With every murder report, every bomb, every child drowning, every political mudsling; my faith in the future shrivels up a bit. My helplessness fills to the brim.
In this crazy world of ours, there is rarely a break from news stories of tragedy. Bombings are commonplace in many parts of the world. Children are sick, killed, or starving. Animals are being abused. Innocent people are shot, murdered, and beheaded.
This reaction can prompt many things in our psyches. Most commonly sadness, and some form of worry or anxiety. Our hearts go out to the people involved. We feel disillusioned and vulnerable. We fear it happening to us, we fear losing someone we love, we fear that the world is “going to hell,” we fear that we’ll trigger traumatic memories, we fear for the suffering of the people involved, and we fear death.
We lock our doors. Call our loved ones. Emotionally eat. Worry and close down.
Tragic news used to be extremely hard for me to hear. My heart raced. The anxiety surged under my skin. Panic filled my throat and I was a mess for hours and sometimes days. In my mind, I was there on the scene experiencing it, too.
For years, I became so involved in my own anxiety that I had to shut myself off and eventually avoid the news altogether.
How can we watch the horrid news reports, complete with video of the terror and, as a human, not be affected? And more importantly, given that we feel deeply and intensely, how can we keep calm in the face of these tragedies?
So, what is the answer? Not watch it? Avoid all negativity? Pretend it doesn’t exist?
Here are two ways to stay informed without losing your mind:
Helplessness intensifies anxiety. Avoiding the news made me feel selfish. When I avoided it completely, I couldn’t contribute to making the world a better place. And for me, my life mission of making the world a better place was something that I was no longer willing to sacrifice.
I had to take some kind of action. Action makes us feel useful and purposeful. It is a way to use the energy and adrenaline the anxiety floods into our body. Anxiety is fed by a sense of helplessness. Being helpful turns the tides.
If you are far, you can pray, donate money, donate blood, keep informed, check in with other friends who may be struggling with the news, listen to someone, distract yourself or others, create some peace in your own community by modeling forgiveness, decline being invited into competition, and show some love.
If you are near, you can do the above and perhaps assist victims directly. Do something and your anxiety will have less and less power.
Think About It Symbolically
If you are reading/watching about tragedy in/on the news and thinking about it as if you were right there having it happen to you, like I was, it does not help anyone. Least of all you. When we are in the chaos of the intense horror, we get stuck in emotional turmoil.
The answer is to think about events symbolically.
To do this, I literally imagine myself from above or from a hillside overlooking the whole situation. I suspend the tragic meaning that I assume to be true having used only my human eyes. I ask to be shown what I am meant to see.
We live and die and have experiences in this world for some reason. These reasons are part of our life journey. We learn, grow, gain and give during these experiences. We can be inspired by human resilience, connect deeply with others, and notice the generosity of people’s spirits and ability of humans to hope and work against oppression.
I am changed by how these make me reflect. Transformed into a new person. I ask myself – What lesson do I take from it? What did I learn about myself and my community through it? How does it have me wanting to live? What does it have me want to commit to?
My nervous energy goes to those commitments. I can take action to change the world. That is all I can do, but it means everything. My mind settles.
Don’t just watch the news, watch the news and act! You’ll feel more full of love and purpose and less full of anxiety, I promise.
How do you handle hearing, witnessing, or experiencing tragedy?
Jodi Aman is an anxiety-tamer, forgiveness-counselor, relationship-coach, guilt-releaser, unconditional-lover, and a hope-renewer. And that’s before she leaves her house in the morning. Get free anti-anxiety videos at https://givefeartheboot.com. Or hang on Twitter (@JodiAman) and FB Give Fear the Boot![Photo Credit: Dominic Alves]