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LETTER FROM THE COUNSELING SERVICE

The following letter has been sent to all students by the Counseling Service.

Dear Students,

The shocking assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
have touched every member of the Smith community. We at the Smith College Counseling Service want to provide information and support to help us take care of ourselves and each other as we grapple with this terrible tragedy.

Below, you will find information about common responses to disaster and ideas about how to take care of yourself and each other, as well as specific resources available for support.

Common responses to disaster

Shock and a sense of unreality are typical responses to disasters and other kinds of trauma, especially shortly after the event. Both are normal protective reactions.
You may feel stunned or dazed. You may feel removed from the disaster, not wanting to acknowledge that something very stressful has happened. You may temporarily feel numb or as if the tragedy is unreal.

As the initial shock subsides, reactions vary from one person to another. Your response to it may also change from day to day. The more closely the tragedy affects your life, the more intense your reactions are likely to be. If you have experienced a serious trauma in the past, your reaction to this one may be more intense, but you may also know more about what is helpful for you in times of severe stress.

A sudden disaster such as what occurred can cause reactions that affect us physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually. You may feel more tired than usual. Common feelings include sadness, fear, anxiety, anger and numbness. Irritability, difficulty falling asleep, or a heightened startle response may occur. It may be harder to concentrate. You may have spiritual questions arising from the disaster. You may want to be alone, or you may find it harder to be alone. There is no one standard reaction to the stress of disaster. We all will have different responses, none of which is inherently better or worse than another.

How can you help take care of yourself and your friends?

Share what you are thinking and feeling with others you trust. It is important not to feel alone at this time. You are a valued member of the Smith community. Together, we are helping to take care of each other. Talking about a trauma or tragedy early on is known to be essential to healing and health. Please know that we are available at the Counseling Service to listen and help. We will be offering group opportunities to talk and begin to grieve together. We can also meet with you individually, if you prefer. Hours for groups and individual appointments are listed below.

Keep a balance between thinking about the tragedy and continuing your usual life as a student. Although the compelling events of the last few days may be hard to put out of your mind, it is helpful to your long- and short-term well-being to keep to your usual routine. The familiarity of ordinary actions is soothing and healing, and will allow us needed respite that will ultimately help us grieve more fully. Turn off the TV. Modulate your media exposure so it doesn1t become overwhelming. Balance care for others with care for yourself.

Do things that are soothing, especially if you are feeling bad. Be gentle with yourself. Take a walk, take a bath, make a cup of tea, draw, paint, listen to music, play a hard game of tennis, relax with a book. What are the simple things you love? Give yourself time every day to do something replenishing.

Take extra good care of yourself physically. Eat healthfully and regularly, and get enough sleep. Do your favorite sports. Get regular exercise. Avoid drugs and alcohol, especially if you are feeling upset.

Take care of your spiritual needs. Whether this is attending a service, going on a hike with an outdoor club or donating blood with your house, attend to what helps you feel connected to others and to all there is. A tragedy like this one can challenge our sense of spiritual connection. Joining with like-minded others in attending to spiritual needs can be especially helpful.

If you are upset and can't seem to feel better, get counseling. The
Counseling Service is available for individual appointments, and we will also be offering groups to talk and begin to grieve together. In addition, we can refer you to a private therapist if that feels more comfortable. Don't wait to get help. Often a little support early on can quickly help you draw on your strengths and skills to feel better.

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