Anger. Fear. Helplessness. Rage. Suspicion. Guilt. Despair. These are just a few of the negative emotions felt all over the world since the Paris and Beirut terror attacks last week.
Like a suction cup, you’re glued to the TV, Internet, and radio. You are scared. And you’re angry that you’re scared. Layering feelings upon feelings. It means they won.
You want this to go away. Yet you obsess about what’s next and what it means for your future. It marks the beginning of World War 3. It’s something you didn’t foresee in your lifetime.
Questions abound. Is it best to stay home? Should I avoid the city? Are the subways safe? Can I freely discuss my concerns? How do I know if the person next to me is a terrorist, or not?
Here in New York City, people are re-traumatized by the horrific events of last week. It’s all too similar to what we experienced on September 11th, 2001.
According to PTSDUnited.org, 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives… “This equates to approximately 223.4 million people. Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. As of today, that equates to approximately 44.7 million people who were or are struggling with PTSD. An estimated 8% of Americans − 24.4 million people − have PTSD at any given time. That is equal to the total population of Texas.”.
Since you can’t change the events that have already happened, and you can’t control what other people do, how can you ease your experience of this chaos?
Here are a few tips for creating peace, hope, and safety in your internal world and possibly your outer world, too…
1. Meditate: Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Take three belly breaths. Tune into the sensations of your in-breath and out-breath. Notice what you hear, feel, smell, taste, and see. Allow thoughts to pass through your mind without judging, evaluating, or solving anything. Simply observe your experience. Gently allow the present moment to pass through you and coexist with you in its entirety. This removes the chaos and struggle and strengthens the part of your brain responsible for kindness, compassion, peace, and calm.
2. Focus on the Good: Neurons that fire together wire together. Brain studies demonstrate that what you focus on grows stronger. If you want to feel calm, focus on calming thoughts. If you want to feel safe, focus on safety thoughts. If you want to feel happy, focus on happy thoughts. When you focus on fear, anger, and hatred you will strengthen those feelings. The choice is yours.
3. Write it Out/Draw it Out: Get those negative thoughts out of your head. Write them down. Scribble or draw them. Dump them onto paper. Journaling is cathartic and clarifying. It provides relief from distress and a safe place to channel negative emotions. Balance it with notes of gratitude and what you hope for the future. It can shift the energy in a positive direction.
4. Get Naked: Your physical body stores stress and trauma in the form of pain, inflammation, and disease. Release it. Have sex. Go to yoga. Take a walk. Play the drums. Get a massage. Climb a tree. Movement helps express and relieve tension. It keeps energy flowing in your body and supports a healthy nervous system. This clears the way for better coping to emerge.
5. Reach Out: Call a friend, Counselor, Pastor, relative, or other trusted person for support. Remember you are not alone. When it’s too difficult to manage your emotions and put healthy coping skills into play, take action! There’s no shame in being proactive about your mental health. Without it, everything else suffers.
6. Seek Inspiration: Whether in a fond memory, a quote, speech, poem, mantra, song, or dream find the nugget of positivity that resonates with you. There is safety, clarity, and hope in the words and images that move you. Use them to transcend today’s calamity and envision a better tomorrow.
7. Turn toward those negative emotions. Acknowledge them. Validate them. They are real. But then temper them, distract yourself from them, channel them, look for the middle ground. Life doesn’t only exist in hardships, extremes, and struggle. While chaos is happening around you there are beautiful things unfolding, too. Discover them. In modulating your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you impact not only you, but also the greater good. Embrace courage, conviction, and belief in peace, love, and freedom.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see.”. Leading by example inspires others to do the same. You can institute positivity in this time of chaos.
Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by stockimages, imagemajestic, and Jeroen van Oostrom.