I attended an awesome training yesterday from Dr. Sayida Pepera with Diversity Uplifts all about transgenerational trauma and maternal health; this focused on the impact that slavery, racism and generations of violence have had on the mental health of the Black community, especially for Black mothers and Black pregnant folx.
One really important point that came up was giving ourselves and the people we work with permission to take care of ourselves especially when the news is triggering; and lately it's often triggering. Between the ongoing protests against police brutality after the murders of several Black men and women to ongoing fears about COVID-19 and the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, there is a lot that can bring up our past trauma right now. So what can you do when the news is triggering?
None of these recommendations are one size fits all; you may be someone who needs to avoid the news completely during these times while another trauma survivor may become very involved and find talking about it healing and empowering. And that's ok! Know thyself! Become good at checking in with your emotions and your reactions to the news. Know what it looks like when you are triggered; do you shut down, do you become angry, do you start to get really on edge? It's also really helpful to know your own limits. This is easier said than done; a lot of us don't always notice when we are triggered so it may be helpful to enlist in the support of someone you trust, whether that be a friend, a partner or a therapist.
For some of us, we may need to avoid the trigger if possible. This may look like limiting how much news we are reading or watching (say only three articles a day or only 5 minutes at a time) or not consuming any at all. We may also need to change how engaged with social media we are as this is where a lot of us get our news. Whether it be "taking a break" from certain people or groups on your timeline or logging off for a bit altogether, moderating our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter usage can be a way to honor ourselves.
Watch Out for Vicarious Trauma
A lot of you involved with social justice work or working in a care-giving professions you may have heard of the idea that hearing about and witnessing others traumas can lead us to developing trauma symptoms. This is especially true if we have experienced trauma before. Our brains can't always tell when something is happening to us versus when something is happening to someone else. It's important for us to notice changes in our sleep, use of substances, avoiding things we usually love and if we are having more trouble getting upsetting thoughts outside of our mind.
It's ok to take breaks! Even though there are very important things happening in our world right now, it's ok to step back and it's ok to do things that we enjoy and find comforting and relaxing even if they don't feel like "the most important things." Having hobbies, getting enough sleep, spending time with people we love is so important for us to grow in our own journeys while also being able to support others in theirs.