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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving & 6 Mental Health First Aid Tips

As We Celebrate Thanksgiving, many people are still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
Thought for the Day: The day before Thanksgiving I was interviewed on a radio show, "Pay It Forward" with Josephine Geraci on how to cope with the trauma of Hurricane Sandy. Josephine lives on Long Island & grew up in Staten Island. She contacted me on Monday to ask that I come on the show & offer some advice to help all the people on the east coast who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Although my schedule was filled with pre-holiday minutia, I agreed to do the broadcast. To me it felt like the perfect way to give to others just before the Thanksgiving weekend which is very hard following such devastation. Because of the short notice, many people did not get to listen in live, however the broadcast can be downloaded here:

As part of the show, I offered some tips to help people deal with the aftermath this & any trauma. I thought I'd share some of the tips here. On the 1 hour radio show, you can hear more about how you can help yourself, your family, friends,  children, neighbors & co-workers deal with the stresses that arise due to trauma. 
Picture of the home of another facebook friend

The picture on the right was from a facebook "friend" whom I've never met. It is heartbreaking to imagine having to sort through a lifetime of belongings, photos & mementos & to tear down homes they have built & cared for for years. Often we don't know what to say or do to support them. On the show, we discuss what you can do to help yourself & your loved ones.  

One of the psychologists/authors that I have "met" via linkedIn & facebook wrote to apologize that she could not listen in because she is too busy packing, packing, packing. I wrote back & found out that her house needs to be gutted. I was able to extend some words of support to her. We are all able to do something, little things can mean a lot to those who have been impacted. Here are a summary of some of the Mental Health tips I gave on the show.
Post Trauma Mental Health First Aid Tips
      1) Talk to people about the traumatic events. It is therapeutic even if it feels repetitious. It also allows others to support you. Know that holidays will be hard & try to be with people especially during the holidays. If you don't know what to say, give a hug & just be there with them. Watch kids for a few hours. Bring food just as you might to help a friend who is moving or after an operation.
      2) Take care of yourself: make time to relax, exercise, eat well, meditate. When we are under stress we often push ourselves to the limit & forget to take time for ourselves. Ignoring our need for rest can be counter-productive & leave us even more exhausted, overwhelmed & less able to do the tasks at hand.
      3) Help others who are less fortunate, it will help you as well. Take a look at how one woman,
Vanessa McHugh of Queens, made a difference following the hurricane: The Pizza Patrol. Even a phone call to a friend to speak with them & see how they are doing can be helpful.
      4) Look for what you have to be grateful for instead of focusing on what you do not have. Take a look at some of my older posts: Whether the Glass is 1/2 full or 1/2 Empty Make the Most of What You Have Left or this one How A Motorcycle Accident and a Fire Rekindled a Dream.

      5) Be patient with yourself, it takes time to recover from losses. Although we all would like to put a loss behind us & move on quickly, our psyche takes time to recover from any loss or trauma. The average time needed to recover from major losses is a year. Grieve when you feel sad, don't ignore it. It will pass & lessen as time goes by.
      6) If you are having trouble sleeping, have headaches or other physical issues, or frequent flashbacks that do not seem to be lessening over time, speak with a professional. Even if you feel that you or your family are coping with the trauma, it may be helpful to get a mental health check up with a therapist to talk about how everyone is coping with the stress of living through a traumatic event.

I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of this Thanksgiving weekend! As always, I'd love to hear your reactions, comments & feedback. If you have questions, feel free to ask me as well. 

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