Reading or hearing news reports of major catastrophes and mass destruction can harm a person's mental health. For example, the recent mass shootings; natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis; the plethora of terror attacks occurring around the world -- any of these, no matter how far removed from the home, can negatively impact emotional well-being overall mental health.
Humans long to feel safe in day-to-day life, but constantly seeing and hearing exhaustive news reports of tragic events results in natural physical and emotional reactions. The term for the phenomenon is vicarious trauma. These reactions are common and customary in the face of events that are often beyond a person’s capacity to process healthily. However, catastrophic events of this magnitude make a person question their safety and cause anxiety about whether this might happen to them or their loved ones.
Physical reactions can often include nausea, anxiety, dizziness, headaches. Some people experience uncontrollable emotional outbursts, irritability, and increased feelings of anger, while others encounter trouble sleeping, bad dreams, and difficulty relaxing due to increased anxiety. These symptoms do not manifest physically or mentally based on the emotions being experienced but stem from how a person responds. Denying one’s feelings, trying to hide from them by working longer hours, or turning to alcohol or drugs to numb them away keeps a person from validating and accepting them for what they are.
A simple and productive way to respond to this temporary psychological state is to focus on essential tasks. Being well-rested, following a predictable schedule, eating healthy meals, and alternating exercise and relaxation can help cope with temporary anxiety and depression. However, it is also imperative to keep in mind that though some anxiety is normal with vicarious trauma, extended periods of anxiety and depression require professional help to resolve. Orlando Thrive Therapy offers counseling in Winter Garden for times like this to help get back to a more balanced healthy state of mind.
If feeling overly anxious, try a bit of self-care. Taking a hot bath, reading an interesting book, watching your favorite comedy, listening to good music, or even allowing some tears to fall can help relieve some of the fear. In addition, it can be helpful to spend time with others and talk about what you're feeling. Often in times of tragedy, you'll find that others are experiencing similar feelings and reactions and are often eager to discuss them. Starting or increasing volunteer work can be extremely rewarding and effective in soothing the anxiety, as well. Helping others also helps you, as your charity helps to make the world a better place for everyone.
Being adversely affected by a human tragedy is a very normal reaction to have. When it happens, acknowledge the feelings that come to the surface and focus on things that make you feel safe and happy. If you or a loved one is having trouble recovering from vicarious trauma, visit orladothrivetherapy.com and speak with a counselor in Winter Garden to begin the process of healing and finding a sense of well-being.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.