In the wake of recent global terror attacks, such as those in France, Lebanon and Kenya, and the frequent domestic mass shootings across schools and public places within the US, it is important to pay attention to what you may be feeling in response to tragedy. It is common to experience heightened anxiety as a result of communal or global events, and it is ok to feel scared, angry, saddened and confused by random acts of violence and terror.
You may see friends and family band together on social media during times of crisis and feel a sense of unity, or you may find that no one wants to discuss the events – including you. Whether you find yourself deeply saddened by these random acts of violence or you’d rather shrug it off as something you are not directly affected by, it may help to take the time to consider your feelings surrounding these issues so that negative sentiments or fears don’t creep up and unknowingly impede other areas of your life. Here are a few ways to deal with tragedy and cope with potential anxiety and fear following a catastrophic event.
-Be open about your initial feelings following a tragic event. Talk to others about what they are experiencing and ask questions. Learn the facts, and pay attention to your mood and discuss your feelings or write down your thoughts and fears.
-Try to avoid watching continuous loops of news during a crisis. It can take time for all of the facts to emerge, and 24/7 news outlets may run repetitive and sensational images in order to catch the attention of viewers. Constant coverage of a tragedy can further heighten anxiety. If you find the visual images of an unfolding tragedy upsetting, turn to radio or print news to gather information.
-Avoid jumping to immediate conclusions, making assumptions, or placing blame. In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, you may feel helpless and angry. It is a normal response to want answers and to attempt to find a concrete cause of the suffering and blame a responsible party. Blaming a cultural, racial or ethnic group, or someone who may have a mental illnesses can do much more harm than good, and will not solve or prevent crisis.
-Try to stick to your regular routine. Doing the things you planned for the day or week will help you to feel more in control of your life amid chaos, and will help lessen feelings of anxiety or depression.
-Seek a creative outlet for your feelings. Writing, painting, dancing or playing music to express your feelings will help you to release pent up emotions or make better sense of a situation.
-Research available resources on-line to help with lingering anguish, fear and sadness. Others have felt the same way you are feeling, whether it is distressed, angry, or depressed. There are many resources available on line to help you better understand your feelings and to cope with grief if you feel that you have no one to turn to in your immediate life. You can also connect with a school counselor or a health care professional for more information and resources – they are available to help you whether you are directly involved in a tragedy or not.
-Review your own safety plans. Whether you feel unsafe or anxious at school, when traveling, or at home, look into the safety measures that exist to protect you and your loved ones in case of an emergency. Talk to your family about a plan to check on each other in times of crisis.
-Become involved. Seek ways to help those affected by tragedy, or channel your feelings of helplessness or grief into volunteering and helping those in need within your own community.
It can often feel that life is fragile, senseless, or meaningless. Know that you provide meaning to your friends, family and loved ones. Be reassured that for every one act of terror or tragic event, there are millions of people like you ready to step in and offer their love and support.
Educators, parents and teens can click here for additional resources on dealing with disaster.