Daily Life Tips

How to Deal with International Trauma While Studying in China

by on 2016-08-11 17:09:45

It’s never settling to hear of horrible, traumatic events that are happening to our brothers and sisters around the world. It’s even more unsettling when these tragedies occur in places we’ve been or in places we love. Luckily, there is fewer risky accidents in China, but the awareness to prevent and protect yourself is necessary.

Students abroad who experience trauma will likely experience a wide range of responses. Please note that your response might look different than your best study abroad buddy’s response. It might be more internalized. It might be more tear-filled. It might make you shut down or expose coping strategies that you didn’t even know you used. But it’s okay - all responses are NORMAL. 

Physical Reactions

· sudden anxiety, sweating, or irregular heartbeats

· bodily aches and pains and more prone to common illnesses

· changes in everyday patterns (sleep, appetite, sex drive, bowel movements)

· you may feel more easily frightened, startled, or alarmed

Emotional Reactions

· mood swings, shock and disbelief

· a short temper and with increased susceptibility to outbursts of anger or rage

· fear and/or anxiety, intense worry, or nightmares

· minimizing the experience in your memory

· isolation and emotional detachment, restricting your range of feelings 

· concern over burdening others with problems

· survivor guilt and a desire for revenge

· difficulty concentrating or remembering 

· diminished interest in everyday activities, depression

· grief and suicidal thoughts

It is important for you to know that you are not alone. Your immediate support networks are plentiful and reliable. You can lean on your friends, your study abroad resident director, your program advisors and university staff back home, not to mention your family. Heck, if you want to talk to me, I’ll listen.

Some Helpful Coping Tactics

1. Connect with others.

Now’s not the time to hole up and kickstart another “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” marathon. Talk with people. Talk with your other study abroad program participants. Talk with those who've shared in the stressful event. But it's okay if you’re tired of reliving the experience with your companions. Instead, lean your head on the shoulder of an empathetic listener back home. All you should know is that there are a lot of people care and love you.


2. Write your feelings out.

Shut your laptop, switch your iPhone to “Do Not Disturb,” and find out a pen and paper. Jot down whatever comes to mind. Tune in to your inner self. Are you feeling angry? Confused? Pressured to feel something even though you don’t? All these insights are helpful to flesh out on paper.


3. Don’t hate, meditate.

Grab your pillow and hit the mat. Or quiet the noise with a few minutes of silence in your room. You don’t need a candle or a shaman. You can choose to go to the sea and pour out your bad mood loundly, or you go shoping to buy what you love and eat all of them one time and then have a good sleep, believing tomorrow all things will get better. However, one thing you never can do is to hurt others deliberately. As we all know, the hatred can never solve a problem so you need to discover the gateway to meditation.


4. Hugs

They’re important. Give them, receive them, squeeze them. For the moment you hug others, you will feel the power of warmth, especially the existence of love. Once your heart is soothed, you will stand up to conquer all the challenges with gut and wit.


5. Whatever else works!

Exercise, music, art, humor or even laughter. There’s no “right” and “wrong” way to deal with a tragedy. Your reactions are yours and yours alone, and it is up to you to decide which coping mechanisms are most productive. You can deal with the problems in your unique way as long as your soul can be kept calm. No matter how many obstacles you encountered, you should believe that there are more solutions than difficulties.


To conclude...

Don’t be hard on yourself. It can take weeks, months, or even semesters to fully feel at peace with the past. You might find yourself triggered in unexpected ways, from unforeseen associations. It is all part of the process. Experience the aftershock. Experience it full on. But try to not disrupt your daily activities too much. If you keep a routine or structure, your feelings will be more structured and calm as well. Rest. Take some quiet time. And then make a plan of action to make this world a better place.

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