Television coverage is designed to enagage the viewer and can trigger unwelcome emotions, stress and fear.
I understand those triggers and watching the coverage of three hurricanes and the shooting last night in Las Vegas brings back a cold, naked feeling, when the world seemed scary and my ability to deny it is gone.
My sense of denial, the thing all of us need to get up and leave the house everyday was damaged when I had a massive heart attack at age 35 while pregnant with twins. In a matter of minutes, my world view changed. The world was no longer safe. I knew for certain bad things happen and suddenly the world was too scary.
For months, each day I had to talk myself into going out the door, living life despite my fear. While I was pretty good at it, I felt alone in the struggle. Then came September 11, 2001, and the world became scary for the entire nation. I felt a guilty sense of relief. Everyone felt like I had for months – scared. It was suddenly okay to talk about how to cope with fear publicly. I was relieved to know others felt scared too, and my coping strategies seemed to help them.
Today it is a good thing to reflect on how life can change in a matter of minutes. While it is scary to be reminded of how it feels when your denial is torn away, it is also good to be thankful for resilience.
For those who are triggered by recent events, emotions may be conflicting:
Remember, it is okay to feel whatever you feel. Saying, “I shouldn’t feel like this,” doesn’t allow you to process your feelings. Feel it, name it, and by doing so, cope. Stress and anger are emotions that often defy logic. Yes, it’s been more than a decade, but when triggered, the fear can feel just as fresh. Your body’s reaction to stress is instinctual, and often doesn’t make sense. A cold flush, racing heart, or upset stomach is just you body’s way of processing the stress. Pay attention to physical and emotional signals, and be kind to yourself.
Sometimes simply reminding yourself, “It’s going to be okay,” will be enough. If it isn’t remember:
If you cut yourself deeply, there would be a scar. Sometimes that scar will get irritated. This is a wound too – you just don’t see the blood. It is okay to reach out. Talk to someone you trust. It’s okay to seek help from a professional, or to find someone who has experienced something similar. Get what you need.
One of my most helpful coping strategies is to “what if” a situation that scares me. To some it may see morbid – or as if I’m dwelling on the negative – but I need to think through all the things that could go wrong and figure out what I’d do. Upon entering a new place, I quickly scan for AED equipment (used to restart a heart). When traveling, I know where the nearest hospital with a heart center is located. This makes me feel more secure. I don’t want my daughters to be held back by my fear. Whenever they go off for a school event or new adventure I have to “what if” though the possible dangers in my head, think about what is likely to happen, talk to them about reasonable safety measures (take your phone, stay with the group – not to scare them, but to make sure they are safe) and talk myself into letting go. As they approach being drivers, this is a more common internal conversation! Sometimes I need to talk about my fears with my husband, do a reality check, to get past my fear. Being afraid isn’t bad, letting fear stop you, or the people you love, from living fully is a problem. Talk it through, get help if you need it, and find a way to “what if” past your fear in a situation and move forward.
Not to be all, “laughter is the best medicine” – but the endorphins released when you laugh truly help restore your ability to cope with fear and stress. Finding humor in a stressful situation is an excellent way to cope. Seeking out humor when you are feeling sad, fearful, stressed, or depressed is essential. Watch a funny video or movie, talk to a witty friend, read something to make you laugh and take advantage of the endorphins. One of my favorite videos makes me laugh every time. Enjoy: