Collective Traumas and How to Move Ahead

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

COVID-19 has undoubtedly created an international ripple effect and impacted various areas including (but not limited to) economic, social, professional, and emotional. Jobs and relationship dynamics are changing, and many people have felt increased stress levels and anxiety. More than ever, we are learning how connected we are and taking deeper looks at relationships with ourselves and others. On a global level, people are experiencing what’s known as a “collective trauma” that requires a special kind of attention.

“Collective trauma is trauma that happens to large groups of individuals and can be transmitted transgenerationally and across communities.  War, genocide, slavery, terrorism, and natural disasters can cause collective trauma...some of the symptoms of collective trauma include rage, depression, denial, survivor guilt and internalized oppression, as well as physiological changes in the brain and body which can bring on chronic disease.” - Lisa Gale Garrigues

In general, our international communities have undergone major losses in the areas of health, social connections, economic stability, and routines. We also are undergoing many levels of unknowns for the future. This feeling of loss and uncertainty can definitely fall under the experiences of trauma and grief. It is important to create time and space to process your experience. If we don’t, trauma can follow us and create compounded problems.

How do we recover from trauma? The first step is to recognize what it is. Once we can call something by name, we can address it. Depression, sadness, and anxiety can all accompany trauma, and it is important to take inventory of your internal landscape. Secondly, as mentioned above, give yourself some time to process. Allow any feelings or emotions to run through you without judging or criticizing. Know that the uncomfortable feelings will pass, but it is important to give them recognition. Next, find some small things that make you feel supported. That could be as simple as a daily walk, watering your plants, going for a drive, listening to music, or trying out a new recipe. Although these things are simple, they add up, and they can help keep your focus in the present moment verses worrying about the unknowns. Continue to build on healthy habits that make you feel good and supported. Reduce media intake and screen time. Connect with nature, pets, and other people. Listen to your gut on what you need each day, as it will fluctuate. Do your best to honor what makes you feel better and stick to those routines. After staying with them, you may start to notice yourself feeling better. Recovering from trauma is not a quick fix, but you can start to be aware of the process.

If you are in a leadership role, checking in with those around you and sharing your highs and lows can be helpful. It opens up the dialogues for you and others to share how things are going that day. Again, it will fluctuate. Don't get frustrated if you, and others, are having an excellent Wednesday and a miserable Thursday. Remember that the tides are changing very quickly right now, and give yourself extra rest and care on a low day. Be patient with yourself and others. We are all figuring things out together, and step by step, we will move ahead.

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