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  • Writer's pictureDr. Speshal Walker Gautier a.k.a. Dr. Spesh

Finding Stillness in Chaos: Managing Emotions in the Aftermath of Capitol Hill

Despite our collective wish to be done with 2020 and all of the challenges it came with, we began 2021 with the chaos of an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol. Many of us watched horrified, infuriated, and despondent to say the least. For Black people, communities of Color, Jewish people and so many others with marginalized identities, it was not only an attack on the U.S. government but an attack on us. We watched as people aired their political grievances by violently attacking the Capitol flaunting symbols of racism, White Supremacy, and antisemitism. Some watched in disbelief while others felt Wednesday’s events were an inevitable culmination of existing White nationalism that has only been amplified over the past several years.

If you are experiencing distress in the aftermath of this past week’s events then you are not alone. You may be experiencing a range of emotions or even emotional detachment in effort to protect yourself from becoming overwhelmed. While healthy distractions are a useful short-term coping strategy (e.g., engaging in pleasurable activity, focusing your attention on school/work/household tasks), it is important not to suppress your emotions. Be sure to find safe spaces to experience your emotions even if they are painful. Recognize that this is a healthy process that allows us to experience, heal, and move through emotional pain. Acknowledge your feelings without judging them. Practice meeting these emotions with kindness and compassion for you are human and this is a painful moment.

Even in the midst of emotional pain and societal chaos, it is possible to find stillness within. Connect to your body and/or your senses in ways that ground you to the present moment. Choose an anchor such as your breath and practice focusing all of your attention on this anchor. Kindly and non-judgmentally notice your emotions. Notice what is present and how it shows up in your body. Perhaps you feel sadness as a sense of heaviness in your chest or the sensation of tears in your eyes. Perhaps your anxiety or anger show up as tension in your shoulders or jaws. Whatever emotions are present, greet them with kindness and care. Then invite yourself back to your anchor of choice. Choose an anchor phrase to ground you (e.g., “Breathe” or “This too shall pass”). Find moments to pause and take care of yourself. Connect with people or spaces that help you feel nurtured and safe.

Let this be a reminder wherever you are. You may be tired and tapped out, engaged in activism, or somewhere in between. Wherever you are these days, remember to pause and find stillness, and remind yourself of it’s importance in you your healing and resilience. We are in this together.

If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis call 911 or contact:

National Crisis Hotline 800-273-8255, Available 24/7

For virtual support groups visit:

To find a therapist near you visit:

*Dr. Spesh is a Yale-trained, Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in culturally responsive and evidence-based treatment for anxiety, PTSD, and other stress-related disorders.*

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