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Coping with violent events in the news

A woman with half her face in shadow.

March 29, 2021—Violent events in the news, like recent mass shootings, can shake communities to the core. They also can be felt by people everywhere, thanks to national news coverage and social media.

Even if you weren't anywhere near a disturbing event, seeing shocking images can make you feel anxious, sad, numb, angry and less safe. You could also have physical symptoms, from headaches to sleepless nights, as a result of this traumatic stress.

Anyone can feel upset and traumatized by violent events in the news. But they can be especially painful when the victims are part of a racial, ethnic or other group you identify with. So finding ways to cope and care for yourself in the aftermath is especially important.

7 strategies to protect your mental health

Here are some ideas for coping with violent events from HelpGuide, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other experts.

1. Limit your media use. Constantly scrolling through social media or news coverage of the violence can be overwhelming. Consider taking a short break from your screens.

2. Create space for joy. Make time for relaxing activities you enjoy. Maybe that's working on a hobby, writing in a journal, or watching videos or TV shows that make you laugh.

3. Put your body in motion. Physical activity helps lower your stress levels. And it can lift your spirits. Dance to your favorite music or do a few pushups to work the adrenaline out.

4. Talk to someone. It's not easy to come to terms with violent acts. Sometimes talking with a friend, loved one or faith leader can help with grief. But if that's too painful, even just talking about regular things may help you move forward.

5. Try to get enough sleep. If your mind is racing, try doing something relaxing before bedtime, like reading a novel, taking a warm bath or doing some gentle stretching.

6. Soothe stress. When you feel stress building, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Listen to calming music. Or open a window and listen to birds singing or leaves stirring in the breeze.

7. Be part of the healing. You might choose to honor victims of violence in some way. For instance, some communities hold public memorials or protests. Or you might volunteer with a local or national cause that aims for positive change. Violence can make us feel helpless. Taking action may help you to have some power over that feeling.

Don't ignore overwhelming stress

It's OK to have your feelings—whatever they may be. It can be part of a healing process. But if stress, grief, anger or other emotions don't get better or start to interfere with your daily life, consider talking to a doctor or a mental health professional. You don't have to get through this alone.

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