It is natural to experience anxiety or fear about safety in the wake of violence. Whether we experience trauma directly or hear about it in the news, there can be an impact on our well-being. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind in the aftermath of a tragedy, along with some tips to help you cope.
1) Be aware that a spike in anxiety is to be expected (especially in the days following mass violence).
Tip: Practice self-compassion and allow space for the increased anxiety. Remind yourself that anxiety is a normal part of a healthy reaction and does not necessarily mean anything negative about your (or your family’s) mental health. Acknowledge the feelings that come up and take care of yourself.
2) Reach out.
Tip: Tap into your support network! Reach out to loved ones or others you can relate to (e.g., parents with similar-aged children to your own, those who share your culture orr religious beliefs, or close friends who you feel truly understand you).
3) Maintain your daily routines.
Tip: You may feel the urge to avoid certain places; however, continuing with your normal functioning and routines can help in the healing process. Ask yourself, “What would I be doing if this was a typical day?”
4) Use emotion for action.
Tip: If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotion following an event, channel that emotion into action. Find a way to pitch in to help the affected community or volunteer with a group whose cause is related to supporting families of victims or reducing gun violence.
5) Take a break from the news…
Tip: It’s great to be informed; but, it’s also okay to take a break from the news coverage of tragic events. Remember to step away from the news in order to care for yourself, process information and emotions, and spend time with loved ones.
6) Talk about it.
Tip: It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what to say… There is no ‘correct’ way to discuss these types of events. But it is important not to avoid the difficult conversations completely (especially with children). If you think your child has concerns or questions, ask them what they know or have heard. This way, you can address anything that might be upsetting to them and clarify misconceptions without adding gratuitous details about the event.
7) Recognize if it’s time to get help…
Tip: If you experience changes in your mental health or functioning (e.g., changes in sleep, eating, mood) that last longer than a week, it would be a good idea to see a therapist. Therapy can help to address any lingering symptoms or concerns and offer additional coping strategies.
Marie Rhoads, M.S.