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Group Runs

A few words spoken before the Boston Sympathy run by Ann de Jong, RN, PhD

When I heard that there were 15 or so runners from Montclair area at the Marathon in Boston I wanted to offer something from what I know about trauma.

Even if you were not directly hurt by the bombings you have had the rug pulled out in a brutal way on what should have been a joyous event of accomplishment. We know coping is often not as effective when stress is high, on the other hand when coping works stress comes down.

I want to say a few words about you …..and what i believe about your coping responses to the Boston bombings.

You are a very particular group, given your penchant for running, and running long distances.  You already have very high functioning coping skills when it comes to stress.  You know how to set high goals and execute the tasks or behaviors to get your outcome. You have consciously maintained mental imagery, effort and methods of relaxation to get to your finish lines. It is a balance of those activities which brought you to Boston. You are skilled on working out the details on planning ahead and coping with all the challenges related to pain, fatigue, intrusive thoughts.

When things are stressful you know there is a method to sort out what isn’t working and what can be changed. You talk positively to yourself. You stop unpleasant thoughts, with various thought stopping methods. And just as importantly You get support from friends who are in it with you and from your family.

All the coping skills that make it possible for you to run for so long so hard are also what can serve you now. Especially now. When intrusive thoughts or visuals jump into your head about Boston, when your phone, radio or television brings more news. Use your training to keep your emotional balance in this time.  Keep the balance in allowing yourself time to visit the pain but then re invest in what coping skills you have already mastered. It is a delicate balance, but you know about that from your training.  You can over run and do damage. Same here, you can over expose yourself to the news, to the pain.  How do you know what is too much? You will know by paying attention to yourself.  To how well you can engage with others and reinvest in your own goals.. this is good  yardstick.

In your track clubs you have built in support.

A few words about signs that you or someone you know may need extra help: some of these signs can include: If you cannot get back to work, if you begin to have chronic changed sleeping problems, changes in relating to others, find yourself unable to run or other chronic changes in  yourself…these are some red flags which suggest getting more help. At the minimum I strongly suggest to start your own support group.

This run tonite is a wonderful example of using a number of excellent coping methods. 1) Running, ( both to get back on the horse, so to speak, and using what you know physically to release some stress) , 2)bonding (feeling connected, do not do this recovery alone, this is very key) and  3) assigning positive meaning to what you do (counteracts the feelings of helplessness, proactive run puts your running back in your control at a time when you most need it, gives you a place and a way to help those victims about whom you feel so terrible.) this is the time you are in the eloquent words of Amy Marxkors “the ambassadors of strength”.

All the best,

Ann de Jong, RN, PhD


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Photos on flickr

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