The words flash across the screen. Unarmed black man shot and killed by police. 20 children killed in school shooting. Serial rapists claims latest victim. Terror attack at concert claims lives. World “Leaders” slinging angry tweets. Racism rearing its ugly head inciting violence and unrest.
Chills run down your spine and in the moment, you feel yourself numb. This is unfortunately how society has progressed. It seems like every day we are subjected and exposed to more stories of evil and hate. Not just with global attacks, but the personal battles we face in life. Many times, it leaves us overwhelmed, heartbroken, full of questions and just plain tired.
Even worse, when we turn off newscast and open up social media, we are met with more harrowing images of death and destruction. Video clips of shooting victims, photos of bodies and blood in your timeline. Hashtags dedicated to victims of domestic and global terrorism.
Often times, when bogged down with stress, we turn to non healthy ways of coping (excessive drinking or drug use etc.) So what can you do when you’re processing tragedy and trying to positively find the bright light in dark times?
Simply, you should self care.
Self care is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. According to PsychologyDictionary.org, self care is defines as “The process of looking after one’s self. Avoiding all threats and issues that may make a person face irritable and uncomfortable circumstances.”
Looking after yourself is one of the most selfless things you can do, especially when you come under stress. Self caring with positive things in place of drugs/ drinking is one of the highest forms of self respect. This means you are not only showing up for yourself, but those that depend on you or share your space.
According to research conducted by Dr. Pam Ramsden of the University of Bradford, there is a connection between psychological anxiety and news coverage of traumatic events. That means you are more likely to develop PTSD, experience high anxiety and stress the more you’re exposed to non stop news coverage and social media exposure.
The question now is what can do you to help alleviate associated stress?
Recognize that you are not any less aware, less educated or less compassionate to what’s occurring when you unplug. Unplugging can be anything from taking an extended break from watching the news to turning off your phone to avoid scrolling through social media.
According to a 2016 research conducted by Pew Research Center, on a daily average, Americans spend 76% of their social media time on Facebook. 51% is spent engaged on Instagram.
Simply unplugging from both can be a huge help to alleviate the potential anxiety and stress from being exposed.
As with anything that causes one anxiety, it’s always a great idea to decompress. This can be anything from making a simple chance of scenery or environment (taking a walk, opening a window for fresh air)
Don’t feel selfish for making time to care for yourself. Find an activity or item that will uplift you. If you find relaxation in painting, paint! If you find solace in writing, write! If you find comfort in ice cream, by all means, treat yourself!
3. Surround yourself with positive vibes
Call a friend or loved one. Being around positive friends and family fosters a sense of community and promotes general well being. Also, offer yourself as a shoulder of support as well! Good vibes beget good vibes.
4. Prayer and Mindful Mediation
Praying and mediation are helpful tools to help ease stress. As a Christian, I love to turn to God when things get muddy or when I need clarity and rest. One of my favorite verses when I’m overwhelmed is Philippians 4: 6-7
I also love to sit and bask in peace and actively engage my mind in thinking calming thoughts.
According to research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, “Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety, depression and pain”
This means any form of meditation or mental centering can be useful in cutting down on the harmful effects of stress. Even if you haven’t declared any religious affiliations, positive thinking is always a great start.
5. After taking a few days of rest, look at any positive impacts you can make
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed after tragedy, whether it directly affects you or you witness it from your TV screen.
Having the yearning to make a difference in times like this is a honorable thing! Look for ways you can give back to make the world (or your community a better, more conscious and positive environment)
Look for volunteer opportunities to give back (local food pantries, literacy buddy programs, mentoring) Help a neighbor, co-worker, loved one with a task.
Your kindness counts. There’s no such thing as being too late to help pitch in for the common good. More acts like this promote a better society and while they may not deter acts of evil or hate, love will always win.
Remember it’s important to always consider yourself as you digest traumatic news. It’s more than okay to do all the things you need to do to keep yourself afloat. Our society as a whole is only as strong as the individual parts. Taking the time to self care is an important part of building a stronger community and personal growth.