GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School
If your week has been anything like mine, your law school has likely been abuzz with current events, like the Kavanaugh hearing/vote. While it is certainly an important topic that deserves all the attention it is receiving, it’s also important to not lose sight of the potential negative, triggering impacts such conversations can have on your fellow peers.
If at any point you begin to feel overwhelmed, or triggered by current events, or really any stressor at all, try out any one, or combination, of the tips and tricks below to care for your mental health need and/or ground yourself.
Take advantage of on-campus mental health services.
Most universities have on-site counselors, many of whom have experience in sexual abuse/trauma training – if they don’t, they will 100% be able to refer you to someone who does.
Ground yourself using sound, touch, smell, taste, sight, etc.
- Sound: When you feel triggered by current events it may help to pop your earbuds in and listen to your favorite song; call a friend or loved one; read out loud; or listen to nature sounds, such as ocean waves.
- Touch: Try holding an ice cube in your hands until it melts; take a hot or cold shower; rub your hands over something textured; pop bubble wrap; or massage your temples when you’re feeling triggered. Note, sensory experiences like a hot or cold shower are extremely useful when experiencing a panic attack.
- Smell: When your stress levels are high, utilize an oil diffuser with strong soothing scents like lavender or peppermint to help relax. If you don’t have a diffuser on hand you can also opt for a fragrant candle. Or when you need a more immediate “fix” try smelling oils or fresh herbs directly.
- Taste: If you ever feel disassociated (like you’re outside your own body) try biting into a lemon or lime, chewing peppermint, or take a spoonful of hot sauce – for many these shocking tastes can ‘snap’ you back into reality.
- Sight: When you begin to feel overwhelmed try playing a modified version of ‘I Spy’ by focusing on your surroundings in great detail until you feel calm (make note of objects, colors, patterns, etc.). Alternatively, you can try putting your favorite TV show on; immerse yourself in a book; or concentrate on a word search or a similar game.
- Other: If the above-mentioned aren’t working for you, you can also take a play out of “Grey’s Anatomy” playbook and “dance it out;” go to the gym or for a run; take 10 deep breaths with long exhales; journal your thoughts and emotions; stretch; do yoga; try to meditate for 10 (plus) minutes; or head to your local animal shelter to benefit from a quick oxytocin surge.