5 Ways to Cope with Trauma While Living Through It

By: Janet Bayramyan

Since we have been in quarantine for several months now, it’s difficult to understand what our “normal” will look like as many states enter into phases of opening. As counties and states begin to open up, we may experience a duality of emotions. On the one hand, we may be excited that our favorite restaurants and beaches are opening up. On the other hand, we may also feel concerned about our safety and health with establishments opening up too soon. We may also notice the duality of increase and complacency in hypervigilant behaviors such as hand sanitizing, wearing masks and social distancing. Our humanity shows up with this duality of behaviors and emotions.

Our humanity is also showing up as we recognize and fight systemic racism in our world. We are stepping out and protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement and police reform in many cities and states. While we witness and engage in peaceful protesting, there are also instances where protests can get out of hand, and we ourselves experience the trauma of abuse of power, or we witness abuses of power in the news and on social media.

These collective experiences demonstrate that we are in an awakening as a nation and planet.

While awakenings can be positive, it’s important to note that many of us are still in survival mode. Trauma isn’t just experiencing a car accident or some other violent event. Living in this global uncertainty is a trauma in itself. Having an unprepared healthcare system with inadequate resources is a trauma. Remaining isolated, and not being able to touch or hug someone is a trauma, as this takes away our fundamental human need for connection. Whether we realize it or not, going through this collective trauma nationally and internationally does have a significant emotional impact on all of us.

Because of this, we may find our previous unresolved issues are coming back up to the forefront. We can also notice that previous unhealthy behaviors of coping with distress are showing up in our day to day, even when we thought we’d recovered from them. Someone who has been in recovery from alcoholism for years and years may find they are more tempted to have a drink. We may find we are changed, and prefer to work from home instead of out of our office. We may find our anxiety has quelled when we are in quarantine.

Notice there isn’t a right or wrong experience here. We must accept each experience as it arises.