Experts give advice for recovery after mass shootings
The year of the rabbit – or the cat in the Vietnamese zodiac – is said to bring a more peaceful time. But this year’s Lunar New Year celebrations were punctuated by two mass shootings.
The victims of the Monterey Park shooting included first-generation Asian American immigrants in their 50s, 60s and 70s – a strong, resilient community.
“I think in this generation,” said Phuong Tang, a therapist at the Yellow Chair Collective in Los Angeles, “a lot of what they had to do was just survive” — build a safer, more prosperous life for the next generations of their families. So it’s heartbreaking, she added, to think about seniors getting attacked while doing something happy and healthy for themselves.
yes healthy While seniors don’t see exercise and partying with their friends as mental health care, these activities are great ways to take care of your body and mind.
The most important thing now is finding balance, Helen Hsu, a Stanford University psychologist, tells her elderly patients.
“So when your mind and body are out of whack, you have to be proactive to bring yourself back into balance,” she tells her patients. That means: physically (your body), psychologically (your mind), and socially (your family and friends), she said.
It’s also healthy to take time to grieve, said Paul Hoang, who directs the Moving Forward Psychological Institute in Fountain Valley, but don’t avoid the activities that are good for your health. If you can’t get back to the dance studio, find other ways to exercise, relax, and keep in touch with your friends.
It is also important to understand that even people who have not been directly affected by recent violence may feel worried, sick or anxious.
Here’s a checklist of questions to ask yourself, based on advice from Hsu, Hoang, Tang and their colleague Jessie Li of the Yellow Chair Collective.
1. Are you physically taking care of yourself?
In order to take care of your family and friends, you need to make sure you take care of yourself.
Eating healthy and getting enough sleep are basics that can be forgotten when you are stressed.
“Just like in Chinese medicine, noticing disturbances in appetite and sleep is crucial,” Hsu said. “Some of us eat our feelings; some of us stop eating.”
Especially if it lasts for weeks, it is a sign that you or your loved one may not be doing well.
Go on with your routines, Hoang said.
Cultural rituals and traditions are also helpful in times of stress. Some families have altars in their homes and light incense. Some go to temples or churches to pray. These practices can help remember and celebrate the lives of those you mourn.
2. Do you avoid social interactions out of fear?
Some seniors like to be alone. But people often need to feel connected to other people to stay healthy.
“It’s very healing to have a way to express yourself and collect yourself,” Hsu said.
Can you organize an event at a senior center? A lunch at a local restaurant? A small meeting at home?
While you’re there, be sure to ask everyone to describe how they’re feeling and share stories, Li said.
The experts also recommend exercise for well-being, especially for those members of the Monterey Park community who already express themselves through dance.
“The longer they stay away from dancing, the more likely they are to trigger and develop PTSD,” Hoang said. “It is important to give them back the feeling of security in their hobby. They do not want this activity to be associated with this negative event.”
It’s like overwriting the hard drive with new memories, Tang said. Don’t forget that you have many good memories of this place, and fill it with more good memories.
People have heard about post-traumatic stress disorder, but there is also post-traumatic growth, Tang said. Perhaps this tragedy will fill someone with a sense of protecting their community.
“I think with everyone, regardless of age, it’s about always connecting and feeling like a part of something,” she said.
3. Check your friends and loved ones?
Seniors’ challenges can be invisible, Li said. Younger generations may have problems at school or conflicts at work, but seniors can struggle on their own.
Remind your friends and family that they play a big role in the health of older people and that they can be helpful just by checking on them and making sure they have someone to talk to.
4. Do you feel pain in your body?
Seniors are very in tune with their bodies, Tang said. When a new pain doesn’t go away, many go to a doctor for medication or to keep it from getting worse.
People who experience trauma can also feel it in their bodies, she said. So keep in mind that if you or your friend has a stomach ache or headache that doesn’t go away, it could be related to emotional distress, she said.
5. Need more professional help?
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s a way to regain strength.
Many immigrants feel more comfortable talking to someone who speaks their native language. Find someone who understands your cultural history and background, Hoang said.
If you don’t like a therapist, find another. It’s all about finding the right match. You wouldn’t stay with a doctor who didn’t help you heal.
Some Asian-American immigrants also feel more comfortable speaking with a professional from their home country, Hsu said. For example, now that many appointments can be scheduled online, it is easier to see a therapist from Taiwan.
6. Do you have patience with yourself or loved ones who are not doing well?
After a tragic event, many people find themselves in shock and survival mode. Many may think they’re handling it pretty well – and they could be. But they could be overcome with grief in an unexpected place months later, a year later, when they receive an unexpected reminder.
That’s normal, Hsu said. What happened is beyond repair for many of these families.
“As therapists, we often talk about grief and loss and the stages of grief, and it’s not a linear process,” Tang said. “You don’t go from denial to bargaining to anger to acceptance. You jump around and eventually land on hope.
“But it takes time to get there, so have compassion for yourself and for others. And patience.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-01-26/keep-dancing-and-other-advice-on-how-to-rebuild-after-tragedy Experts give advice for recovery after mass shootings