The anxiety and fear that can grip a person following a mass shooting is very real. I lived in the Orlando, Florida area when the Pulse shooting happened in June 2016. In fact, I had, at one point, lived less than a mile from the location of Pulse. As more and more information came out that Sunday about what had taken place and how many people were killed and injured, I noticed a heaviness building within me. The days following the Pulse shooting, the news coverage was constant, and frankly, completely overwhelming. I know that for many in and around the Orlando area feelings of sadness, horror, fear and anxiety were common. Many of us found our focus off in the days and weeks following this tragedy.
I know that this subject is a hot button one. Everyone has an opinion about gun laws, mental health, how schools should or should not arm themselves and on and on. Though those are important issues, I’m here to focus on the affect these shootings have on people. Specifically, I’m going to focus on the fear and anxiety that people can feel.
On any given day, you can turning on your TV or be scrolling through your social media and see the news about another mass shooting. This elicits a wide range of reactions. Horror, disbelief, overwhelming sadness, fear, and anxiety are just some of the emotions that you may experience. Many of us are affected deeply even if we didn’t live in or near the affected area and even if we didn’t know anyone involved in the incident.
If you are hundreds of miles away and feel completely shaken up by one of these event, it’s okay. If you feel a jumble of emotions, that’s okay. If you feel a weight on your shoulders for a few days following the incident, that’s okay too. All of these things are okay because it means you are human. Let’s talk about how you can better cope.
- Turn off the TV. If all you are watching is the news, I strongly recommend you find something positive to watch. As I mentioned earlier, the level of details presented to viewers is often unnecessary and detrimental to a lot of people. Find something light and positive to watch.
- Do not, and I repeat do not let the fear paralyze you. I believe there is a great risk in this happening to people. Do not let your mind start focusing on the “what if’s.” No good will come from this, and you will feel so much worse.
- Talk to someone. Who do you feel comfortable talking to? A relative? Friend? Co-worker? Neighbor? Talking with someone about the event helps you to process through the tangle of your thoughts and feelings. If needed, seek out a counselor to assist with this.
- There’s a famous saying that Mr. Rogers used to say that his mother had told him when he was growing up. “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” In other words, look for the stories of the heroes, the survivors, the advocates for change, and the first responders. There’s nothing we can do to undo the tragedy but there is always at least one “helper” that we can focus on.
- Do something to make the world better. Think small scale actions that you can do today. Call or text a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while to let them know you are thinking about them. Hold the door open for someone. Let someone pull out in front of you in traffic. Smile at people as you pass them and even say hello. For some people, just this small action, can lift their spirits and brighten their day.
Our world can often be a scary place but it is also full of beauty and wonder. Practice looking for the small wonders in each day.