"Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it."
At first Jane Wagner's quote from "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" gave me a chuckle and new share for my Facebook friends. But in the context of recent events in Boston, I couldn't help but see its truth.
The bombing at the marathon is only the latest example of how tense the world seems to have become. The aggressive train searches in Fairfield County brought things even closer to home. Even the explosions in Texas and the December massacre in Newtown leave us starving for the slightest hope of living in a world free from the images to which we are exposed on a daily basis. While these events certainly have the power to rattle us to our very core, there are things we can and must do in order to bring a healthy balance of reality and fantasy to our lives.
If you're at all like me, you've become frustrated with the nature of the images broadcast into our homes. It's as if we can't truly understand the gravity of a tragedy without viewing footage of severed limbs or the look of panic on the face of a survivor. No doubt these images can be indelible for many and understanding that many of our reactions to such situations are quite normal and can be expected. Our reactions to traumatic events can be extensive and varied, but typically include:
Feelings of Sadness
Anger and/or confusion
Impaired work or school performance
It's so important to remember that we can be having a very normal response to very abnormal events. These reactions can really take a toll on us on a daily basis so it's important to pay attention to our feelings and respond to them in a healthy way. You may want to:
Avoid self medicating with alcohol or other drugs.
Talk. Having a discussion about the event can be therapeutic and reduce trauma
Stick with your routine. When we're anxious structure is one of the first things to go
Stop watching. So often we reach information overload and forget we can change the channel or turn it off. You need a break.
Get plenty of rest.
Exercise. Go for a walk, a run, or hit the gym.
Eat healthy. It can be easy to toss diet out the window when we're anxious
Naturally, there is no magic pill to prevent traumatic events so we need to learn to manage our feelings when such events happen. Remembering, too, how important it is to spare our children from viewing these images is crucial. If you're concerned that they've already been exposed, have a talk and help them process whatever feelings they might be having. The bottom line is that they need to know they're safe and can talk to you whenever they want.
Ed Moran, LCSW is a clinical social worker at Family Centers Serving Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westchester County, NY, Family Centers is a United Way, New Canaan Community Foundation and Community Fund of Darien partner agency that offers counseling and support programs for children, adults and families. For information, call 203-869-4848 or visit www.familycenters.org.