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Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of Tragedy
You may be struggling following the tragic fire in Oakland. You may be overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings, or feeling numb to any feelings.
Following such a traumatic event, it is typical for people to experience a variety of emotion. These feelings can include shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, grief and others. You may find that you have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating or remembering even simple tasks. This is common and should pass after a while. Over time, the caring support of family and friends can help to lessen the emotional impact and ultimately make the changes brought about by the tragedy more manageable. You may feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than you did yesterday. It will take some time to recover your sense of equilibrium.
Meanwhile, you may wonder how to go on living your daily life. You can strengthen your resilience — the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity — in the days and weeks ahead.
Here are some tips:
- Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.
- Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
- Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed or need to know about the well-being of friends or others, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
- Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
- Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or re-establish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
- Help others or do something productive. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.
- If you have lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including "survivor guilt" — feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.
For many people, using the tips and strategies mentioned above may be sufficient to get through the current crisis. At times, however an individual can get stuck or have difficulty managing intense reactions. A licensed mental health professional can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.
2016 Flu Clinic Announcement
Students with UCSF identification may visit Occupational Health’s drop-in clinics during normal hours of operation to receive a free flu shot. Clinic locations and hours of operation are posted on the Occupational Health website.
The drop-in clinics will be at various UCSF locations including: Parnassus, Mt. Zion, Mission Bay, Mission Center Building, Laurel Heights, China Basin, Executive Park, 3360 Geary, and Emeryville.
Zika Virus Travel Alert
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued a travel alert urging pregnant women not to visit in the region where mosquitoes have spread the Zika virus. This includes certain areas of Miami, FL and many areas of Latin American, Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico.
Researchers believe the Zika virus is behind a dramatic spike in the number of newborns with microcephaly, babies born with abnormally small heads and brains who often die.
Below are links to the CA Department of Public Health information on the Zika virus and the CDC travel alerts:
CDC Zika Travel Info
CA Dept of Public Health resources:
Zika Tool Kit (from the CDPH - Ca Dept of Public Health)
Please schedule a visit with a provider or the Student Health Travel Nurse if you have questions.