Annapolis Shooting: How to Protect Your Mental Health

Learn how to help the mind and body process the event in a healthy manner.

Posted Jul 09, 2018

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The Annapolis shooting: It was more than a week ago, but remains all over the news, social media, and in our national attention. It's on local news stations and national, and is being talked about around water coolers and family gatherings. The information, the details, the victim's stories, and tributes are everywhere we turn. However, people don't always talk about how to process these kinds of events. There are healthy ways to process the trauma, and the more it's discussed, the better we'll do as a community—and a nation—to recover our mental health post-mass shooting. Here are some ways to help your mind process what occurred: 

Notice your body's response: Be aware of how your mind and body respond to the news. Do you notice that you have stress headaches when you read about the event? Or been having dreams that involve the shooting? Just because you didn't initially feel overwhelmed by the news doesn't mean it hasn't impacted you. Look for other clues as to how you are responding, and use that as information to guide you. Your body is constantly sending you signals on what it needs, but it can hard to pay attention to those signals when we're stressed and busy. Slowing down and paying attention to how it's impacting you is vital. 

Limit exposure: Don't be afraid to turn the news off—in fact, I'd encourage it. Inundating yourself with information can become unhealthy quickly. It's natural to want to know the information and follow the story, but decide what you can handle emotionally and take a break from the news when it becomes too much. Limiting your exposure is one of the best things you can do for you mental health when a traumatic event is making headlines. 

Find a way to help: Often one of the worst feelings people express after a traumatic event is feeling helpless. They want to do something to help the situation—whether it be for the victims' families or the community as whole. Look up ways to become involved—whether it's donating blood, donating to charities that are helping those impacted by the shooting, or volunteering with the Red Cross. By becoming active in the recovery, you can start to feel empowered.

Give yourself some quiet time and space: Allow yourself the time and space to process what emotions these are bringing up for you. There are many ways this could be impacting you: maybe it triggers feelings of a traumatic event from the past? Giving yourself some quiet time to reflect, process, and become aware of how this situation impacts you is vital to the healthy processing.

Focus on positivity: Surround yourself with uplifting activities. Maybe you normally watch ID Discovery before bed; instead, watch a couple of comedy shows. Or maybe you decide to go for that hike you've been meaning to take with a close friend. Be intentional with doing things that bring you joy; it can help you recover and make a big difference in your mood and energy levels,

Don't wait to reach out for help: Often, people wait to see if these feelings pass or get worse before reaching out to a therapist or licensed mental health professional. Sometimes people are under the belief they are "not sick enough" to get help, when in reality there are no regulations for who should or should not get help. You can always reach out to a therapist you are comfortable with and meet for a few sessions to process the event and how it's impacting you. This is also a great preventive measure to take to help process the event early on. 

As always, you are your biggest advocate. You know what's best for your body and mind during a time like this. Listen to your signals and pay attention to how you feel over the next few months. Be gentle with your reactions and show yourself self-compassion when the news becomes too much. Find this time as a way to build up your resiliency and find a strength in yourself that you didn't know was there before.