This last weekend there was another tragic and senseless mass shooting. Although these types of events don’t happen very often, this one happened exactly 5 weeks after the shooting in Las Vegas. This came at a time when people who experienced the Las Vegas shooting were either starting to heal, or have continued to struggle with anxiety or symptoms of PTSD. I have heard from several clients I see who are survivors of the shooting that this most recent shooting on Sunday, in Texas, was very triggering for them. And the fact that it was on the same day of the week even intensified that trauma for many. Then there are people who were not at the concert or in Texas, but may know people who were. And lastly, there are people who were not at the concert, nor know anyone effected, but are still fearful, depressed or anxious as a result of these events and not feeling safe. This continues to reach far and wide with more and more people being affected.
So, how do you continue to move forward and heal when life continues to happen, and these are things you have no control over?
Here are 4 ways for you to try to bring some inner peace and strength back into your life:
Break things down into small pieces – Instead of looking at the big picture and becoming overwhelmed, break up your activities, chores, daily routine, goals, etc. into small pieces. This will seem more manageable and not so overwhelming. Know that you only have to do one small thing at a time.
Exercise – Studies for many years have shown that exercise produces endorphins which increases mood. I know you’re thinking “I can’t even get out of bed, or leave the house some days, so how am I going to exercise?” Let’s look back at the suggestion above of breaking things down into small pieces. Even if you start with 100 steps, and walk back and forth in your house, that is a start. Don’t’ discount your efforts. The idea is to work towards a longer goal, and as you do your body and mind will start to feel better.
Mindfulness – I know everyone talks about “Mindfulness” these days. And I’m sure with this, you’re thinking “I can’t concentrate on anything, how am I going to do mindfulness?” Mindfulness comes in many forms, and it is actually shown to help decrease depression and anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. A great activity to decrease anxiety is a grounding activity that has you only focusing on the current moment. This is how it goes: Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. By doing this, it keeps you in the present and makes it harder to think about what will be in the future. Another more common way to engage in mindfulness is sitting down, in a chair or legs crossed on the floor, and paying attention to your breath going in through your nose and out through your mouth. You can also use one of the many guided meditation apps that can be downloaded.
Use your imagination – Take yourself to a place in your mind that in the past you have felt safe and secure. I like to guide my clients to their “happy place”. This is different for everyone. For some it’s the beach, mountains, or even Disneyland. When you think of this place, notice what you see, hear, smell, feel. Try to do this daily in order to get the full benefit. The more you practice, the more you will be able to use this when you do feel some anxiety popping up.
By trying to utilize these techniques, little by little, you will notice a sense of inner peace and calm. Nothing is going to change overnight, but it is important to be able to start somewhere and begin to heal your mental, physical and emotional health.
Norine VanderHooven is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Engage in Westlake Village, California, and has been in practice for 30 years. Norine views the decision to enter therapy as displaying strength and courage. Norine specializes in trauma, suicide prevention, depression, anxiety, and life transitions. Norine is also EMDR trained and uses this to work with people with PTSD, depression, and severe anxiety. Norine works with adolescents, adults, and families.