Betsy Faris, Director of Wellness and Student Services
In the days leading up to today, I have given considerable thought to the psychological impact of the sudden shift in our lives. As we all struggle to wrap our minds around the reality of what is happening, we begin to ask the common question: “how are you doing?” The truth is that many of us do not yet know how we are doing. Some of us might even be fearful of answering that question honestly. The truth is that the answer is evolving. As waves of news wash over us and the climate in our home shifts from day to day, we are impacted. This unprecedented experience of a pandemic coupled with our struggling oil market can generate fear for our future and even our lives. This will have long-lasting “adverse effects on [our] functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional [and] spiritual well being.” (SAMSHA, 2012) Ironically, that is the definition of psychological trauma. Below are some points to remember as we navigate the next few weeks.
No One Expects You to Be OK
Because we do not have a playbook to help us navigate the current situation, we find ourselves unprepared. If we view this event through the lens of psychological trauma, however, then it may be easier to make sense of the emotions and reactions that one may be experiencing. Many are feeling shocked, confused, irritable, anxious, or even hopeless. I have heard people say they feel physically ill when they think about the economy while others say they cannot sleep or stay focused. How many people have you heard say that they are exhausted? You will find that these are all common signs of psychological trauma. If we approach this period as if we are experiencing psychological trauma, one of the first and most important things we can do is to accept that it is OK to not be OK. No one expects you to be ok. The reality is that everyone understands that we are experiencing something unimaginable and that it takes a great deal of time and energy to process. We know that our family, neighbors, peers and friends are struggling to make sense of it all, too.
Voice Your Feelings
It is essential to remember that every person will process psychological trauma differently. Try to allow the time, space, and permission to do what you need to in order to maintain your mental health and regain equilibrium, while extending that same permission to others, including children. Ask how you can help your loved ones. If we are not communicating about our needs, fears, or concerns, others are unable to offer the support needed. It is also common for people to be unsure of what they need in the face of such adversity. That is ok too. Just voicing their uncertainty can bring relief.
Get Help From a Professional
You can also consider enlisting the help of a professional. Having a supportive professional to help process the magnitude of this situation can be very beneficial. Most counselors in Midland and Odessa are still seeing patients as they are considered essential services. I am also hearing from the counseling community that the majority of counselors now have telehealth options that allow people to access their services from home. Many insurance companies offer telehealth benefits as well, and many have increased access to these services in the wake of this pandemic. For more information on accessing support, please visit our website. I am available to meet with students for school-related support via Zoom or Google Hangouts. Please email me if you feel your student would benefit from a wellness check-in.
As you continue throughout the days and weeks ahead, know that it is ok to feel stressed, unsure of the future, agitated, fearful, and overwhelmed. Know that you are not alone. Those are normal reactions to psychological trauma, and many people are experiencing this right now. While we do not have a playbook for the worldwide spread of an infectious disease mixed with a turbulent economy, counselors do have a playbook for treating trauma, and they are ready to help.