say that time heals all wounds, but it’s really what we do with that time that counts.
In college, we may feel pressure from family, or even ourselves, to succeed. After a tragedy, we may struggle more and more under the weight of that pressure because we still are expected to perform our school work and social responsibilities and obligations.
Everything becomes so overwhelming and college is already stressful enough as it is.
In the past year, whether we have observed mass violence directly, through first-person accounts or the media, we likely have been unable to make time and room for our own healing and understandably so.
Amidst student schedules, giving ourselves time to heal and recover is not only good for our health but absolutely necessary.
Here are some tips for managing distress from traumatic events:
Let yourself feel what you’re feeling. No matter what you feel, sit with your feeling and let it pass. Emotions are not a sign of weakness but normal and valid reactions to stressors.
Remember that there is no “right” way to feel. Remember it takes time to recover. Allow yourself time, however long it takes.
Take a deep breath. When feeling distressed, make a conscious effort to breathe from your diaphragm rather than your chest. Take time out of your day to practice a mindful activity like meditation, yoga, or noticing sights and sounds around you. This will help you release your worries or fears. In the present moment, you are safe.
Take care of yourself. Try to maintain your usual routine as much as possible. Healthy behaviors, like exercise and eating balanced meals at regular times, helps manage stress.
We are better able to accomplish tasks when we listen to our body. Allow yourself enough rest or alone time to recharge.
Turn off the news or take a break from social media. It may be helpful for you to stay informed of what’s going on. However, in doing so, you may find yourself constantly thinking about the incident whether you want to or not, resulting in more and more stress.
Taking a break from social media or limiting the amount of news you take in will likely help you feel less overwhelmed and better able to manage your distress.
Talk to someone you trust. Share how you are feeling with someone like a peer, Resident Assistant, professor, faith leader, or family member. Others will likely understand or share your feelings and concerns. Asking for support from others is one of the most helpful ways to manage distress. Connecting with others helps us heal.
Ask for help. You may need additional support to navigate these tips and that is okay. You don’t have to go through this alone. If you are experiencing ongoing distress, contact the Counseling Center for an appointment at 503-352- 2191.