It seems like every time you see the news, some new and horrific violent act—like the shooting in Las Vegas—has taken too many lives. Even if you weren’t involved and know no one who was killed or injured, it’s upsetting. It can leave you feeling sad and hopeless. And that’s understandable.
But how do you cope?
1 Know you’re not alone. You are connected to your fellow man and you feel a terrible loss like others do. Feelings may manifest themselves differently in different people—fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression—but know that you are affected in some way, just as so many others are.
2) Give a name to how you feel. “I’m feeling disconnected and sad. Why is this happening? What is the future of the human race?” When you label your feelings you have a better chance of being able to acknowledge what’s bothering you. Vague feelings of unrest are more difficult to get over. So talk about it, journal about it, honor it. Name how you feel so you can process it.
3) Take a break from the news. Ignorance is not bliss, but once you’re informed, take a break. Social media and broadcast news cover acts of mass violence with repeated intensity. Watching the coverage just re-traumatizes you and steeps you in grief and anxiety. Turn it off and allow your mind and body to relax from what may feel like an assault on you, physically and mentally.
4) Recognize déjà vu. A current traumatic event can evoke memories of a previous trauma you’ve experienced. Maybe you’ve had a personal shock, like an accident or a physical injury, which is totally unlike the mass shooting that is traumatizing you now. But it can trigger similar feelings of fear or anxiety or despair. And you may be processing all those past feelings as well as the current ones.
5) Give yourself a break. Now is the time to lean on your friends and family who support you. Let them coddle you and love you, just as you would for them if they were going through a similar trauma. Be proactive about treating yourself well. Pamper yourself with soothing music, a bubble bath, a favorite movie rerun. Make sure you get plenty of rest, good food and comfort.
6) Practice inner peace. You may find yoga is the best thing for your mind and body. Or perhaps you find solace in your religious community. Meditation may be what you need to settle your anxious mind and find peace in your heart. Or simply quiet yourself with deep breathing. You know what works best for you. Now is the time to actively seek peace and send loving thoughts to those who have suffered.
7) Remember most people are good. The distress you are feeling will be less intense as time goes on, and you will discover the goodness of humanity still exists. You can choose not to let a deranged attacker have the power to make you feel low for long. There are all sorts of good people in this world, and they will triumph. You can be part of that positive response. Volunteer your time and money to causes that will make things better in the future.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact.