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How to Handle the Trauma & Stress of Recent Shootings

According to the Gun Violence Archive data, there have been 16 mass shootings in the last month, including the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas. It's natural to feel shock and disbelief over this type of event because it’s traumatizing. Indirect or secondary trauma is still trauma. It's natural to feel a mixture of other emotions as well – anger, discouragement, sadness, anxiety, fear, stress. As a father of a 6 year-old, I also felt heartbreak.

So what do we do with this? And how do we deal with the trauma and stress that tend to follow these horrific events?

First, focus on what you can control. Love, cherish, and protect your children as best as you can. This includes taking care of yourself. Notice when you are feeling constantly frustrated or emotional, always tired, overwhelmed, or emotionally numb. Often these are indicators of burnout. If you've been feeling burned out, it might be time for a personal retreat. The best remedy and prevention of burnout is daily self care. It doesn't have to be a day at the spa; it can be as simple as taking a nap or reading a book (but not Facebook!).

Then acknowledge and accept what you cannot control. This also applies to the revolving door of feelings and emotions that show up. Instead of ignoring or pushing them away, notice the emotions showing up, make room for them, and allow yourself to feel them. Sitting still with your emotions for a moment allows you to let them go. And this doesn't have to be a passive experience. You can actively learn from connecting with your emotions. Ask yourself, “What are my emotions trying to teach me, tell me, or remind me about?" Are they pointing to the need to grieve and mourn? The need to take action? Are they reminding you of what matters most or of the people that matter most? What to stand for (or against)? Or maybe they’re just reminding you to be compassionate toward others and yourself.

Lastly, if there's a young man (or anyone) in your life who you believe is struggling psychologically or just not themselves anymore (they’re isolated, withdrawn, always angry at others/the world, depressed, hopeless, etc.), please reach out to them. You can say, "Hey, I’ve noticed you haven't been yourself lately." Or "Hey, I haven't seen you in a good while. How are you? I'm here for you if you need to talk." Or at least encourage them to talk to someone and get help.

Maybe You are the one who's struggling. At some point, we all struggle and that's okay; we're human. But you don't have to fight the struggle alone. There are people who care about you. Things can get better for you. If you need help, reach out to me. I would love to meet you and hear your story.

Jerry Ochoa, LPCC, BICBT-CC