A tribute to the community following the 12/14/12 Connecticut tragedy~
In the words of Pennsylvania Psychologist Charles L. Zeiders, PhD (www.drzeiders.com) following the horrific shooting :
My clinical psychology practice was impacted by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Since the terrible day of December 14th, my patients have presented as frightened for themselves and their children and pursued furiously by a single legitimate question: How can I feel safe again?
To increase patients’ sense of personal safety, my practice prescribes evidence-based techniques that are effective, durable, and utterly without unwanted side effects. I tailor several interventions to the needs of my patients:
Stay away from traumatic media. Viewing the tragedy over and over only increases the sense of tragedy and vulnerability. Engage behaviors that increase a sense of safety, or even better, joy- like recommitting to favorite activities and the joy of loved ones.
Remember to breathe. The stress response automatically causes people to hold their breath. This lowers oxygen levels and drives a sense of panic. Most people benefit immensely from formal breathing breaks throughout the day.
Similarly, body-based therapies help. Research shows that yoga dismantles mechanisms which drive stress, anxiety, and trauma. Also, vigorous aerobic exercise plummets depression and anxiety levels. So modifying ones’ schedule to include yoga or exercise is well worth it.
Remove lifestyle habits that increase stress and fear. Stop drinking so much coffee, consuming so much sugar, and drinking so much alcohol. Too much of any of that causes “Emotional Reasoning” and would make anyone “psychiatric.” Moderate these habits and consume fresh, green stuff associated with health and stress resilience.
After the tragedy, some patients overestimated the amount of danger they or their children were in. For such persons, establishing the statistically rarity of shootings and emphasizing the statistical likelihood of safely is helpful. This form of cognitive restructuring is tremendously helpful.
The Sandy Hook massacre triggered some patients’ ability to recall early trauma which they could no longer repress. For these, a specialty therapy known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is effective. It helps patients afflicted by symptoms of PTSD. Research hospitals and the Veterans Administration utilize this method- often to very good effect.
New research indicates that involvement in religious activity that involves singing and praying in unison may rearrange the nervous system so that trauma is mitigated by a sense of individual and collective well being. Resumption of church and synagogue attendance is therefore a time-honored activity that connects the mind, body, and spirit to metaphysical safety and hope in redemption from the worst angels of our nature. Church attendance is an evidence-based treatment that transcends evidence-based treatment. One that assures us that we will be alright. Somehow.
Combined with the interventions already mentioned, spiritual interventions may hold the key to how we inspire ourselves to recover from the Sandy Hook tragedy and build a safer society with sane policies for ourselves and our children.