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10 Things to Help You Deal With Vicarious Trauma

Man looking outside sadly
Image via Shutterstock

We can all use some help in dealing with the emotions aroused by Club Q tragedy and other attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.

These days it feels like every time we turn on the news, there is another incident of hate against the LGBTQ+ community. Whether it's "don't say gay" legislation or the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado, being exposed to other people's trauma, especially that of people who are part of a group one identifies with, is experiencing that trauma vicariously. It's not unlike what first responders experience when dealing with trauma daily. This vicarious trauma has real impact on one's mental well-being. Here are 10 ways to help mitigate those effects.

1. Remember that every response to trauma is valid.
You may find that you are experiencing feelings that are extreme, rapidly change or seem unlike you. Validate those feelings. Better Health has more info about trauma reaction.

2. Physical self-care is important, even if you don't feel like it.
Rest. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night or take short naps when needed.
Eat healthy meals as much as possible. If that proves difficult, eating several small snacks throughout the day is helpful.
Exercise. Taking a walk in a safe place can be balancing, especially with a friend.

3. Take time to feel the feelings.
Rage, sadness, fear, being overwhelmed, and even numbness are all valid responses to trauma.

4. Get help and talk to a trained professional.
Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call or text (800) 985-5990.
Espanol: Llama o envia un mensaje de texto (800) 985-5990 presiona "2."
For Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing ASL Callers: To connect directly to an agent in American Sign Language, click the "ASL Now" button or call (800) 985-5990 from your video phone. ASL support is available 24/7.

5. Connect with the community.
Share time with safe LGBTQ+ people in your life. Find an organization that is supporting the community. Being present with folks who have similar experiences and are feeling the same trauma can help you stay grounded.

6.Take time and space away from people.
At times, silence is just what you need to process your emotions and gain perspective. However, isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, and anxiety when it lasts too long or is used for the wrong reasons. So make sure you check in with friends and family to create a safety net.

7. Practice mindfulness, grounding, and centering.
Meditation can be a useful tool to keep you rooted in the moment. Focus on your breathing, listen to calming music, go to a welcoming church, or find a space and time that encourages peace. Even walking barefoot in the grass can increase health and wellness.

8. Help others who are experiencing similar feelings.
This can be empowering and validating. Create or volunteer at a memorial for Club Q victims and their families. Donate money to a Club Q charity or reach out to a friend who you know needs support.

9. Physical connection with someone safe can increase serotonin.
Holding hands, hugs, or snuggling are ways to release some of the pain and feel connected and loved. However, unsafe people or connections can compound feelings of loss and fear, so choose carefully.

10. Work on community safety.
Doing this inside can increase your feelings of safety and long-term security. Contact the LGBTQ+ groups/centers in your area.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Dustina Haase-Lanier