How to Manage Feelings of Distress After a Tragedy

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On Monday morning, tragedy struck in Washington, D.C. A former navy reservist opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 13 people. Whenever mass shootings or similar violent events occur, it’s normal for people to experience a range of emotions and have some serious concerns about their safety. For people who have already survived such an event, their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can surface.

If you have PTSD, schedule an appointment with your Costa Mesa psychiatrist right away so that you can talk about your feelings. Even if you don’t, you may be feeling shock, anger, fear, grief or even numbness. While these feelings are common and should pass in time, there are some things you can do to help ease your mind and strengthen your resilience. Here are some suggestions:

  • Reach out to your family and friends. Tell them how you feel and talk about it. Their support will be comforting and reassuring. Since friends and family are often in our minds when we hear of these tragedies, it will be good to reach out to them to sort out your feelings.
  • Honor your feelings. Others may try to belittle you, wondering why you care so deeply about an event that occurred far away from you. But fear and worry aren’t limited to things that personally involve us. All it takes is one scary incident to threaten our sense of safety. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling and process it properly.
  • Take a break from the news. It’s good to be informed, but hearing the same terrifying story and statistics repeatedly will only instill more fear. Get the major news and then turn it off and take a break.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Take yoga classes or try meditation. Learn how to do deep breathing exercises. Get plenty of rest. The better you feel physically, the better you will be able to handle your emotions.
  • Give back. Tragedies like Monday’s mass shooting make us feel disconnected as a society. Volunteer your time, donate to charity or get involved with a cause you feel passionate about. Offer to take an elderly neighbor to an appointment. Helping those in need and doing something positive will always make you feel better.
  • Put things in perspective. It’s easy to feel unsafe after something terrible happens. And being aware of your surroundings and learning personal safety tips is beneficial. But understand that, despite the media hype, things like the Washington Navy Yard do not happen every day. There are still many good people in the world and there truly is no need to live in fear.

If you have recently lost someone you love, or if you have ever lost a loved one in a tragedy like 9/11 or a mass shooting, news of these events will be especially traumatic for you. If you haven’t already, contact your local Orange County counseling center and set up a session. Grief is a lengthy process, and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.