Joseph Hunt Wassink, LISW, one of our school based therapists, recently had a column published in The Gazette. That column, “How to Stay Grounded Amid a Pandemic, a Natural Disaster and Racism,” offers practical action community members can take and grounding techniques to help regulate emotions during stressful times.
Iowans are facing racism and the tensions surrounding it, a pandemic that has taken more than 180,000 American lives, and a massive natural disaster that likely shattered our last vestige of normalcy. Let’s face it: Each of these events would be enough on its own, but this year we are facing the prospect of learning to cope and live through all three. Even so, there are steps we can take right now to help restore ourselves and keep our emotions in check.
Begin by taking stock of your body and mind. Notice what you are experiencing so that you are better prepared to respond. A pounding heart, tight muscles and flushed feeling may point to feelings of anger, which can result in physical or verbal aggression. Feeling shaky or as if you cannot breathe could be symptoms of fear, which can lead to isolation. Empty feelings, a tight throat or significant fatigue can be symptoms of depression, which too often results in people shutting down.
Each of these emotions — as well as many others — often leave clues in our thought processes. Someone experiencing anger may believe that others, or whole sections of a community, are bad and actively working against him. A person experiencing fear may think she is helpless when it comes to her own safety and well-being. Severe depression can lead people to give up because they tell themselves that everything is already lost.