Here Are Some Mental Health Reminders You Might Need Right Now
The aftermath of a mass tragedy can be really overwhelming, whether it's from keeping up on the news, feeling helpless or obligated to help out, or grappling with your own emotions.
There's no "wrong" way to feel, and you shouldn't feel guilty for having an emotional reaction, even if you weren't directly affected.
You've probably heard, "Your emotions are valid," before, and it's true. When something like this happens, people's reactions fall anywhere on a large spectrum of feelings, and none of them are the "right" one. You might feel anxiety, sadness, panic, or anger, or you might shut down emotionally. The key thing to remember is that you should not discount whatever it is you're feeling, and you definitely shouldn't feel guilty for it.
"You have every right to feel frightened," says Turner. "You have every right to feel sad. You have every right to feel anxious. All of those emotions can come flooding in when they see something like this."
Feeling numb or even desensitized doesn't mean you're broken or callous.
You may feel like it isn't normal to feel nothing in the wake of a tragedy, but actually, that could be your body going into protection mode. "For some people, becoming numb is the mind's way of preventing overload," says Turner. "Shutting down prevents being triggered by past experiences, having an anxiety attack, or becoming hyper-vigilant."
For people who have experienced a crisis, tragedy, or a trauma, events like this can be very triggering.
It's important to keep in mind that certain people, like those with post-traumatic stress disorder, have more than an emotional reaction to events like this - a reminder of their trauma (aka, a trigger) can cause a symptomatic response, like a flashback or a panic attack, or a rush of emotions that sets them back in their mental wellbeing.
If this applies to you, be kind and patient with yourself. If it doesn't, keep it in mind and be aware that there are other people who might not be able to engage in conversations about a tragedy or need to take a big step back.
But as shootings become a more common occurrence, you don't need personal experience to be vulnerable to feeling triggered.
Since being triggered is so often associated with experiencing a trauma first-hand, you might be caught off guard if you have a big emotional or physical response to seeing violence in the news.
"In this day and age, we have so much exposure to this at this point that even individuals who have only watched what has happened [in the news] can be triggered even if they haven't experienced it personally," says Turner.
Don't feel badly about turning off the news. In fact, you should really consider stepping back from it if you need to
There is nothing wrong with not feeling up to consuming more information about a tragedy. "People have to recognize what's helpful for them to take in and when they have to step back," says Turner. If you start to see that keeping close tabs on the news as it unfolds is going to only impact you negatively, disconnecting is a necessary act of self-care.
If you do want to keep updated, make sure to be strategic so that you can look after your other needs, too.
If you're not someone who feels comfortable tuning out and would rather stay informed, make sure you're still practicing self-care in other ways, Turner advises. That means making sure that the time you spend reading or watching the news doesn't interfere with eating, staying hydrated, connecting with others, etc., as well as setting boundaries about how and when you keep up with the news.
Some people are motivated to take action in the wake of tragedies, but a lot of people feel too paralyzed to do so. Both reactions are okay.
Don't feel guilty if you want to be helping in some way - like engaging in relevant political activism or giving blood - but don't feel emotionally or physically up for it. "Everyone has a different threshold," says Turner. Instead, focus on making sure you're feeling mentally healthy before pressuring yourself to help others.
Self-care looks different for everyone, but try to figure out what things make you feel better and take the time to do them.
For some people, self-care means exercise while for others it's rest. Some people might take time away from electronics to write in a journal. And others might talk to friends, watch a feel-good show, or volunteer. There is no one way to self-soothe.
Ask yourself: How do you typically respond emotionally to world events like these, and what tools do you have to take care of those emotions? If you need a place to start, here are a bunch of little ways people practice self-care.
No matter what you're feeling, it could help to talk to someone else about it.
"People should allow themselves to experience whatever they're experiencing and know that no feeling is the wrong feeling," says Turner. "But they should also know when what they're experiencing is too much for themselves to handle alone."
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