Sunday, June 12, 2016

Coping with Stressful News Events

As I write this blog entry, the world is absorbing the newest story of another mass shooting in the United States.  Considered the worst mass shooting in US history—the event at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida, has once again shocked and stunned us all.  As with Columbine and the “Theater Shootings”, the media is rushing to cover the stories and bring us ongoing updates about the event.  Our hearts go out to the victim’s families, to the first responders, to the businesses that will be affected, closed, or those that may live in fear of copy-cat offenders, and to our GLBTQ community which has shown great strength and determination over the years to maintain pride and hard-fought-for rights.

When stories are reported of tragedy like this, or of other forms of murder, violence, pain, and of course mass killings, it can be quite stressful to listen to, especially if you are the kind of person who is mesmerized by the rapid reporting and constant flow of news that comes from “special updates” and “special reports” that may go on for hours.  Many have actually opted to not even listen to such news stories because it upsets them so much.  But we can’t close our ears and eyes to what’s happening around us in the world.  When crisis and tragedy strike, and the media is pumping our minds full of the play-by-play, gory details and play-backs of every police report and eye-witness, it’s important to have a game plan in place to limit unnecessary and repeated exposure to information, and then find positive outlets in which to send the energy generated by our fear, pain, disgust, and anger in a positive direction, where we can try to gain some sense of balance again in a sometimes confusing and unpredictable world.

First, when tragedy strikes and you’ve tuned into the TV or Internet to find out what’s going on, be sure to limit how long you are going to spend getting the basic information.  Watching the news, reading a few versions of the story, and possibly noting the basic photos among the media should be enough for you to get the basic story and details.  One thing you don’t want to do is stay tuned in to a non-stop bombardment of stories for hours on end of what they know now--that they also knew an hour ago, and an hour before that.

Second, don’t go to the other extreme of isolating yourself from the information completely.  We cannot hide from the reality of the world and doing so leaves us at risk of being a part of the crowd that never learns from tragedy because we refuse to experience our tiny part in it and learn the lessons it has to offer.  Get the stories and basic information, limit the time exposure you will allow for hearing repeated stories, and then let yourself begin to process the information.

Finally, once you’ve had some time away from the repeated media stories, you can processes how you feel and what you think of the information you have in order to decide what it means to you personally, what lesson or lessons it holds for you, and most importantly, what positive action you plan to take to make a difference in the world based on these conclusion.  For instance, as I type this, hundreds have lined up at various locations in Orlando to donate blood needed to help all the surviving victims of this most recent shooting.

Maybe you know a friend, neighbor or acquaintance in the GLBTQ community you can call or email to give your support, rather than sitting in front of hours more of upsetting news or just shaking your head believing it’s someone else out there that will do the comforting.  This is how we get out of our heads, where all the thoughts are swirling that lead to increased stress and anxiety.  

In the end, take positive steps to move forward and take part in making change in the world. Tragedies will continue to come.  How you react to them may make a big difference in your level of stress and anxiety

                  It was Gandhi who said, “Be the Change You want to see in the World”.

Thanks to  James Hill for the great photo - Pride