I think many Americans are feeling it this week. The horror, sadness, anger, disappointment, fear, anxiety, emotional exhaustion–the list could go on and on–after another mass shooting.
Here are some ideas for how to regroup.1) Realize that what you’re feeling is normal, and shared by many.
I’ve been hearing it from client after client this week, and to be honest, that’s actually reassuring. It means we’re a society that can still feel. We’re capable of empathy, and empathy is one of the things that’s missing for anyone who’d commit such a heinous act.
Love, community, and connection are the antidotes. Which leads me to…
2) Hug someone hard.
It’s not always about words. Sometimes touch heals us right down to the core.
3) But talking can be good, too.
You don’t want to suffer in silence, or minimize your feelings, or treat them as if they’re unimportant. Sometimes people think, Well, I didn’t lose a loved one, so it’s silly that I have such strong feelings.
No, it’s not. It goes back to what I said first, which is that you’re empathizing. And empathizing can be emotionally draining.
4) Find ways to restore yourself in the short term.
It could be just taking your mind off things and watching a movie. Maybe you need some extra sleep. It could be talking, or sex, or a warm bath, or a good book. Treat yourself kindly, and delicately.
If you’re having any mental health symptoms like anxiety, address them immediately. The biggest thing is, don’t give in to a desire for avoidance (of your feelings, of public places.) That’s one of the anxiety traps. You avoid and you temporarily feel better, which reinforces the avoidance and makes you do it again and again. And then all of a sudden, you’re not really living your life.
Avoid avoidance, at all costs. While it might feel like there’s a mass shooting all the time, everywhere these days, challenge that thinking. It is still statistically incredibly unlikely that you or someone you love will be a victim. If you can’t get yourself to go somewhere alone, go with a support person who can talk you through it.
A client told me that she went to see “Batman” a few days after the theater shooting in Colorado, and she felt nervous. But the next time she saw a movie, she didn’t even think about it. She faced her fear, immediately. She got right back on the horse.
That same client made a great suggestion for restoration: watching a series of Youtube videos called “Faith in Humanity Restored” that show amazing acts of decency and kindness. She said she cries, and it’s cathartic, but in a good way.
While some people have had loathsome responses to the recent tragedy, far more people have united to bring about whatever beauty and awareness they can out of the wreckage. Personally, I find that restorative, and hope you do, too.
5) Find ways to restore yourself–and our society–in the long term.
You may not have ever been a political person before, or thought you had an activist bone in your body. But there are plenty of people who get involved in movements after something significant happens in the world, or happens to those they love. And then they feel connected to a greater cause and to other people who share that cause.
If your feelings linger, think about how to mobilize. Think about what kind of world you want to live in, and then work in some small way to bring it about. March for it. Vote for it.
You might not feel like it at this exact moment, but you can be a force to be reckoned with. Unite with other people who feel as you do, because I’ll say it again: Love, community, and connection are the antidotes.