As of September 1st, 2019, “which was the 244th day of the year, there have been 283 mass shootings in the U.S.” (source); we have experienced more shootings than days. As I type this, Hurricane Dorian is barreling its way across the Bahamas and towards the southeastern coast of the United States and families are still being separated at our borders and within our country. Between these catastrophic natural disasters and terrifying acts of terrorism, we are living in a climate of fear that can wreak havoc on our emotional wellness and mental health.
I know I have struggled to navigate my own feelings on these topics and the state of our political and environmental climate, but it comes up in my therapy sessions on an almost daily basis. I have cried with parents who cannot fathom the idea of their child being taken away from them and I have empathized with parents who are scared to send their kids to school or let their teenagers go to outdoor concerts for fear of yet another mass shooting. People are trying to understand how they can be more mindful of the environment and how that can impact some of their most intimate choices (like, should we have children if we do not know what the planet will look like in the next 50 years?).
Most of us are trying to understand how to live our normal, daily lives while we simultaneously fear for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. It is taking an emotional toll, and it’s creating a spike in our collective anxiety.
Here are some topics to consider on the subject:
Limit your media; Either tune in occasionally in order to stay engaged and informed, or curate your intake very intentionally (ie. choose one podcast, or one newspaper), but do not feel bad turning off your twitter feed, turning off the news or closing your computer for some time. You are not disengaged or unfeeling if you decide not to watch violent footage, or become inundated with negative news cycles. It is imperative to create boundaries to protect your mental health and to respect your own limitations.
Meaningful tips on media consumption, from Brené Brown.
If you notice a rise in your fear and anxiety, or you’re struggling to manage your emotions as these tragic events continue to unfold, it might be worthwhile to seek some additional support. You can search for a therapist by zip code and/or specialty through Psychology Today.
Reach out to friends and family. We are creatures of connection – and in times of threat and despair, we sometimes need to embrace our inner ‘pack animal.’ Put down your phone, and spend time with your people IRL; presence can be healing. Additionally, if you know someone who may not have family or friends nearby, reach out to them: invite them for coffee or have them over for dinner. Even something as simple as a text to tell someone you are thinking of them and hoping they are ok, means more to them than you realize. No one should have to feel alone during such a scary and uncertain time.
There is nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness that follow these horrific events; No, we cannot change what has taken place, but there is enormous healing in engagement and collective action. You can turn towards your local community and find a volunteer opportunity nearby. Connecting and helping in person may feel especially rewarding.
If you’re in Chicago, this is a great resource: https://www.chicagocares.org/
If you are feeling compelled to turn your attention towards gun reform, these organizations have opportunities both to donate and volunteer. There are numerous events and meetings around Chicagoland - just search below:
Red Cross - you can donate directly to those who have been impacted by Hurricane Dorian
[Unfortunately, I felt inclined to write a similar blog post almost two years ago after the Las Vegas shooting, which occurred right on the heels of a shooting in Texas, and the horrific earthquake in Mexico City. You can read my thoughts and many recycled tips from October 2017, here]