Originally posted on December 3, 2015, but unfortunately relevant again, with the October 27, 2018, mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Did the terrorist attack on the Jewish population in Pittsburgh—and attempted mail bombs—raise your anxiety and make it hard for you to go about your daily life?
Are you preoccupied with your safety and that of your family?
Having difficulty concentrating?
Are you on “red alert”?
Have the feelings of vulnerability you felt after 9/11 returned?
Are you finding it hard to move past your fear to enjoy your life?
If you’re a parent, are you struggling with how to explain the events to your children?
Nurture Your Nourishing Connections
Here are some tried and true strategies for dealing with the terror and fear you may be experiencing.
For people who have warm, loving families and friends, emphasizing those nurturing and nourishing connections can help you remember what’s important in life: making the most of your life today.
The truth is that we don’t know how much time we have in life.
We didn’t know before the shooting and attempted mail bombs, and we don’t know now. But we can live each day in as satisfying a way as possible, telling and showing the people that we love how much we value them, handling ourselves in the best way we can, digging deep to find a little more patience for the people around us, savoring the everyday pleasures in life.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have a warm, loving family, making a commitment to cultivating friendships is especially important.
Find an activity you enjoy and join a Meet Up group that does that activity, so you can start to do more fun things in the company of people who enjoy them.
Find a cause you believe in and volunteer at a related organization.
Whether it’s becoming a docent at a museum, watching and discussing movies with other cinema enthusiasts, volunteering at an shelter (homeless or animal), or (my personal favorite) going to a Tappy Hour Meet Up (a tap dance lesson at a bar), you’ll feel more connected to yourself and the rest of humanity and you may widen your social circle of warmth, which helps calm fear.
Calm Fear By Limiting Your and Your Children’s Exposure to Terror Through the News
Turn off the news and limit your news reading.
During 9/11 and the days following it, we had the “opportunity” to watch the airplanes hit the towers and the towers crumble 24/7 on news channels, and people watched obsessively, essentially traumatizing themselves.
Some parents of young children were in a fog and had the television on in the background for days. They didn’t realize that the children thought the attacks and building collapses were happening over and over and over, and were absolutely terrified. Limiting our exposure to the attacks and especially limiting our children’s exposure to them is vital.
Calming our fear, so that we don’t expose our young children to the trauma of our anxieties and fears is critical, because they pick up their cues from us, and they don’t have the internal resources to deal with our fears, which are magnified through their eyes.
Remind yourself that you are much more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack, and you still ride in cars, right?
Terrorists succeed if we limit our lives and our pleasures.
As people say when talking about failed romantic relationships, “Living well is the best revenge.” Some people have found this to be a helpful resource to deal with the helplessness you may feel. And take good care of yourself by remembering to eat and getting enough sleep. These suggestions about sleep hygiene from an unknown author may help.
Deal with Old Trauma(s) That May Be Reactivated
Why do some people bounce back, while others cower in fear?
People who have had previous trauma generally have a much tougher time moving on, because the current trauma activates the trauma from the past.
If you’re having trouble getting past your fears, seeing a therapist to explore how your past is affecting your present life can be invaluable. Therapy can be the difference between a satisfying life today and into the future, and one that is small and ruled by terror.
If you’d like to learn more, reach out to me here. I look forward to speaking with you.