In this series we acknowledge that "disasters do not wait until we are fully prepared", that many leaders are learning as they go, and we extend our hope that though sharing perspectives you may find some easier ways to create a new rhythm at this time. Part 3 is a reflection by two of ICTG's interns about life as college students away from campus, and their current rhythms, pacing, and nourishment.
Read a reflection on home life in What’s Working For Me Right Now - Part 1 here.
Read Part 2, A Minister's Reflection, on the Congregational Blog, here.
As college students, we are asked to adapt quickly to new challenges, constantly being assessed on our critical thinking and problem solving skills. But then came COVID-19 and our well developed habits felt obsolete. Nobody was given the chance to take Quarantine 101. While we are all feeling the aches and pains of adjusting to this new way of living, it’s tempting to forget our strengths.
We must remember: we are not strangers to change. Everyday, whether consciously or subconsciously, we are adapting to changes around us. Even though the shock of this transition is on a much larger scale, the both of us have been encouraged to see the creativity in how our peers are “making it work”. With the extra time we each have right now, we have the opportunity to self-assess how to intentionally care for our individual needs. With our intricately unique human needs, we will all need different practices to ensure health amidst social distancing and the disruption to our sense of normal.
We must remember: we are not strangers to change.
Getting active and putting my body to use during this time. It is easy to feel useless during this time. When we are sitting inside for so many hours a day, it can become numbing and leave us out of tune with our own bodies. Staying active, especially in a way that brings joy to you individually, can be so helpful! For me, it has been working well to do home workouts outside in the sun when it’s shining. Lately, I often find myself feeling like there is nothing but time, and I can quickly fall into the habit of putting off doing things that make me feel productive and energized. On days where I’m lacking the positive energy to get up and be active, it helps to ask a friend to join me in a workout. This can even be done over zoom or facetime! Setting up an accountability system with friends has kept me both motivated and made movement even more enjoyable. Not only does working out improve my mental health, but it gives me a way to cherish my body and still feel empowered when so much of the world makes me feel powerless right now. ~Jackie
We will all need different practices to ensure health amidst social distancing and the disruption to our sense of normal.
Making “pauses” a part of my WFH routine. Now that all class time, schoolwork, and internship tasks have been moved to an online platform, I could realistically spend all day with my eyes glued to a screen. At school, such screen overload was usually interrupted by physically moving from space to space. Classrooms were for instruction, coffee shops were for homework, and my apartment was for meals and socializing with friends. But when you are stuck inside your house all day, time isn’t governed by space. The first week or so at home, every room in my house became a work zone - a potential place for me to be more productive. What once were areas of rest and calm, became bombarded by technology and COVID-19 email updates. I was constantly plugged into a world outside my home, without ever being present in the environment around me. So, I hit pause. By the second week, I started leaving my laptop and phone in my bedroom, literally shutting the door, and walking away for an hour. Slowly but surely, I’ve relaxed into more of a routine, incorporating these pauses throughout my day. My morning cup of coffee does not need to be a productive hour of my life - it just needs to be a cup of coffee, and that’s okay. ~Megan
When you are stuck inside your house all day, time isn’t governed by space.
Connection with others, and also with myself. Something I have had to assess in myself with this shift in daily living is that I am very outgoing and I thrive when I have a lot of social interaction. This is of course difficult and many of us are feeling the effects of lacking social engagement. Luckily, I am living with six of my friends in my home in Santa Barbara. It has been a blessing to engage with my friends and spend time together, whether it’s working out together, playing board games, investing in new TV shows we can talk about, or cooking communal meals. Finding ways to remind ourselves of how connected we truly are is crucial right now. If you have the privilege of being quarantined with other people, setting up ways to intentionally engage with them is important during this time. And, if we are gifted with the privilege of wifi and technology, scheduling social events over zoom and setting up phone calls to check in with loved ones can remind us of how many deep connections we have in this time. Further, we can get creative and invest time in finding ways to still spread love to the people in our lives such as writing letters or putting together care packages.
On the other side of this, when we are stuck functioning in small spaces with other people it can be difficult to keep up with the equally important engagement of connection with ourselves. It took me some time to recognize that I really needed time to myself. Especially with the weight of so much being changed and out of our control, I found myself wanting to do nothing more than distract in the first few weeks of quarantine. I quickly found myself feeling disconnected and out of tune with my own feelings about the world around me. It can be easy to avoid introspection about our current situation, because so much of what is going on is difficult to process. While it is overwhelming to sit with, it has been extremely helpful for me to use practices such as journaling and going for walks alone to breathe, process my thoughts, and find my center. ~Jackie
My internship with ICTG has been an opportunity for me to continue caring for those affected by COVID-19, even remotely from my home.
Commemorating and Celebrating in new ways. As my college graduation quickly approaches, this was not how I imagined spending the last month of my time as an undergraduate student. We’ve entered a season of rapid transition, which can feel confusing, daunting, and beyond our scope of preparedness. For a little while, I was searching for how to make it be “the same”. How could I make it be as special as I had always imagined? This proved to be a frustrating exercise. So instead of focusing on the questions I didn’t know how to answer, the problems I had no solution for, I turned my attention to what I am equipped to do in this season. I tried to get creative with how I could make the most of this special time in life. I began watching movies with my roommate over Facetime and joining big Zoom calls my senior girls Bible study. I began a shared Google Drive for all of my friends to organize our favorite photos and memories from each year of college, so we can create a keepsake book afterwards. I mailed out letters of encouragement and started a book club with the kids I’ve spent years relating to through a nonprofit in Santa Barbara. I found ways to still make this month a meaningful time in my life. I also made peace with letting go of my old expectations and embracing new ways to remember and honor this time. ~Megan
Not seeing this time as a “waste”.
For those of us who thrive when we can fuel our ambitions and work towards goals, this time likely feels frustrating and depriving. With all sense of normalcy changing, and the productivity of the entire world slowing down, it is easy to feel like we are living in nothing but a waiting period. But our lives are continuing! For me, making new goals specific to being at home has been life giving. I have decided to take up new hobbies that I have not had the time to try, such as mastering rollerblading and improving my cooking skills! Having new challenges to get better at gives me something to look forward to. I also created a Quarantine Bucket List, filled with goals, other new things I want to try, and creative ideas of things to do at home. ~Jackie
In ten years time, how will we remember the weeks we spent in social isolation? If we are in good health, in a safe home, with plenty of food and toilet paper - we have much to be grateful for! There are many in our country, and certainly across the world, who are not in such an advantageous position. Although I grieve and mourn the loss of being at school right now, I am also grateful to be healthy and at home with my family. And in honor of others who have lost their lives or those they love because of COVID-19, I have chosen to not see this time period as a “waste.” I have chosen to view it as an opportunity to grow in love, compassion, and care for those who are hurting. My internship with ICTG has been an opportunity for me to continue caring for those affected by COVID-19, even remotely from my home. I’ve been able to connect with families in Ventura County, listen to National VOAD phone calls and the Santa Barbara Community Wellness Team calls, as well as assist in updating our COVID-19 resource page. Whether it’s better loving those directly in our home, or supporting nonprofits and medical professionals remotely, there are a number of ways we can all come together to support one another. ~Megan
Did you know you can give a financial gift to help support ICTG's unique learning-serving internships? ICTG interns receive one-on-one coaching and complete projects related to their community leadership interests. Help support our internship program and donate today!
Megan Davis is currently a fourth year student at Westmont College, earning a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. She has a keen interest in developmental psychology and it’s relationship with trauma and resilience, especially in children and youth. When she is not studying fundamentals of counseling, or analyzing Paul’s letters to the church, you can find her in the East Side of Santa Barbara eating a taco and hanging out with a crew of kids.
Jackie George is in her fourth year at Westmont College, earning a B.A. in Psychology. She is passionate about the psychology behind connectedness and vulnerability, especially in regards to how these impact resilience and post-trauma healing. Her variety of cultural experiences have influenced her passion to better understand others and how we can support one another in a way that empowers all individuals.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) first became a diagnosis in 1980 after psychoanalysts Chaim Shatan and Robert J. Lifton lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to create a new term to describe the cluster of symptoms they and fellow clinicians were observing among clients related to overwhelming impacts from experiencing traumatic incident(s).
As they made their observations in previous years, simultaneously, sociologist Kai Erikson (1978) was documenting how a technological disaster, resulting in a catastrophic flood in Buffalo Creek, WV, devastated an entire community. Erikson noted how medical and psychological diagnoses at that point did not adequately articulate what these people experienced, which led him to consider a new concept he called disaster syndrome, and eventually to coin the term collective trauma.
According to Erikson (2005), disaster syndrome consists of the following symptoms:
Erikson observed how collective trauma worked “its way slowly and even insidiously into the awareness of those who suffer from it,” (Erikson, 2005, p. 154). He eventually came to define it as "a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality. Collective trauma may result from a sudden, shocking event, or emerge as a gradual realization that the community no longer exists as an effective source of support and that an important part of the [group identity] has disappeared . . . ‘we’ no longer exist as a connected pair or as linked cells in a larger communal body," (Erikson, 1994, p. 233).
Collective Trauma, or Disaster Syndrome, is not simply a sum of many individual experiences of trauma, but involves people individually impacted by trauma who also have a shared sense of losing what they had in common. What they had in common may be their family life, their work, their neighborhood, their faith community, their school, or their community group.
Being a leader among a group that has experienced a severe collective loss involves additional responsibilities than existed prior to what happened. Helping to navigate your group through the rough terrain of response and, potentially, rebuilding, involves particular skills, including:
None of these are easy. They take a long approach to recovery, rather than quick fixes. And they require steady nourishment along the way – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
We encourage you to browse this website for further information on how to navigate long-term recovery if you are in the midst of collective trauma response. If you would like to explore more with a staff member, reach out. We'd be glad to hear from you!
When we work with organizations, whether it's in the aftermath of an internal crisis, such as the sudden loss of a leader due to death or an act of betrayal, or an external crisis, such as a natural disaster or mass attack, at some point we often talk about the Phases of Disaster chart. Forms of this chart first began being published and utilized in the early 2000s (for example, Meyers and Wee, 2005). It is based on anecdotal evidence of common themes that many communities report experience following a singular event of community disaster.
We find it helpful to continue using, even as many communities face multiple disasters in short succession, or a series of events that leave a group feeling like they have been through a larger disaster, or even in times of a global pandemic, because it repeatedly helps participants to find language for what they are experiencing. Even, and perhaps especially, when they feel like the chart in some way does not represent their experience.
...it repeatedly helps participants to find language for what they are experiencing. Even, and perhaps especially, when they feel like the chart in some way does not represent their experience.
For example, presently, we are hearing from many groups about how the traditional "hero" phase feels like a much sharper and lengthier incline right now. There is so much business, so much need, so much to react and respond to, so much information to take in that it does not feel like just a few weeks, but that it is continuing to go on, or is going on in a very bumpy way, as many people also feel sharp moments of fatigue as they strive to take in new information again and again.
many people also feel sharp moments of fatigue as they strive to take in new information again and again
How would you depict how you or your people are reacting? Consider making it an exercise for your staff. In doing so, you likely will find ways to help support one another or to refer one another to additional resources in the community. If you need assistance identifying additional forms of support, reach out. We'd be glad to hear from you!
In the past, we've talked about how talk-therapy, importantly, is not the only answer to processing adversity. The many other practices of processing stress remain just as key as they ever have been, including:
However, in days of physical distancing during a pandemic, finding creative means for community storytelling, or community or family memorial-making, comes to the forefront. Concurrently, the need to verbally express what has been happening also comes to the forefront. Not only is this because talking, in general, can be helpful, but also because having our experiences witnessed by a caring person helps to generate metabolizing and agency hormones that counter our "fight or flight" and stress hormones.
Thus, in times when we cannot physically be together, it is important – especially for behavioral health practitioners – to facilitate and host ways for expressing what's been happening. As most people have far fewer opportunities for natural verbal processing through common public interactions, telehealth is helping to solve that gap. Significantly, telehealth does not have to be only formal therapy. For example, in some communities, volunteers are mobilizing to make casual "check-in" calls. These volunteers may be part of faith-communities, counseling centers, or other types of social service agencies or neighborhood collectives. In Santa Barbara, CA, for example, participants and partners of the Community Wellness Team, including Hospice of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Response Network, and many congregations, are providing this type of service.
Is your community providing this type of assistance? Share how in the comments below.
You can help support free online education, technological services the Institute provides to promote whole community care (like designing and maintaining the Santa Barbara Community Wellness Team website and materials), and free or low-cost coaching and advising for groups who are financially challenged in this season, by making a contribution today or becoming a monthly donor.
Thank you for your generosity!
You've likely seen the memes on social media platforms:
Even just in that brief, and hardly exhaustive list, you can see the stark differences made clear. For some, this season is a major inconvenience worth laughing about – genuinely. For others, within their lifetime they have never before experienced such continuous and overwhelming levels of trauma day after day.
At some point – and all at different points – the people in your organizations and groups will come into proximity (if not already) with the various groups along this spectrum from inconvenience to trauma. Between the poles lies those who are indirectly, yet still significantly impacted, by the virus – those who are losing their jobs, are grieving alone, are experiencing forms of physical or sexual abuse as they "shelter" at home.
It will be important as an organizational leader, for you to consider where your staff and constituents fall on this spectrum in the weeks and months of living and working from home. Is your organization an appropriate place for disclosing personal impact? If not, do you or your leadership have practices in place for referring your people to helpful resources?
Consider where your staff and constituents fall on this spectrum in the weeks and months of living and working from home.
If you are looking for assistance in helping your people find resources and making helpful referrals, reach out to us. We'd be glad to hear from you and provide you with assistance, including developing referral inventories that work well for your context.
If your organization works in areas of behavioral health, in what ways are you preparing for assisting people in your community with coming back together again once stay-at-home ordinances lift? This can be done through trauma-informed education, helping your constituents understand the ways people grieve and process trauma differently, and understanding how there can be concentric circles of impact.
For some, this season is a major inconvenience worth laughing about – genuinely.
Of course, in any society, there always exist different subsets of groups. Even so, during and after a pandemic, new subsets can emerge and their differences can be more stark than many people have previously experienced. As a leader, it is good to consider the ways you are preparing and supporting your constituents for what may come.
Other Resources for understanding trauma, pacing, and sustaining long-term care:
Expanding understanding and best practices for leadership and whole-community care.