Tips and resources for coping with tragedy
SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of yet another tragedy — a shooting in California that killed 12 people — organizations like the Red Cross and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration want people to know about available resources and coping methods.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a “Disaster Distress Helpline” available 24/7 that can be reached at 1-800-985-5990. The Red Cross compiled a list of suggestions for coping, which can be viewed below.
Support your natural resilience
- Allow your feelings. Don’t try to ignore or deny them. You may feel grief, anger, anxiety, exhaustion, or something
else. You may just feel numb. These are all normal reactions. Talking about them with people who care about you can
help you process the emotional fallout after an unsettling event. Cry if you need to. Some people find it helpful to let
feelings flow out on paper or address them in some creative way, such as painting or music.
- Balance your thoughts. When feeling overwhelmed by tragic events, it’s easy to forget the good in the world. Try to
balance feelings of pessimism by deliberately thinking about acts of goodness and kindness that people are doing
every day. Adding some balance to your viewpoint can help when you feel the world is in a dark place.
- Minimize your exposure to news media. Once you have the facts, it’s a good idea to limit watching replays of the
events. While it’s important to stay informed, constant exposure may add to feelings of distress. Try to give yourself a
break from the tragedy and thoughts and feelings stirred up by emotional news stories.
- Focus on what you do have control over. The images we see, the stories we hear, and our own thoughts about
what happened can increase our anxiety. It can make you feel overwhelmed and helpless. Try to bring your focus to
what you can control, such as learning how to respond in the face of danger.
- Turn to others for support. Being alone with your thoughts and emotions means there is no other voice in the
conversation. Others offer different perspectives, while giving you a chance to talk about how you feel. This can bring
comfort and help you move forward. It can be especially helpful to talk to others who’ve shared the same experience.
- Tap into your compassion. Reaching out and supporting others can shift your mental and emotional focus. Doing
helpful things and offering kindness to others can open your heart and renew your spirit. It can be a powerful antidote
to the inhumanity of violent attacks.
- Understand what is being done to protect your community. The more you know about what has happened, the
more effective steps you can take to minimize your risk and increase your sense of safety. Make sure you are getting
your information from a reputable source, such as the Department of Homeland Security. Be sure to follow all
directions from state and local authorities, including law enforcement.
- Move from fear to awareness. Being constantly fearful is not helpful. It can actually limit awareness. Awareness –
paying attention to your surroundings, and noticing anything unusual about people and their behavior – is helpful. Fear
is a focus on what could happen, which can leave you less aware of what is happening. A sudden feeling of fear is an
important clue that something may be wrong. If you are always fearful, that sudden feeling can’t emerge as a clue.
- Maintain a normal routine and lifestyle as much as possible. When an attack occurs, life can feel chaotic in many
ways. The structure and predictability of doing daily tasks helps us to feel normal by acting normal. For many it can be
emotionally liberating to stand up to fear in this simple but powerful way.
- Feeling physically strong can help you feel emotionally strong. Make sure you get enough sleep to feel well rested.
Eat a healthy diet. Exercise and being physically active can reduce stress. Avoid overuse of alcohol and/or substances.
- Give yourself a break. It may be hard to focus and concentrate at times after a traumatic event. Your energy level
may be low. Be patient with yourself. Don’t overload your schedule. Give yourself a little more time to do tasks.
- Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, when emotions run high. Even taking a short
time-out to bring your thoughts to the here and now can help. These gentle techniques can help calm the physical
symptoms of anxiety and slow down racing thoughts.