How to Tame Stress During Tragedy and Horror
When you’re living with a chronic illness eliminating stress from your life is a full-time job. With the horror of the Paris attacks, keeping our stress at bay now seems almost impossible.
Our grandparents lived through the Depression and World War I, our parents through the horrors of World War II.
Our generation will never forget what took place on U.S. soil on September 11, 2001.
Living forty minutes outside of Manhattan I knew many people working in or near our beloved World Trade Center. My brother was in Manhattan that day along with many others from our town and surrounding ones.
That day changed the rules of war forever. It was a new “game” being played. And now the Paris attacks have changed them again.
I’ll never understand how people can harbor such hatred, wanting to kill others for the sake of doing so.
I could write a thesis on how I long for a peaceful, nonviolent world, and how I made a promise to myself to leave the world a better place for my son. I dream of a Utopian society filled with kindness and compassion. Where tolerance and understanding are the rule and people take the time to lend someone a hand. I dream. And I dream. And I dream.
When reality kicks in I realize how much our world is in trouble and our health is at stake. How can we tame stress when the world seems to be spinning out of control?
Here are a few tips to help with stress and anxiety during difficult times:
Acceptance: Accept how you’re feeling. Give yourself time to process bad news and learn to go easy on yourself. Any reactions you have are perfectly normal.
Practice Self-Compassion: As I said in #1 go easy on yourself. Practice mindfulness meditation or close your eyes while listening to soft, easy music. Create a comfortable place to help you soak in the beauty of your practice. As you breathe focus on your breath, releasing negative thoughts as you exhale. This is your cleansing breath.
Journaling: Write your thoughts down to help you process how you feel. It’s healthy to express your feelings rather than keeping them locked up. It’s liberating and useful in helping you manage stress.
Good vs. Evil: Remind yourself that although there is evil in the world there is still good in it. Think about what’s good in your life and focus on that. Remember the freedoms and opportunities you enjoy. Think about the people who love and support you. Your list will serve as a constant reminder of your blessings and will be helpful as a coping strategy in the future.
Gratitude: What do you have to be grateful for? Think about the people you love and who love you and focus on how you feel when you’re in their presence. Find a way to tell them how you feel, either through a letter, small gift or simply telling them how much they’ve made a difference in your life. Be grateful for the biggest and smallest of things. They all matter.
News Fast: After I was diagnosed I began following the work of Dr. Andrew Weil. One of his rules is to periodically go on a news fast to lower your stress level. I’ve followed that advice. In the past few days after the Paris attacks, however, I’ve been reading and watching everything I could. I wanted to stay abreast of breaking news. Then I finally broke down and cried. It was all too much. Today I began a short news fast. In the past it’s helped lower my stress level. I suggest you try the same.
Channel Your Anger: Find something constructive to help improve a situation. Volunteer at a local shelter. Write a Letter to the Editor of a local paper. Lobby politicians for change. Send letters of support to victims and families. These are a few of the ways to combat feelings of guilt or helplessness by contributing something positive to the world.
Let us pray for the victims and their families from all senseless tragedies, and hope for a peaceful world for us all.