Do you feel overwhelmed by the recent reports of violence in the world? From international terrorist attacks to national civil unrest and violence, social media feeds and news outlets are flooded with powerful imagery, videos and heated debate.
For our warriors, terrorism and violence are not new topics. Strong opinions and images of violence can be emotional triggers for those who have served in conflicts or for family members who have lost loved ones in similar attacks.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and intense feelings can resurface when something unsettling happens. When you start to feel overwhelmed, we want you to know that we understand. We offer these tips and resources to help you manage those situations:
- Step away from social media. Turn off the news. It’s easy to stay glued to your screens for updates about ongoing events, to see what your friends are saying and to share your own thoughts and opinions. But it can also fuel stress. If gathering facts and staying connected is helpful for you, allow breaks and step away from your screens when the chatter becomes too intense.
- Connect with loved ones. Connecting with those we love can bring a sense of calmness and stability. Make sure you plan friend or family time.
- Do something you enjoy. Make time for uplifting activities: exercise, meditate, listen to music or read your favorite book. Doing things that lift, or calm, your mood can help refocus your thoughts.
- Take a deep breath. It sounds simple, but practicing diaphragmatic breathing can actually help you calm down during moments of stress or anxiety. If you are new to concentrated breathing, there are mobile apps that can help. The National Center for Telehealth & Technology Breathe2Relax app is a great tool to carry with you. Are the kids stressed? Sesame Street for Military Families teaches kids breathing exercises with Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame.
- Stay Positive. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That may seem like a nonchalant statement for mass tragedy, but scientific research shows your grandma’s advice was actually right on. Positive thinking and optimism can reduce stress and improve your health.
- Ask for help. There’s no shame in asking for help when your anxiety or PTSD symptoms creep up. Call your mental health provider to check-in or set up an appointment. If you’re not sure who to talk to, the DCoE Outreach Center is open 24/7 by phone at 866-966-1020, email or chat.
There will always be periods of turmoil, devastation and conflict in our world. Usually, the only thing we can control is ourselves — how we think and feel, how we choose to respond to others, how much information we consume, and when to ask for help.
This article is an update of a story originally posted Nov. 20, 2015.