by Sarah Heynen, DCoE Public Affairs
On November 13th, 2015, tragedy struck Paris when it was attacked by terrorists. A disrupted city, dear to so many, created a ripple of despair worldwide. It seemed that the world was in mourning.
At the same time, controversy grew, particularly on social media. Was it fair to only recognize Paris? What about the other attacks and violence around the world? Would the United States accept refugees from Syria and other countries with terrorist ties? Almost immediately, social media feeds and news outlets were baited into controversy and debate.
We don’t have the answers to these questions. But, what we do know is that for our warriors, terrorism and violence are not new topics. Strong opinions and images of violence can be emotional triggers for those who have fought in conflicts or for family members who have lost loved ones in similar attacks.
Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), 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 and 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.
- 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.