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When No News Is Good News: Coping with Stress Related to Tragic Events (Pt. 1)

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trubluboy@freedigitalphotos.netWhile television media is often riddled with more bad news than good, for many the past few weeks have seemed particularly hard to stomach. Images and reports on 9-11, the mass shooting at the Naval Base and impending war with Syria are everywhere, leaving many fearful, anxious and saddened by the perceived state-of-the-world.

Though many of us watch these things unfold from afar, updated by articles online or through the latest television coverage, events like these can trigger a range of emotional reactions as we learn about them. These experiences may include:

  • – Anxiety or panic
  • – Depression
  • – Feelings of vulnerability or paranoia
  • – Shock or numbness
  • – Difficulty concentrating
  • – Anger or irritability
  • – Sleep disturbance
  • – Changes in appetite
  • – Feelings of weakness or hopelessness
  • – Isolation
  • – Hyper-alert, easily-startled behavior
  • – Flashbacks to other life traumas

Why is it that these things we’re not directly related to can affect us so? Well, there are a few reasons.

First of all, most people experience feelings of empathy for others they witness going through hard times. Having empathy for victims of traumatic events can be very healthy, lending strength to the support, friendship and reciprocity we give to one another. But there are times when empathy can lead to problems: namely, when feelings of empathy are so strong that they become overwhelming, leading a person to experience depression, anger or fear around another’s tragedy.

Secondly, we recognize that the world’s traumatic events, even as they are experienced by us from afar, could lead to danger in our own personal lives. While this often leads to a healthy level of concern and planning for our own safety and the safety of our families, excessive worry does no good: overwhelming a person physically and emotionally with no end gain.

Finally, there is the fact that people often “thread together” traumatic experiences. If a person experiences a new trauma before they’ve healed from a trauma of the past, they can experience these separate events as being related to each other. This can make recovery from the events longer and harder on them. It can also increase feelings of hopelessness or “drowning,” as a person experiences having no time to “come up for air” between one stressor and the next.

So, how should one cope with traumatic experiences of this type? We provide some answers to this question in Part II of this article, providing helpful tips on coping with trauma experienced on a widespread, global level or directly in your own life.

Having difficulty with worry and stress brought on by a traumatic event or multiple events? There is hope.

Contact Us at Stenzel Clinical Services to speak with one of our qualified counselors specializing in coping with traumatic events. We’re here to help and look forward to supporting you in any way we can.