5 Ways to Engage in Self-Care Amidst Tragedy

The mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando over the weekend has left all of us feeling shaken, emotional, and searching for answers to unanswerable questions. It can be overwhelming to take in all the feelings and the depth of meaning that a targeted attack like this holds. Here are 5 Ways to Engage in Self-Care Amidst Tragedy:

1) HONOR YOUR FEELINGS: It is normal to have a full range of emotions after a major tragedy. Give yourself time and space to feel them, write about them, communicate them with supportive and interested people. Cry if you need to cry. Scream if you need to scream.

2) ACTIVELY LOOK FOR THE GOOD: In a time of tragedy and looping news cycles, it is easy to get sucked into focusing only on the negative and the tragic. Balance this out by actively looking for the ways in which people have helped, have come together, and have denounced the violence. This helps to hold a healthy perspective of the world even as we feel the impact of the immediate tragedy.

3) DISCONNECT: Staying informed is important, but it's also important to not get overloaded. Take a break from the news and social media for a while. Get outside, take a walk, get together with friends or loved ones.

4) KEEP A STRONG FOUNDATION: Engage in all the basics of self-care - make sure you're eating in a balanced way, moving your body, and getting enough rest. In times like this, more than ever, we need to make sure our self-care foundations are strong so that we can withstand the barrage of emotions and engage in ways that are helpful.

5) DO WHAT YOU CAN: Look into ways that you can actively support and counteract the actions of this tragedy. Maybe it's something small and local, maybe you have the reach to a larger community or audience. Doing something helps to engage you, empower you, and ultimately helps all of us strive towards the world we want to live in.

Here are some ideas of things you can do in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting:
- Attend a vigil. There are many around the country today and in the coming days (check the Twitter search Vigil Orlando for updates).
- This GoFundMe is raising money to support the Orlando LGBTQ community with counseling resources, medical bill assistance, staff an emergency hotline, and pay for grief counselors.
- Join EveryTown for Gun Safety and send the message to Congress that we want them to act to close the loopholes in the gun laws that contribute to massacres like this happening.
- Contact your Elected Representatives directly (by sending a letter, calling, or tweeting) about gun control (Here's a HuffPost article with sample letters and links to find your elected representative's contacts).
- Respond to hateful comments (even "jokes") especially about LGBTQ and Muslims in the coming days, weeks, months (heck, anytime!). Dispel myths. Advocate for inclusion and respect.
- Reach out to a local agency that provides services to LGBTQ youth and ask how you can support them during this time of tragedy - sometimes money is the best way. Maybe they need donations. Express that you're a community member and want them to know that you have their back and care about how this impacts them.
- Ditto for a local mosque.

© Ellie Vargas, LCSW

Rainbows in the Clouds

Ever since I saw this video last week, I find myself rewatching it and rewatching it and rewatching it. In part, I must admit that I simply love Maya Angelou. Something about her has always spoken to me at a very deep level. But there is something else about this clip that is speaking to a very deep place inside me.

When Maya Angelou died in 2014 I re-read her autobiographical novels. I have always been drawn to understand the ways in which people are resilient in spite of, in great part because of, difficult and challenging lives - this is, no doubt, one of the big reasons I became a therapist. Maya Angelou had a way of articulating this duality of spirit in such clear and accessible ways. She put into beautiful words what is often simply a felt sense.

My last blog post was about the parts of our selves that show up as "guides from beyond" as Remi wrote it. His poem focuses mostly on what some might consider the more uncomfortable or unpleasant of the range of emotional experiences and how to invite these in and interpret their arrival in an accepting way. But in this video clip, Maya Angelou talks about another side.

Inside of us also reside internal representations of positive resources - rainbows amongst our clouds. People who have been kind and nurturing to us, understanding, forgiving, wise, and loving. These internal parts, too, make up we are, give us strength, perspective, and calm. They can be from the people in our lives that we know deeply and personally or even from figures we have never met, but have influenced our lives in other, deep ways - like Ms. Angelou has done in my life.

In 2014, as I was re-reading Why The Caged Bird Sings, I also happened to be pregnant. When struggling to find the perfect baby name, as all parents do, I was inspired to name her, in part, after Maya Angelou. So she carries this name with her. And I hope that Maya Angelou's written legacy speaks to her one day the way it has spoken to me and shaped me.

May we all recognize the ways others have shown up for us and been rainbows in our clouds. And may we all find ways to be that for others.

© Ellie Vargas, LCSW