January 9, 2018 to January 9, 2019.
For some, these dates simply mark the passage of a year. For many of us, however, these dates represent some of the most difficult days of our lives.
Those of us who lived through the twin tragedies of the Thomas Fire and the Montecito Debris Flow, some of the largest traumas to ever impact our beloved Central Coast, experienced the absolute overwhelm and heartbreak of these events.
Individually and collectively, we have struggled to heal from these traumatic events — and for many of us, this is still a “work in progress.”
Healing from trauma is a journey. It isn’t necessarily linear. It is often a long-term process, with significant highs and deep, deep lows.
As a community, despite the pain and tragedy of the last year — or maybe absolutely because of it — each of us has become better equipped to understand the experiences of others. We have gained a tremendous sense of empathy.
Going through the unimaginable, each of us has learned something about trauma. And, from these tragedies, at least to some extent, we begin to understand the experiences of many children and families living in our communities who experience trauma in their daily lives.
We understand the debilitating fear and anxiety, and the tremendous sense of isolation they feel. We recognize the inability to focus, and the sense of shock and numbing. We understand the anger and frustration, as well as the deep sadness. This is the reality of many of the children we see every day at CALM.
But, the good news is that with proper supports, children can heal, entire families can build resilience, and lives can be changed forevermore.
Moving through a healing process can be a time of great learning and tremendous growth. It is an opportunity to learn about oneself, what matters most, and what we need from those around us. And, anniversaries of traumatic events can be important milestones as we mark the progress we have made on our respective journeys.
Our entire community knows a thing or two about healing from trauma and building resilience. It’s what we have been doing — individually and collectively — over this past year.
And, how exactly have we done it? We stepped forward and we came together. We looked out for each other, we took care of one other. We honored our feelings and we were kind to each other. And, most importantly we built meaningful connections.
We have fostered resilience for ourselves and for each other. And, it is exactly how this community has healed, united, and moved forward. We have created support and connection, and we have fostered growth and transformation.
As we start a new year, and turn our attention to rebirth and renewal, here are 6 ways we can work to build resilience in our daily lives:
» Exercise: Find time for 15-20 minutes of physical activity each day. Get up from your desk and go for a walk on your lunch break. Have dance parties after dinner with your kids. Meet up with a friend and go for a hike on the weekend.
» Invest in healthy relationships: Make a date with your partner or a good friend to grab a cup of tea and talk about how you are really doing (not just what you post on Facebook). If you’re a parent, make time to laugh with your children. And, find moments to teach them how to be a good friend.
» Healthy sleep: Turn off your electronics and cultivate consistent nighttime rituals focused on rest and relaxation. At bedtime, ask your child what three things they are thankful for that day. It keeps their mood light and positive before drifting off to sleep.
» Mindfulness: Introduce short ‘meditation moments’ in your day. Set a timer for one minute, during which your task is to focus on your breathing, and nothing else. If you lose touch with breath and become lost in thought, simply let go of the thought and gently bring attention back to your breath. One-minute breaks can make a huge difference — for kids and parents alike.
» Nutrition: Fill your body with as much goodness as possible. Be a role model. Kids eat the way you eat. Involve your child in healthy meal planning, shopping and cooking.
» Mental health: You can help yourself or your children process their feelings through verbal, written or artistic narrative about painful experiences. And, if you are really struggling, it may benefit you to seek professional help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Our future depends on each and every one of us — as leaders, as community members, as parents, as friends and colleagues, and as human beings. I for one believe in us. Together, I know we can build a healthy and resilient future.
— Alana Walczak is CEO of the nonprofit CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), a leader in developing programs and services that effectively treat child abuse and promote healing, as well as programs that help prevent abuse through family strengthening and support. Click here for more information, or call 805.965.2376. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.