Once again Americans are faced with coping in the aftermath of a mass shooting. This time it’s Orlando, Florida, scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. 49 people were gunned down and more than 50 were injured. You may be struggling to understand how a shooting could occur and why such a terrible thing would happen. There may never be satisfactory answers to these questions.
We do know, though, that it is typical for people to experience a variety of emotions following such a traumatic event. You may feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than you did yesterday. It will take some time to recover your sense of equilibrium. This is especially true when the event is human-caused with the intent of harming others. Meanwhile, you must go on living your daily life. You can strengthen your resilience — the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity — in the days and weeks ahead. Here are some tips:
• Attend to self care. While it may seem counterintuitive to think about taking care of yourself first, you cannot be of service to others if you are unstable. Monitor all of your physical health needs – being sure to eat, sleep, exercise, and (if possible) maintain a normal daily routine.
Pay attention to your emotional health. Remember that a wide range of feelings during these difficult times are common. Know that others are also experiencing emotional reactions and may need your time and patience to put their feelings and thoughts in order.
• Try to recognize when you or those around you may need extra support. It is not uncommon for individuals of all ages to experience stress reactions when exposed (even through media) to shootings or mass violence. Changes in eating and sleeping habits, energy level, and mood are important signs of distress. Watch for regressed behaviors, such as clinging in children and intense emotional reactions, such as anxiety or a strong need for retribution in adults. When necessary, point individuals to licensed professional counselors who can provide needed support.
• Avoid overexposure to media. While it is important to stay informed, media portrayals of shootings and mass deaths have been shown to cause acute stress and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Limit your exposure and take a break from news sources.
• Maintain contact with friends and family. These individuals can provide you with emotional support to help deal with difficult times.
• Focus on your strength base. Maintain practices that you have found to provide emotional relief. Remind yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting.