Why is it important to reduce stress?
Stress is the body’s natural response to challenging situations, causing muscles to tense and the mind to be more alert. The burst of adrenaline gives you energy to meet your goals. However, if stress does not subside and continues to upset your daily life, the effects can be serious. You may experience problems eating or sleeping, headaches, neck aches, backaches, increased use of alcohol and/or other drugs, upset stomach, fatigue, poor concentration, nightmares, and frustration. Stress affects many bodily functions, especially your immune system. Excessive stress is believed to be a factor in illnesses ranging from colds and flu to heart disease.
Methods to reduce stress:
- Set realistic goals (long-term and short-term) and reward yourself on the way to reaching these goals.
- Find a mode for release. Exercising, writing in a journal, and talking to friends are great ways to release built up tension and help you relax.
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Make a to-do list: plan activities by priority and consolidate similar tasks, trips, and errands. Let your list hold the things you want to accomplish so you don’t have to worry about them. Focus on one item from your list at a time.
- Schedule for interruptions. Allow about 10 minutes per hour for unplanned interruptions.
- Eliminate clutter from your day. Unsubscribe from listservs that fill your inbox and throw away mail you don’t need to read, like junk mail.
- Schedule breaks. This will give you something to look forward to as you work, helping you be more productive in the long run.
- Stay healthy. Get good sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, and eat a balanced diet.
- Think positively. An optimistic view of the future will help you stay relaxed now. In fact, smiling is linked to good health and longer life.
- Don’t dwell on the past. Learn from mistakes and move on.
- Let go of things you cannot control and instead focus on what you can.
- Learn to say “no” and set healthy limits and boundaries.
What is anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety now and again. Challenging situations naturally trigger fight-or-flight responses, such as rapid heartbeat, sweaty hands, cool extremities, and increased alertness. However, anxiety disorders cause more intense emotional and psychological discomfort. Sufferers feel helpless, and instead of coping and resolving tension naturally, they feel overwhelmed and think the worst possible things will happen. Anxiety is the largest mental health problem in the US.
What are the symptoms of anxiety disorder?
- Headaches or muscle tension
- Fatigue, trouble sleeping
- Upset stomach
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Depression, feelings of emptiness, low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing thoughts or obsessions
- Biting fingernails and scratching
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol (unfortunately this may increase frequency and severity of panic attacks)
- Avoiding situations associated with panic attacks, leading to an increasingly restricted life
- Feelings of bitterness
What causes anxiety disorder?
Anxiety disorder is frequently triggered by a sudden crisis or troubling event. Otherwise, the disorder may be caused by a more permanent aspect of life, such as:
- Stress, especially long-term.
- Pressure you place on yourself to reach personal goals.
- Changes at home, school, or in your family.
- Genetics or biological predisposition. People who have relatives with an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop one themselves. Studies suggest that those who suffer have a chemical imbalance in the brain, causing the fight-or-flight response to be out of order.
- Personality traits. Certain qualities, such as low self-esteem and poor coping skills contribute to the development of anxiety problems.
- Long-term abuse, violence, or poverty.
- Drug use. Some people experience panic attacks after using caffeine or marijuana. Drastically reducing caffeine intake can have the same effect.
What’s the difference between everyday nerves and anxiety disorder?
Everyone experiences a little anxiety in stressful situations, like a first date, class presentation, or job interview. Such nerve-racking situations can cause sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach, rapid heartbeat, and blushing. However, there is good reason for this nervousness which passes without serious physical or psychological consequences. Anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is a medical disorder that strikes without warning and can hinder daily activities. People who suffer anxiety disorder feel inexplicably overwhelmed by fear and physical distress. Efforts to reduce these symptoms often disrupt daily routines, and personal and business relationships.
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with GAD constantly worry about all sorts of things and usually expect the worst.
- Panic Disorder: frequent panic attacks characterized by a flood of physical and emotional sensations of fright, without apparent cause. You’re likely to suffer rapid heartbeat, chest pain, trouble breathing, and fear of going crazy or dying. Sensations can be so real you feel like you’re having a heart attack or some other medical emergency.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: recurring irrational thoughts that cannot be controlled through reasoning. To make these unwanted thoughts go away, people with OCD engage in repetitive behavior, such as washing hands or counting. These actions can take up significant amounts of time and energy, disrupting daily life.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: occurs in individuals who have survived extremely taxing and disturbing situations, such as warfare or abuse. They suffer recurrent memories of their ordeals through nightmares and flashbacks. When reminded of their traumas, patients experience extreme psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety. Other symptoms include a sense of numbness and detachment from the world.
- Phobias: uncontrollable and irrational fears of certain objects, situations, or activities. Examples include fear of snakes, water, spiders, heights, or social events. These phobias can greatly restrict life as patients go to extreme lengths to avoid the situations that cause them fear.
How is anxiety treated?
- Psychotherapy: along with medication, psychotherapy is the most common and effective treatment for anxiety disorder. Therapists provide clients an opportunity to talk about uncomfortable feelings, stay in touch with emotions, and learn how to reduce anxiety. By investigating the cause of anxiety, a client is better able to overcome his/her disorder.
- Medication: Depending on the severity of the anxiety, medication is used in combination with psychotherapy. Drugs can offer effective, yet short-term relief from anxiety. The prescription depends on the type of anxiety.
- Self-help: Most effective when accompanied by therapy, self-help techniques enable individuals to cope with anxiety problems through relaxing activities. Therapists will often suggest clients take up art, keep a journal, breathe deeply to relax, exercise regularly, or practice yoga.
What should I do if I have a panic attack?
- Remember you’re not in danger.
- Change your breathing patterns. You are probably breathing shallowly and fast, so slow down by taking long, deep breaths to get more oxygen in your blood.
- Relax all your muscles. A good technique to accomplish this involves starting with the feet, tensing the muscles there and relaxing them, doing the same for each muscle all the way up to the face.
- Imagine a peaceful setting, such as the beach or park.
- Give yourself a simple task, like counting backwards from 100 by 3’s, to give your mind something else to focus on until the attack subsides.
Will anxiety disorders get worse if left untreated?
Unfortunately, yes. People who suffer from anxiety disorders often begin to fear panic attacks themselves, resulting in agoraphobia. Agoraphobics avoid situations they believe trigger panic attacks and from which escape would be difficult or embarrassing. This leads to an increasingly restricted life. For example, a person may refuse to go grocery shopping because she had a panic attack in the supermarket. Without treatment patients may enter a vicious cycle of increasing fear.
From Princeton University, by permission: princeton.edu/uhs
What is depression?
It’s normal to feel sad at times, but clinical depression is a serious disorder requiring treatment. You can’t just “snap out of” clinical depression – it’s an illness, not a sign of weakness. Depression is associated with reduced levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, impairing the body’s ability to respond quickly to external situations. In other words, your brain cannot respond appropriately to information from the external world that unceasingly bombards the senses. Fortunately, antidepressant medication can restore chemical balance in the brain by raising the level of serotonin. Tackling the root of depression through medication and counseling is important for the well-being of the whole person. In fact, depression not only causes emotional changes, but also affects behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance, social activity and the ability to handle everyday situations. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer depression.
What causes depression?
Not all causes of depression are known, but scientists generally agree that certain biological and environmental factors increase the likelihood of depression. Studies have shown that individuals with depressed family members are more likely to develop the disorder. Biological factors include personality traits, chemical imbalances in the brain, and changing hormone levels. You are more likely to suffer depression if you are pessimistic, have poor coping skills, or have low self-esteem.
Elements of your environment that may contribute to depression are difficult life events, such as divorce of your parents or death of a loved one, physical illness, and lack of support from friends and family. Although behavior patterns are usually a result of genetics and environment, they too can be considered causes of depression. Such behavior includes abusing alcohol or drugs and holding unrealistic expectations.
What are the symptoms of depression?
If you experience symptoms of depression for more than two weeks it’s very important to seek help.
- Sadness or pessimism
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety, guilt
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
- Headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pains that don’t respond to medical treatment
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Impaired ability to concentrate, remember, or make decisions
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests; social withdrawal
- Using alcohol or drugs to “feel better”
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. It is more than just mood swings. Severe emotional changes can last for hours to months. Unlike people who suffer clinical depression, people with bipolar disorder experience “highs” distinguished by periods of mania, which are intense bursts of energy or euphoria. In such a manic state, patients usually experience extreme optimism, self-confidence, aggression, and grandiose delusions. Thoughts race through their minds and they feel little need for sleep. They exhibit poor judgment, short attention spans, and risky behavior. Bipolar disorder usually appears during adolescence, but people of all ages can suffer from the disorder. Research has found that bipolar disorder affects an equal number of men and women, and it’s found in all races, ethnic groups and social classes. Like clinical depression, bipolar disorder often runs in families.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that affects people during part of the year when they aren’t exposed to much daylight. A lack of light disturbs the neurotransmitter systems. Similar to other types of depression, SAD causes changed sleeping and eating patterns, loss of interest in sex, social withdrawal, pessimism, and inability to concentrate. Students who suffer SAD may notice a drop in grades during the winter. Therapy and medication used to treat ordinary depression works for SAD, but the most effective treatment plans address the root of the disorder by exposing the eyes to certain wavelengths of light.
What is the treatment for depression?
The most common and effective means for treatment is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. A good therapist can help you modify behavioral and emotional patterns that contribute to your illness. Medication improves your ability to cope with life’s problems and restores your sense of judgment. Some patients fear that using drugs will change their personality, but most people who take antidepressants find relief and “feel like themselves” again.
What can I do to relieve feelings of depression?
Many find exercise helpful in relieving depression. Others find help through laughter, perhaps from a funny movie, and spending time with people they like. Avoid pessimists who worry excessively. Participate in activities you enjoy, write a journal, and keep pictures of your favorite people with you. Bear in mind that clinical depression requires professional treatment, and these self-help tips may have limited effect on your mood if you suffer a chemical imbalance in the brain.
How can I help a friend who may be depressed?
Having support from friends and family is essential for individuals suffering depression. Remember that you aren’t responsible for your friend’s depression, but you can help alleviate the symptoms. Show you care and want to find help for your friend. However, be careful not to be overbearing and controlling – your most important role is as a listener. As you listen to your friend, be supportive – don’t deny or minimize your friend’s pain. Be honest that your friend’s behavior worries you because it’s not a trivial problem, but remind him or her that depression is a highly treatable disorder that affects many people. When discussing the subject, stay calm and withdraw if you start getting frustrated by your friend’s denial or lack of change.
From Princeton University, by permission: princeton.edu/uhs
Becoming a new parent is a life-changing, exhilarating and joyous experience. It is also likely to be challenging and exhausting at times, even under the best of circumstances.
Juggling parenting and graduate school brings its own unique challenges. Student parents, or parents-to-be, often wonder how they will be able to continue their studies, stay on track to complete their degrees, and support themselves and their new family in the process. They wonder whether faculty and advisors will be supportive of their dual roles, whether single friends will drop away, and whether family will be able to offer help. They wonder whether they will resent their schoolwork because it takes precious time away from the baby , or whether they will resent the baby because she is interfering with their studies. They wonder if anyone else can understand their concerns, and whether anyone else has had this experience.
The answer to the last two questions is a resounding yes. If you are a graduate student parent, you may be in the minority but you are definitely not alone. Roughly 26% of doctoral students nation-wide become parents during their graduate school years. Most graduate students are pursuing their degree during at least part of their child-bearing years, and some face important decisions about becoming a parent during these years. Those who do become parents can experience both the pros and cons of having a child while in graduate school.
On the plus side, graduate school does offer potentially flexible time arrangements that don’t exist in a 9-5 job. You may have the option of taking a leave of absence, or modifying your course load. You have some control over when qualifying exams are scheduled. If you hold adjunct teaching positions, you may be able to adjust your teaching schedule (although this must also be balanced with the need to earn income). If you have finished your courses and are working on a proposal or dissertation, you may have maximum time flexibility. In a two-parent household, your partner’s type of employment, work schedule and earning capacity obviously play a role in determining the freedom you can both have in taking time off for the baby.
On the down side, there may be significant financial pressure if you need to take time off from school and/or teaching and there is no paid maternity leave available. It is easier to carve out time for your studies if you can pay for childcare, but if you are providing all the child care yourself, then it may seem close to impossible to do work while caring for the baby at the same time. You may have the fear that if you slow down, you will simply sputter to a halt and never finish, joining the dreaded ranks of ABD’s in adjunct purgatory. You may feel that your working partner or spouse does not understand the pressures you are facing, seeing only the positive side of having time with the baby and a flexible schedule.
While these challenges exist, there are ways to ease the burden and maximize your ability to succeed in graduate school with baby in tow. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Ask for help
Evaluate your extended family situation and determine whether grandparents or other family members are able to offer concrete help. Sometimes grandparents welcome being an active participant in the baby’s care. If a family member is able and willing to provide some babysitting, be clear with them about the agreed-upon schedule. For example, if they offer to help out on Tuesdays, make sure there is a specific and regular time frame during which they are responsible for the baby. Make sure they understand that you are counting on them for this period of time. If you find that it’s not working for either party, be open and direct about it and renegotiate a new schedule. If you are using that time to work on papers or a dissertation, you may find that you need to leave the house and go to the library or other work space. Otherwise, you may end up interacting with the baby or becoming distracted with household tasks.
If family members are not available to help, you may locate or start a parent group in your neighborhood. Pediatricians’ offices often provide a wealth of information about childcare options, and may be a good starting point for finding or creating such a group. A few families can get together and share childcare responsibilities. While this option may be less than completely reliable when baby gets sick or other unexpected circumstances arise, it also offers the potential for mutual support and companionship for the new parents.
Day care provides another option. There is a range of day care possibilities, from part-time to full -time, in centers or private homes. If you choose to explore day care, seek out recommendations, visit the sites, check their credentials and make sure you are comfortable with the environment. When you find a day care situation you feel good about, you can leave your baby there knowing she will be well cared for during your absence. Babies can benefit from and enjoy the contact with each other, assuming they are also getting enough of the individual attention they need.
If you can afford it, hiring a private babysitter or nanny is always an option. Sometimes families get together to share a private babysitter in order to manage costs. Once again, check references, interview the potential caregivers and make sure you are comfortable with the help you are hiring. A responsible and caring babysitter can become an important part of your family, and can come to love your baby and provide much nurturing. The baby benefits from having another adult in his/her life, and also benefits from having parents who are less stressed and can provide quality time when they are there.
2. Be realistic about your goals
Parents-to-be may plan out their work and childcare schedules in advance, only to find that it all goes out the window when the baby is actually here. There is no way to know ahead of time what caring for your baby will really be like. It’s good to have a plan for how responsibilities will be handled, but it is also good to be flexible and willing to reconfigure that plan if you need to. Some things, like whether you will be taking a leave of absence from a work situation, must of course be arranged in advance. Other things, like how much time during the day you will devote to writing your dissertation proposal, may be revised (in either direction). It can be helpful to keep in mind that infancy doesn’t last forever, that these are precious times to enjoy together with your baby as much as you are able, and that his needs will change and some will lessen as time goes on.
If you have the expectation that you will write for two hours in the morning while the baby naps, you may find that his nap schedule is not so predictable and that those two hours were spent trying to feed him or soothe him to sleep. Or you may find that when the baby does sleep you are too exhausted to write, and need that time to catch up on sleep yourself. On the other hand, the baby may fall into an easy schedule which allows you to use those bits and pieces of time productively. Some babies are better at entertaining themselves than others. One baby may coo at a mobile or other toy contentedly for an hour while you work, while another baby may fuss and want to be held. These are temperamental differences and not a reflection on your skills as a parent. When you have a good sense of your baby’s temperament and schedule, you will be better able to set realistic goals about how to manage your time. When the schedule changes because baby is growing older and his needs and capacities are changing, you can revise your goals accordingly.
3. Communicate with your department and/or advisor
Make sure your department, and especially your advisor, knows what is happening in your life. Be open with them about your plans and how they will affect your work schedule and time frame for completing your studies. Your advisors may be parents themselves, or they may have worked with other students who have become parents while in school. In any case, they should provide understanding and support, and be willing to brainstorm with you to figure out a workable plan moving forward. If you find that your advisor is unsupportive for any reason, find someone else in your department to talk to, and/or consider changing advisors.
4. Remember that children are resilient
Some new parents love spending time with their baby, but also love being able to put on normal clothes, get out of the house and regain their other identity as a student, teacher or other professional. When they come home, they feel good about their accomplishments for the day and enjoy reconnecting with the baby and being together.
But many people struggle with mixed feelings about this balancing act. You may feel guilty about the desire to leave the baby and go to work. Or you may feel the pain and/or guilt of separation when you are away from the baby, and wish you could be with her all the time. These feelings can plague you on both sides, leaving you more stressed than you would like. It can be helpful to remember that there is no single right way to raise a child. Some parents stay home full time, others work full time and others do something in between. Healthy, happy and secure children exist in all of these households. It really is the nature and quality of your relationship with your baby or child that is most important. Children are remarkably resilient and adapt to a wide variety of situations. They can be resilient when they feel loved, when there is a predictable routine and rhythm in the household, and when their parents are reasonably secure in their own ability to care for them.
5. You are not alone
It is worth repeating that there are others out there who face the same challenges. Seeking out support is key in managing this time in your life. Sharing the experience with other new parents can be comforting, fun and enjoyable. It can provide social time for both parent and baby, and a chance to swap information, commiserate (and laugh) about the inevitable frustrations and mishaps, and also share the joy of this time in your life. Whether you connect with other families informally or through a group, this can be a very positive part of your life as a new family.
In addition, there are other sources of help. Your pediatrician’s office is a great source for information sharing and networking among new parents. Neighborhood parks and playgrounds are ready-made meeting places. Local Y’s and community centers often offer various kinds of parenting events and information.
Here at the Graduate Center, the Wellness Center offers Parenting workshops in the fall and spring semesters (see our Workshop page for the schedule). We are also available to meet with you individually if you feel it would be helpful to talk to a counselor about your concerns. Feel free to stop by the Wellness Center office, Room 6422 to fill out a Request for Services form.
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. This can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt. Procrastination has a high potential for painful consequences. It interferes with the academic and personal success of students.
Why do Students Procrastinate?
• Poor Time Management. Procrastination means not managing time wisely. You may be uncertain of your priorities, goals and objectives. You may also be overwhelmed with the task. As a result, you keep putting off your academic assignments for a later date, or spending a great deal of time with your friends and social activities, or worrying about your upcoming examination, class project and papers rather than completing them.
• Difficulty Concentrating. When you sit at your desk you find yourself daydreaming, staring into space, ruminating about your relationship, family conflicts, etc. instead of doing the task. Your environment is distracting and noisy. You keep interrupting yourself for snacks, breaks, etc. Your desk is cluttered and unorganized and sometimes you sit/lay on your bed to study or do your assignments. You probably notice that all of the examples you have just read promote time wasting and frustration.
• Fear and Anxiety. You may be overwhelmed with the task and afraid that your work will not be good enough. As a result, you spend a great deal of time worrying about your upcoming exams, papers and projects, rather than completing them.
• Negative Beliefs such as; "I cannot succeed in anything" and "I lack the necessary skills to perform the task" may allow you to stop yourself from getting work done.
• Personal problems. For example, financial difficulties, problems with your romantic partner, etc.
• Finding the Task Boring.
• Unrealistic Expectations and Perfectionism. You may believe that you MUST read everything ever written on a subject before you can begin to write your paper or thesis. You may think that you haven't done the best you possibly could do, so it's not good enough to hand in.
• Fear of Failure. You may think that if your work is not superlative, you are failure. Or that if you fail an exam, you, as a person, are a failure, rather than that you are a perfectly ok person who has failed an exam.
How to Overcome Procrastination
• Recognize self-defeating problems such as; fear and anxiety, difficulty concentrating, poor time management, indecisiveness and perfectionism.
• Identify your own goals, strengths and weaknesses, values and priorities.
• Compare your actions with the values you feel you have. Are your values consistent with your actions?
• Discipline yourself to use time wisely: Set priorities.
• Study in small blocks instead of long time periods. For example, you will accomplish more if you study/work in 60 minute blocks and take frequent 10 minute breaks in between, than if you study/work for 2-3 hours straight, with no breaks. Reward yourself after you complete a task.
• Motivate yourself to study: Dwell on success, not on failure. Try to study in small groups. Break large assignments into small tasks. Keep a reminder schedule and checklist.
• There's no such thing as time management! So why should you read the rest of this handout? Because there is such a thing as self management and that's the key to making time your ally rather than your enemy.
• There are only 24 hours in your day, just the same as everybody else's. So how do you end up frustrated, angry, behind in your work, and dead on your feet? Maybe because you are not sure how to use those 24 hours to your advantage.
If using your time wisely is a problem for you, you probably have the sense that you’re not sure where it all goes. It just seems to go! A good place to start, then, is to keep track of how you use your time. Find or make a weekly schedule and faithfully keep track of how you use your waking hours for one week. The results will probably surprise you.
The next step is to take several more of these weekly schedules and do some planning. You'll discover, among other things, that if you get seven hours sleep a night, you have 119 hours per week to do everything you need to do. That, of course, includes going to class, studying, work or teaching, eating, social activities, family responsibilities, personal hygiene, exercise, time-in-transit, etc. Be sure to schedule time for all these in your 119 hours. Then try sticking to your schedule for a week. This should give you a good idea of where your real priorities are!
If you have trouble, chances are there's a culprit lurking somewhere, dodging your every move. Chances are this culprit's name is Procrastination. Procrastination masquerades in a million disguises. Among the more common of these are:
o "One more day won't make any difference; I'll just put that off until tomorrow."
o "It won't matter if I'm a few minutes late; no one else will be on time."
o "I can't start on this paper until I know just how I want the first paragraph to read."
o "I work best under pressure."
o "I'll watch just 15 more minutes of TV."
o Fill in the blank:"____________________."
• Learn to say NO once your priorities are set. Turning down an invitation doesn't mean you'll never be asked to do something again. Weigh the consequences. Making a decision based on what you know is best for you at the time leads to greater respect from your friends and colleagues.
• Stay away from the phone when you're trying to get work done. Turn off your cell phone or pager. If it's really important, they'll call back.
• Stay away from email and instant messaging and internet browsing. Limit how often you check these things.
Schedule / Plan Ahead
• Use a monthly calendar to help you allocate your study time on the weekly schedule. At the beginning of each semester, spend an hour with your calendar to enter all important dates. As you receive course syllabi, enter the dates for papers, projects, exams, etc. on your calendar. Then estimate the time needed to prepare for each of these. The rule-of-thumb is "plan ahead by working backwards."
• By counting backwards like this, you'll be surprised how well you're using your time and how much better your result will be when you're not under pressure. And, by being honest with yourself and taking account of all your priorities, you'll be able to include social and relaxation time and not feel guilty.
• At the start of each week, transfer important items from your calendar to your weekly schedule. This helps you to avoid things that might otherwise sneak up on you.
• An alternative to a paper calendar is to use an electronic calendar. You could use the one on your computer (e.g., Microsoft Outlook), phone or other electronic device. Set alarms to remind you when to do things.
• Be sure to schedule time for your fitness routine and for study breaks. Your brain works best when it has sufficient oxygen. Your concentration is enhanced when you go hard at a task until you feel yourself fading. Then Break! A good rule-of-thumb is to work for 45 minutes and then break for 15. But watch yourself! More than 15 minutes is more than a break!
Suggestions such as these don't lead to enslavement by a calendar. It may sound awful, especially if you're a skilled time mismanager. But it actually leads to a greater sense of freedom and accomplishment because you're in control. That's all self-management is--managing your life more effectively. By following these suggestions, you'll be happier, more satisfied, and more productive. Try it--you'll like it!
• One last thing: WEAR A WATCH!
Copyright - Counseling Services, State University of New York at Buffalo
When you experience or witness an event that is traumatic for you, you may feel intense fear, helplessness, terror, or horror or you may find yourself just feeling numb (not feeling anything). Sometimes, you may not realize that you have been traumatized. You may be in shock or unaware of the impact of the event.
During the days or months following the trauma, you may find yourself re-experiencing the event--in dreams, feelings, daydreams and/or other conscious thoughts--or trying to avoid any setting that may remind you of the trauma. You may feel detached from those around you. You may have difficulty sleeping or find yourself sleeping much more than usual. You may have trouble concentrating--keeping your mind on what you are doing. You may feel unusually fatigued, anxious, sad or depressed.
Some Useful Strategies for Dealing with Your Reactions
First, recognize that you have been exposed to a traumatic event and that it is bound to affect you in some way. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to think or feel about the traumatic event. Any reaction you have is valid. Be accepting of your own feelings and reactions as well as those of others. Different people may react in very different ways.
Talking to others about the event can be very helpful. Tell sympathetic family or friends about your experience. Don't feel over-responsible: Try to understand what your limitations were at the time of the event. People tend to feel that they should have reacted differently or done something to prevent or to lessen the impact of the incident. Be aware that in traumatic situations, most people react in the best way that they can based on their ability and their awareness at that exact moment in time.
Sometimes the trauma has affected your friends and family, and they may not be able to help you or even listen to you. In fact, they may also need someone to talk to.
Counseling Can Be Helpful
Take advantage of individual and group counseling services available to you. Counseling can help you make sense of your experience--to understand how the trauma has affected you and to understand your feelings and reactions to it.
From Brooklyn College, by permission: pc.brooklyn.cuny.edu
All of us experience the death of a loved one or friend at some point in our lives, and each of us is affected by that death. Our individual reactions may differ. After the death of a loved one or friend, a normal process of grieving takes place. Often grieving takes place in stages. Different emotions are experienced during different stages of this process. The stages of grieving are different for each person. Some of the emotions that can be part of this grieving process are:
- Shock, which protects you from the impact of the death for awhile;
- Anger, which may be experienced at being let down by the person who died or when you are looking for someone to blame for the death;
- Depression, or feelings of isolation and loneliness;
- Guilt, what didn't you do to save the person;
- Denial, a process of not allowing feelings to come to the surface;
- Fear, not understanding the grieving process;
- Sadness, an overwhelming sense of loss;
- Anxiety, an inability to concentrate which can become so severe that one cannot function;
- Relief, because of the end of suffering the loved one has endured; and
- Longing, a sense of wanting everything to return to what it had been.
Not everyone experiences the same feelings or stages, nor with the same intensity. There is no one "right way," no necessary order to stages, nor is there a correct time period for this process. Grieving may progress over a period of two years or even longer, depending on many individual factors, such as depth and length of relationship with the loved one or friend.
Some people may experience disbelief at hearing about the death of their loved one. They may believe that the person should not have died. They may have difficulty imagining life without that person. "They were too young." "They were too good." "They were too healthy. "I can't survive without him/her." All of these are common reactions.
Many people have a need for religious services and other rituals which promote the grieving process, provide social support and allow a death to be validated. These rituals provide a time for family and friends to support each other and to say goodbye to the deceased person. Different cultural or religious traditions have different rituals. Examples of these rituals include holding a wake where the body is displayed or sitting Shiva in which the family is given comfort through home visitations by friends. Some people display a picture of the deceased in their home, perhaps surrounded by candles and flowers. Other examples include holding a memorial service, writing in a journal, visiting the grave site. All of these can help healing.
It is very beneficial to have support when experiencing a loss. A bereavement support group can share information of all kinds, from legal issues, to the simple knowledge that other people have similar feelings, to a different perspective on your experience.
From Brooklyn College, by permission: pc.brooklyn.cuny.edu