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Self Care For Vicarious Trauma

DETAILS

Research over the past few years is shining light on a new phenomena of the digital age: vicarious trauma from exposure to violent images and videos. We refer to it as Vicarious Trauma or Secondary Traumatic Stress. 

While we cannot always control what images we see on the news or on our feeds, there are steps we can take to be aware of the disturbances or stress this exposure can add in our life. 

In the same way that if you eat fast food all the time, it's going to be bad for your health… if we're viewing violent images all the time, it can have a significant impact on our mental health.

HOMEWORK

Preventative actions you can take:

  1. IDENTIFY YOUR LIMITS.
    Get real with yourself. Are you more activated or triggered by images than your roommate? Set a boundary for when and where they watch the news and consume your own sources in a way that makes sense for you. Set yourself up for your limited level of exposure. Consume your news from a trusted source or app directly, and limit your social media following.

  2. KNOW YOUR WARNING SIGNS.
    If a certain amount of time on Facebook slowly creeps your anxiety up to a 9 out of 10, learn to identify when it gets to a 6 or 7 and then log off. Understand how these feelings come up for you and learn to see them coming before you reach a level of panic. 

  3. REPLACE THIS TIME WITH EMPOWERING ACTIVITIES.
    Engage in activities that bring purpose, meaning, peace, and connection instead. Turn feelings of hopelessness into action by engaging in community service, volunteering, or giving back in a capacity that makes most sense to you. 

Post exposure self care:

  1. BREATHE.
    Breathing has a direct effect on our parasympathetic nervous system and instantly sends signals to our body of restoration. You can follow breathing exercises on apps, youtube vidoes, and instagram accounts or simply lay down and breathe. 

  2. LAUGH.
    You are allowed to laugh when the world looks scary, sad, or dark. Laughing is the medicine that allows us to see the light and hope. Without that glimmer of hope, we wouldn’t be organizing or working to fight for a brighter future. Make sure you do things to keep you seeing it. 

  3. TALK.
    It’s so important to talk about how we’re feeling. Especially when there are collective traumas happening, turning to community is how we make it through together. Ask for help if you need it. Share, talk, cry, laugh, and be there for one another.