April 17, 2013

Dealing with the Boston Marathon Bombings

In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, many folks may experience increased anxiety and panic.  Much of this emotional reaction is due to the availability of 24/7 news coverage by the media and internet.  Even though shootings and violence have become much more prevalent than ever before, our capacity for bad news has not increased.  In fact, the constant bombardment with tragic stories may be creating what psychologist’s call anticipatory anxiety. Fortunately, with a little thought and assessment you can prevent tragic media reports from overwhelming you. Also, if you find that you’re already  caught up in the details of the Boston Marathon bombings and have begun to feel overwhelmed or panicky, here are some things you can do to reduce your upset:

     Assessing your own tolerance for bad news:

  1. Know your own personal history with trauma. The more trauma you have experienced in the past, the less you will be able to tolerate in the present.
  2. Pay attention to your body and sensations of physical or muscular tension. Your body reacts to stress before your mind is aware of it. Muscular tension or other physical discomfort can be an alert that trouble is coming. The sooner you realize you are getting upset, the easier it is to reduce it.

If you notice a tightness or uncomfortable feeling, act immediately Don’t wait and follow these tips:

Anxiety Reducing Strategies

  1. Turn Off the TV. Turn off the radio. Turn off your phone. Stop looking for stories on the internet. The key is to stop your exposure to the toxic material which is causing the tension.
  2. Reality Test.  Ask yourself: Am I safe ? Are my loved ones safe ? Am I or my loved ones immediately affected in any way? While panic can destroy our calm and reasonable perspective, thinking and asking yourself simple questions can help to restore it.  
  3. Distract Yourself. Put on some soothing music, go for a walk, exercise, take a tub bath or meditate. Anxiety can go into a downward spiral. Distracting your attention can break this negative cycle.
  4. Talk about your feelings. Talking to a friend, writing in a journal or praying are simple ways to help you regain perspective of the bigger picture and to realize that things aren’t as bad as they feel.
  5. Connect with your faith community, volunteering, friends, or even social media. Reducing your isolation will help restore a sense of normalcy and help you to realize that life goes on.

It’s normal to feel bad after hearing about bad news. If the bad feelings persist or begin to interfere with your daily living, don’t ignore them. Try these suggestions and if they don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor or seek professional help.

The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC prepared these remarks for Life Smarts on Bridge Street . www.revmichaelheath.com .

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