Every week we hear about another shooting or some tragic event that results in loss of life. What impact do these traumatic events have on our psyche? Do the unpredictability and randomness of these horrific incidents contribute to our everyday fears and anxieties? When we are constantly bombarded with daily news reports of senseless acts of violence, it is more likely that we will be constantly on edge and worried about worst case scenarios. We may become overwhelmed with the consistent tragedies and violence in our culture and choose to tune out bad news. Or we may ruminate and obsess over the safety and security of our world and choose to avoid environments we perceive as dangerous. This includes many everyday places like schools, movie theaters, grocery stores, and places of employment. Even though with today's conveniences we can largely stay in the confines of our own home, have everything we need delivered, and limit our time out of our safe bubble, of course this is not a healthy or constructive decision. When we avoid living life fully because of our fears and anxieties, we give these emotions more power and energy as well as giving power to the people engaged in the violence.
Everyone wants to be safe and protected at all times, but that is an impossible expectation. Living life can be dangerous and risky even when we're doing everything right. However, we can increase our fears and uncertainties unnecessarily through our thoughts and actions. Viewing news programs incessantly and being obsessed with knowing everything occurring in the world throughout the day can greatly contribute to our anxiety. We want to be aware, but not consumed by the news and media madness. Select your viewing preferences wisely and recognize the impact of absorbing negative, cynical, and pessimistic media coverage. Remember that the media coverage we receive is all about entertainment so the style and delivery of the information can be provocative and emotion-driven to draw the audience in to the coverage. Instead, choose to watch the news once in the morning and again in the evening for a total of one hour to reduce your exposure and reactivity. It also helps to engage in other activities with your spouse or family that don't elicit negative and destructive emotions such as playing games, exercising together or watching comedy shows. We need to spend less time with our devices and more time focused on socializing and self-care.
Our fears can consume us and incapacitate us if we allow them to or we can choose to work through them instead. We can start by changing our self-talk by eliminating our catastrophizing and instead putting things in perspective. As horrible as the recent news has been, there are good things happening in our communities. We can and should sympathize with the victims and feel angry at the perpetrators without letting these feelings take over our lives. Instead of focusing on the "what ifs" we can focus on the "what is" and stop anticipating worst case scenarios. It also helps to look for the positive aspects of life and let go of the negative things we can't control. We can put our trust in a power greater than our own, which for me is God. Incorporate strategies like mindfulness, breathing/yoga, exercise, and socialization to help with reducing your fears. Lastly, journaling your fears and deciding whether they are related to situations we can control or not can be liberating since many of the fear-producing circumstances are outside of our power. Take action over the fears that consume you.