Self-Care in Response to Traumatic Events

By Jaja Chen

How do we respond following fears and experiences of bombings in our capitol – Austin, Texas?

When seeing recent news stories like these, many fears can arise for the safety of our friends, family members, peers, and our city. Amidst the fears and hearing about traumatic events, how do we continue thriving in our Wacotown?

Self-care following traumatic events that we hear about, witness, or personally experience can help us to lean into emotions and our community, as opposed to isolating ourselves. Trauma is anything that is a shock to one’s mind, body, soul, and/or spirit. Traumatic events leave us with many questions and thoughts of “Why?”

Three self-care responses in the face of traumatic events that we cannot comprehend include:

1.) Pay attention to how trauma is impacting you – Notice how you respond physically in your body as you listen to or read news articles about traumatic events that occur-not just to people around the nation or world-but also amongst racial/ethnic or diverse groups in which you identify with. Secondary trauma can occur when we hear about or witness a traumatic event, even if the event was heard through a news article.

2.) Process with a trustworthy individual – Whether that is a friend, family member, mentor, or colleague, find someone you trust and can connect with to share about your experiences and responses to trauma. This may even mean reaching out to a confidential hotline* first before speaking with someone you know in person. Connect with loved ones who may be feeling the same way as you or who may have been impacted by the same or similar events. At times, taking care of yourself can also mean doing your own processing work with a therapist prior to sharing about what happened to others around you.

3.) Demonstrate self-compassion to yourself – We must recognize that trauma has a ripple effect. Our communities are impacted by trauma. Simply paying attention to how you feel in response to trauma is an act of self-compassion. And connecting with others to see how they are doing helps demonstrate empathy and compassion. You are not alone. As we experience the full array of emotions in response to traumatic events, kindness and grace for ourselves in the process of healing helps us to mindfully press in to self-care as opposed to judgment, isolation, or over-identification with unpleasant emotions – to the point of unhealthy coping.

For many of us, the experience of traumatic events-either direct or indirect-may lead us to reach out to a licensed mental health professional to work through the emotions, thoughts, and physical impacts of traumatic events in our lives. Trauma can impact our physical health as our bodies store can traumatic memories physically. Reach out to someone today -whether that is a friend, safe family member, or peer to enhance your self-care and to help our community to thrive.

Jaja Chen, LMSW, CDWF-Candidate, is private practice therapist in Waco through Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions specializing in trauma and difficult life transitions. As an EMDR Trained Therapist, Jaja’s passion is walking alongside individuals whom are healing from PTSD, secondary trauma, and burnout. Jaja can be contacted via email at [email protected] or via webpage at

 *If you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis in response to traumatic events, dial 911. If you are experiencing hopelessness or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. All calls are confidential.

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