LIVING FEARLESS: HOW TO BOUNCE BACK AFTER A MASS SHOOTING

A peace flag at an Anti-Vietnam War protest, 1970, Unknown 


In recent months, the world has faced numerous attacks on international communities. Many of these are human-caused, with the intention of harming others. These events almost always throw our sense of safety, order, and community in shambles. Although the ratio of direct victims to the rest of the general population is incredibly large, these events reach out to those outside the area, regardless of personal connection. People of different ages, races, and experiences can become overwhelmed by the intensity of these events. This comes as no surprise, for we are all part of one human species, and our hearts are connected. But, there are ways to cope with this fear, especially in the long run.

Relax. Many often rush to help others after a tragic event on compassionate instinct. It doesn't occur to many that, in order to help others efficiently, one must be stable themselves. Make sure all of your physical needs are met. Though fear and anxiety may trigger one to wrap themselves in bed, it's unhealthy to do so, for both physical and mental health. Relax your mind. Get rid of all the immediate stress and trauma. Watch a pleasant film, take a nice bath, listen to your favourite happy record. Look through photos of a favourite vacation, read through your childhood journals, watch some nostalgic television. Remind yourself that the world isn't completely awful. This requires patience. It's difficult to come to this conclusion straight away, but it is doable. 

Acceptance. Understand that this is something that is happening, in real time. Although you may want to push it away from you and forget, there is no doubt that you will encounter it. Through conversations at work and school, the radio while driving, social media, newsstands as you walk through the city, it's everywhere, long after the event. This is reality. You are here.

Get Involved. Many find that the best way to accept a tragedy is to get involved. Work with your community in establishing laws and agreements that can prevent more distress. Organize a March for Peace. Contact your local representatives (Contact info can be found here). Create a petition. Write an article for your local newspaper. Make a change.

Avoid overexposure to the media. Acceptance is a key role in coping. But, with that being said, there are things that can cause stress and post-traumatic symptoms. The media is one of them. With exaggerations, aggressive language, and graphic footage, it may not be the best thing to see immediately after an event. While it's best to stay informed, try doing so by reading non-bias news articles. This will put order to your brain, and keep out the panic that a newscast can cause.

Keep your loved ones close. An event like this can help many realize the importance of the role that those around them have in their lives. Maintaining contact with friends and family can assure you in times of anxiety. Let them know you love them. Having these people around as a support base can help you as well, especially when you feel scared and alone.

Know when others need help. Once you've become stable yourself, approach others. Everyone has the capacity to be affected by an event like this. Don't undermine someone because they "don't understand" or they "aren't nearly as affected as [you] are." Invalidation makes things worse. Because someone may not be a part of the community affected, does not mean that they don't have a right to grieve and live in fear. Times like these are when we need unity most. We need to work with each other and find a solution as people, rather than individually. Help others and notice their behaviours. Changes in sleeping habits, social anxiety, eating habits, and mood swings can be signs of distress when it comes to mass violence. Lend a hand, regardless of where one comes from. They are people too.

Talk about it. Keeping everything bottled up inside can cause even more distress as time goes by. Realize that there are hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who feel the same fear as you do. Express your feelings. Discuss with a parent, a friend, or another trusted love one about how you feel.

Strive for balance. While a terrible event can put a negative view on things, there is a way to look at it differently. Communities come together. Everyone is focused on one thing, and they all have one thing in common: the urge to help. No matter their race, beliefs, gender, or sexuality, people come together to make a difference. Often times after tragic occurrences, people have an itch to fight, to make a difference. The people have power, and changes are more likely to be made. Focusing on community can fight the instinct to panic and spreads love something that the world desperately needs.

Refuse to fall victim. Fear will no doubt cause your ground to shake. Your daily routines will be altered as a result of an event, but that doesn't mean you have to change the way you live. With violence occurring in schools, concerts, movie theatres, homes, etc., there is no way to be completely safe 100% of the time. Going to school, shopping, hanging out with friends: these are daily essentials. These are risks you take every day in order to live with satisfaction. Fear should not overshadow hope and happiness. Continue to live the way you did prior to the event in question, for there is no reason not to. But, do not hesitate to find ways to prevent and lessen those risks.

If you feel like these events are taking a tough toll on your quality of life, do not hesitate to contact a professional. Never feel alone.

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