Managing Anxiety in the Midst of Tragedy

There are moments in time when tragedy and loss feel heavier and more burdensome than others.  Usually this occurs around a personal situation, but can also be felt on a societal level when tragedy strikes in a more public arena.

Such is the same this week with the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the seven other individuals involved in an almost unbelievable helicopter accident.  As we learn more about the event, we learn about that families and communities that have been forever changed.  While I am not a basketball fan, I do know the name Kobe Bryant and I do realize the talent and skill that he possessed.  His loss is tragic.  And, for me, my heart settles on all of the losses in this accident…a mother, father and daughter who left behind other siblings, a mother and daughter who left behind the rest of their family, individual losses that have impacts on many people.

These type of accidents happen daily in our world, but when a celebrity is involved, the coverage and stories surrounding the incident are extreme, causing us to ingest more details than we would in other situations.  For me, and I assume many others, this constant coverage can lead me down a path of anxiety, worry, and sometimes even situational depression.  In fact, this week I have found myself imaging disaster in my own family, having trouble falling and staying asleep, and feeling panicky in circumstances that don’t normally bother me.

Thankfully, I have learned to recognize these as symptoms of anxiety.  I also have learned that my reaction and response to these symptoms will influence whether they persist, strengthen, or diminish.  Today, I’d like to share three tips with you on how to manage your anxiety during, or after, a public tragedy.

1.       You don’t have to read (or listen to) ALL the stuff!  Just because the details are available, that doesn’t mean you need to consume them.  Think about where you may be overconsuming negative or tragic content, process why you feel the need to consume it and whether or not it is serving you appropriately.  Think of it like a diet for your mind…just because it’s put in front of you doesn’t mean you need to consume it.  For some people this might mean turning of the news or talk radio.  For others this might mean avoiding social media right before bed, or a complete hiatus for a few days.  Either way, being intentional about what information you ingest can help you manage your emotional state.

2.       Take an action that will help you regain control.  Instead of dwelling on what’s making you feel anxious, get up, walk away, and do something that will give you control of what you were worrying about.  In the case of this tragic accident, maybe you feel the need to give a loved one a call and tell them what they mean to you, or maybe you can take a look at your financial and insurance situation, so that you can ensure your loved ones are protected.  Whatever thought and fear you find yourself dwelling on, you should be able to find one next action that can help you step out of worry and into control.

3.       Recognize you are reaching your anxiety threshold and be intentional about managing it.  Anxiety is impacted by many different aspects of your life including diet, exercise, overstimulation, sleep and hormones.  We all have a unique limit, or threshold, that we need to intentionally manage to ensure that we don’t push ourselves to far.  When you feel yourself becoming anxious or overwhelmed, consider where you might be able to make temporary, or permanent, changes to your life style.  Can you go to bed earlier, or take a nap, to get extra sleep?  Can you go for a walk or yoga class that will help you connect your mind and body on a different level?  Can you limit junk food and sweets to stabilize your sugar levels and mood?  Any of these changes may help balance the overstimulation that is causing you anxiety.

While it is impossible to eliminate personal or public tragedy from our lives, being intentional about how we manage our emotions, thresholds, and stimulation is the best way to take care of ourselves in spite of the tragedies.  For more tools and resources to help you manage anxiety and stress, check out the Anxiety CPR program from NeuroRedeem, available for free registration until February 15, 2020.

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