Each person lives their experiences in different ways. In distressing times, some may feel sad, others may become constantly irritable, yet other experience both intense sadness and irritability. For example, some of us may feel intense fears; others may be angry and experience a deep sense of injustice from the shifts in existing policies. These, and other emotions are understandable. There is no “right” way to feel. Don’t be afraid of tears. Your tears are a natural response to this very stressful time in your life. Your tears are a healthy way to release your emotions. Anger is also a normal response to distress, and some may find that pacing or venting frustrations help. Give yourself permission to observe your emotions and experience them without judgment.
Symptoms of distress vary across people. It is important that you pay attention and learn to recognize what are your symptoms of distress so that you know when might be a good time to step away, take a break, or find a safe place to rest for a moment. Here is a list of some common symptoms of distress:
Pay attention to things, people, and/or situations that may trigger your symptoms of distress. For instance, a common trigger is watching the news. Although it is important to stay informed, following the news too closely may increase your distress. Pay attention to how following the news makes you feel. If you notice that this makes you feel anxious, can’t fall sleep, or makes you feel sick, consider taking a break or reading the news at a different time (e.g., in the morning instead of at night).
You are strong, and you can rely on your past experiences and knowledge to remain strong. Focusing on your past experiences and your sources of personal strength can help you learn about what works and what doesn’t work so that you can stay strong. Remember to: (1) maintain a positive view of yourself and trust your instincts; (2) take care of yourself by keeping up with and/or creating a normal routine and continuing to do the things that you enjoy and that help you relax; (3) look for opportunities to learn more about yourself as you face this difficult time; and (4) spend time with your loved ones for support and encouragement.
Take a moment to remember the things that bring you joy. It can be drinking a fresh cup of coffee, reading HuffPost, talking to a friend, or looking at pictures of your baby niece. It could be painting, riding your bike or a skateboard, taking a walk, enjoying nature or riding the subway. Perhaps it is wearing jewelry an ancestor gave to you as a present or listening to your favorite song. What are the activities that help you feel renewed? Worthy? Loved? Take a moment to remember them and make space for these in your daily life. Also, think about the last time you laughed out loud? Felt serene? Felt at ease? Remember that time and recall: Who were you with? What were you doing?
Staying strong requires you to maintain flexibility as you deal with stressful and uncertain circumstances. Learning new coping skills could help you manage stress better. Some skills that you may consider exploring include: (1) finding ways to express your thoughts and emotions such as through art or writing; (2) learn and practice mindfulness, meditation, or relaxation; (3) develop your problem-solving skills; (4) create safe spaces for you and your loved ones; (4) create a deportation safety plan; and (5) expand your sources of social and emotional support including connecting with your faith-based communities, advocacy organizations, community centers, and peer groups.
Whether mild, moderate, or severe, seek help to alleviate your distress. It is important that you share your feelings and concerns with someone that you trust. Consider talking to a therapist, medical provider, or a member of your faith-based community. Medical and mental health providers and clergy are required to maintain your confidentiality so that you can seek support without reservation and when needed.
Knowledge is empowering, and knowing your rights and where to seek support is helpful to reduce distress. Locate resources, services, and agencies near you so that you can seek help if you need it.
Dishonest practitioners or attorneys may promise to provide you with help or faster services if you pay them a fee. These people are trying to scam you and take your money. For example, seek information about DACA from official sources such as government agencies or the Department of Homeland Security. If you are seeking legal advice, choose a licensed attorney or accredited representative, assess their references and evaluate their reviews. Check that your attorney is a member of the state bar association. If they are not, do not engage their services. If they are, then look at their disciplinary history before you engage their services.
Drs. Adamés and Chavez-Dueñas recommend social action as a way to find support and to heal. Research has found that finding community with other individuals whom you share similar identities and experiences with can serve to feel less alone.
You are part of this country, and we will continue to fight alongside you. Undocumented Latinxs and DACA recipients make contributions to our communities every day. For example, undocumented workers are an important source of unmet labor need in the US and also contribute significantly to Social Security revenue that they are unlikely to ever benefit from. There are over 800,000 DACA recipients also contributing significant labor and financial resources to the US economy. There is hope, and the fight is not over.