Trauma has this capacity to hijack our brain—we are either worrying about the past or living in the fear of the future.
The world is suffering deep losses in the COVID-19 pandemic, a global economic disaster and there has been a mass trauma the likes of which we’ve never seen before. For almost everyone, there is anxiety, fear, and, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. It has led to serious financial despair, illness, and death. Thus, a range of emotional responses including grief, loss, and mourning can be seen and felt. The “normal” has changed. People have been manifesting all kinds of physical symptoms, where their bodies start to signal through illness and changes in mental and emotional health, chronic conditions, addiction and insomnia.
Trauma has this capacity to hijack our brain—we are either worrying about the past or living in the fear of the future. Figuring out a solution to the effects of collective trauma may prove challenging as international vaccination is a priority and much of India is still seeing spikes in positive cases, in the current second wave. If the current trauma remains unresolved and is not grieved and supported and processed, it can get transmitted to the next generation.
Going through the collective, traumatic experience has primed us to begin healing together—while knowing we’re not alone. There are multiple ways to start building resilience so that we can actually enjoy the victory of defeating the virus when the time comes. Being “Mindful” is a wonderful antidote to trauma- practicing being here and now. Practicing mindfulness is quite helpful-whether that’s meditation, yoga, journaling, or something else entirely. And yet another way to deal with collective trauma is simply to connect with others—even if that feels difficult right now. Engaging in conversations with friends, or maintaining a connection with at least one other person, activities and rituals, caring for pets, reminders, are good predictors that people will bounce back in healthier ways.
Kindness and self-care, most of all, allow us to see the sacrifices and contributions that we and so many are making and to feel our connection to all humankind. Recognize your feelings are normal (and common). Let yourself find moments of peace, connection, joy and love; they can be valuable treatments for the wide world of pain and suffering. Be gentle with yourself. Find ways of expressing kindness, patience, and compassion. Be extra kind to yourself. This is a hard time for everyone. We are all in this together and we may all emerge with a renewed appreciation for our interconnectedness. Helping others in need is both critical to get through this well, and also creates more purpose to our days and well-being. Create an exercise schedule. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Maintain a regular wake up time. If possible, also try to get some direct sunlight in the morning. Together, these will help regulate your circadian rhythm.
We need to work extra hard to manage our emotions well. We must effortfully prevent panic contagion and create periods when we can be screen-free and calm, engaging our attention in normal daily activities. Seize opportunities to share lightness and humor. Laughter right now is a relief for all of us! Be compassionate to yourself for the losses that anyone might see in your life, for the invisible suffering only you can feel, and for your place in the misery of what has befallen us all in a million inexplicable ways. Take pride in taking care of yourself and others. Pay attention to feelings and keep up with social activities as much as you can. The acute effects of deep breathing and cognitive reappraisal are important to use throughout the day.
One of the most crucial steps is for our country to invest in and expand access to mental health care. Research shows that people who’ve endured traumatic experiences typically have smoother recoveries if they’re in therapy. It’s time for radical acceptance of the situations we cannot control, and focus on what we can do. It’s probably going to take a while for most of us to make sense of the pandemic and work through the aftershocks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the emotional effects will last a lifetime.
Just as we adapted at the start of the pandemic, we’ll adapt again to post-covid life—but we’ll need to lean on each other to heal.
By: Roma Kumar