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Message from the Counseling Center:
Understanding and Coping with Tragedy

Over the next few weeks, you may experience a number of reactions to the tragedy that has befallen the United States. In a crisis, one’s typical coping may be less effective than usual. There can be a range of responses to traumatic events and we should be careful not to pass judgment about another’s reaction, especially if it’s different from our own. Many people may be reexperiencing memories of past crises as well as responding to the events of Sept. 11. Listed below are some typical reactions that you may be experiencing personally or may recognize in others.

Physical Reactions:

– Fatigue/exhaustion
– Sleep disturbance
– Underactivity/over activity
– Change in appetite
– Digestive problems
– Nightmares
– Muscle tremors/twitches
– Headaches
– Startled reactions

Cognitive Reactions:

– Difficulty concentrating
– Difficulty solving problems
– Flashbacks of the events
– Difficulty making decisions
– Memory disturbance
– Preoccupation with the event
– Lowered attention span
– Violent fantasies

Emotional Reactions:

– Guilt
– Feelings of helplessness
– Emotional numbing
– Emotional sensitivity
– Fear/anxiety
– Sense of hopelessness
– Hyper vigilance
– Anger/irritability
– Moodiness

It is also possible that you may experience a period of mild to moderate depression. These symptoms include:

– Poor appetite
– Social withdrawal/isolation
– Persistent sad mood
– Insomnia
– Loss of sexual drive
– Sleep disturbance
– Lethargy/low energy
– Difficulty concentrating
– Intrusive thoughts

Again, these are normal reactions. Although painful, they are part of the recovery process. Where there is little anyone can do to take away these uncomfortable feelings, there are several things you can do to speed up the recovery process.

Things to try:

– Engage in periods of strenuous physical exercise alternated with relaxation (soothing music would be an additional bonus to your system).
– As much as possible keep to your normal routine.
– Don’t berate yourself for having these reactions; they are normal human responses
– Talk to people about your feelings, fears, and uncertainties.
– Do not attempt to numb your emotional pain with drugs or alcohol.
– Reach out to others and spend time with people you trust and cherish.
– Use extra when driving or engaging in tasks that require close attention and skill.
– Help someone express his or her feelings.
– Give yourself permission to fall apart, feel rotten, or cry.
– Write down your thoughts, especially if you are having difficulty sleeping.
– Limit the amount of exposure to disturbing images; enjoy something beautiful instead.
– Pray, meditate, and appreciate each moment.

The staff at the Counseling Center is available for counseling and consultation, and we can also speak to groups of students, faculty, and staff (610-330-5005; second floor, Bailey Health Center)

Categorized in: News and Features