In what police are investigating as a possible hate crime, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was attacked on the streets of Chicago on Jan. 29, CNN reported. Authorities say Smollett took himself to Northwestern Hospital in Chicago following the attack and is in “good condition,” according to CNN. If you’ve been following the news about Smollett’s situation, most likely the details have been really difficult to read. The nature of Smollett’s attack was severe, and hearing about a brutal attack like this can be flat-out scary. If you’re feeling triggered by the news about the attack, you’re not alone. There are some ways you can care for yourself in the days to come that will help you get through.
"Even if you weren't in a dark place, sometimes hearing other people's stories can bring you to a dark place,” Celeste Viciere, licensed mental health counselor and host of Celeste The Therapist Podcast, previously told Bustle for a separate article on managing triggering news. It's super important to remember that feeling triggered doesn't mean you're making Smollett's situation all about you. Triggers are 100 percent real, and it's very important to listen to your body and to take care of yourself.
“The truth is, you can't avoid all [the news], so it can be helpful to try to think now about strategies that can help you if you get caught up or caught off guard by these stories," Lena Solow said in an article for Teen Vogue. Solow was referring to feeling triggered by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, but the advice is solid for any news that can be triggering. "What makes you feel grounded? Maybe you need to remember to take deep breaths and take stock of your current surroundings — think about what you can see, hear, and feel right now. Remind yourself that you are safe. Drink some water. Maybe you have some friends who you know get it, who you can text.”
News about the attack could trigger memories, emotions, or even some bodily sensations that you might not expect, like a racing heart, muscle tension, or headaches, according to VeryWellMind. If you’re feeling really triggered right now, VeryWellMind says the best thing you can do for yourself is to avoid what’s triggering you altogether. That means stepping away from the news — turn off the TV, avoid social media if you have to, ask your friends not to talk about the attack around you. Wait until you’re ready to start hearing about it again to get updates on the situation.
If you can’t avoid the news, there are still other ways you can manage feeling triggered. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience found that practicing mindfulness meditation helps people with PTSD restore connectivity within their brain networks. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs supports this, saying that practicing mindfulness has been effective in helping people manage anxiety and symptoms associated with feeling triggered, such as avoidance and hyper-arousal. And practicing mindfulness doesn't need to be a major affair; it can be as simple as sitting down and focusing on the inhale and exhale of your breathing, says the V.A.
Getting some exercise or some physical activity can also help you if you're feeling triggered or a little depressed right now. In fact, a new study found that getting up and moving, even if its taking a short walk, is good for your mental health. But if your feelings are getting really intense or you're having suicidal thoughts, it’s totally OK to reach out to a close friend, a loved one, or just someone you trust. If you need help right away, you can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
What happened to Smollett is a horrific act that should never happen to anyone, and it's understandable if you're feeling scared, confused, or depressed about it. Just remember it's totally fine to take some time for yourself to make sure you're doing OK.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or to your local suicide crisis center.