We are living in troubling times. Violence seems to be everywhere you look, and incidents of mass violence and hate-fueled massacres are filling the 24-hour news cycle. Seeing the aftermath of deranged perpetrators who set out to take the lives of complete strangers is deeply disturbing, and it can be difficult to cope with the reality we live in during the days and weeks that follow these tragic events. For those that are already prone to symptoms of depression and anxiety, being bombarded by terrible acts of violence in the media can interfere with the ability to function. There are several ways to help manage these overwhelming feelings, as well as steps to take if you think you are unable to handle your emotions on your own.
Turn Off the News
In the aftermath of a violent event or mass shooting, it can feel as if details of the incident are coming at you from all angles. You will see interviews with victims on the news, politicians responding to the event, countless prayers and opinions on social media, and coworkers talking about it during lunch. While you may not be able to drown out talk of the incident entirely, you can eliminate much of the commentary and visuals by abstaining from the news and social media for a while. If your anxiety is already peaking, there is no reason to heighten your emotional response to such a tragic event and increase your risk of trauma and depression. Taking some time away from media will allow you to focus on yourself and the people closest to you, and remind you of what is most important in life.
Realistically Assess the Risk
If your anxiety surrounding the violence you are seeing in the world mostly comes from a fear of something similar happening to you or your loved ones, it is important to take a realistic look at your risk of encountering mass violence. While mass shootings are certainly a societal problem that needs addressing, they are still relatively rare. It is far more likely to encounter violence within your family or to be in a car accident than to become a victim of a mass shooting. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel sorrow or fear in the face of large-scale violence, but it can be helpful to understand that your access to the knowledge of terrible events taking place all over the world is only possible because of modern modes of communication, such as social media.
It can feel strange to go about your day after hearing news of mass violence. You may feel guilty engaging in small talk or getting annoyed in morning traffic as if you should be thinking constantly about the victims and their families. This is a normal reaction for people who are especially sensitive to the pain of others, and it is usually a sign of heartfelt empathy. While feeling somehow tied to the pain of other people is honorable, it can take a serious toll on your mental health and wellbeing. Sticking to your normal routine in the days and weeks that follow a traumatizing event is important for keeping your head above water. Chatting about your day with family and coworkers can keep you grounded and remind you that your life goes on, and you have so much to be grateful for. Additionally, if you have children, it is important to maintain a sense of normalcy for them so that they don’t become anxious and fearful as well.
When faced with something so huge and awful that it makes you feel powerless, sometimes the best reaction is to get involved. There are many ways to productively take action when violence occurs, including donating blood, becoming politically active, or leading a mental health outreach for others that may be feeling traumatized by what they are seeing in the news. Volunteering your time and energy to swing the pendulum back towards positivity is often the only way to keep from dwelling in despair, and can help shine a little light onto a very dark situation.
Ask for Help
If your emotions feel out of control, or you find you have lost interest in your regular activities, you may need to seek professional help to cope with the heavy burden of violence. Terrible things happen in the world every day, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to enjoy life. An inability to find happiness in your usual interests and passions may be a sign of depression. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with anxiety and depression after feeling overwhelmed by acts of violence. Unfortunately, substance abuse worsens symptoms of mental illness and makes working through emotional trauma impossible. Additionally, using drugs or alcohol to cope may result in addiction.
Coping with trauma, depression, and addiction often requires professional help. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders. Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support you can experience true and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877