How to Cope with Fear & Anxiety About School Shootings — Talkspace

7 Tips for Coping with Fear After a School Shooting

There are several things you can do to help manage the anxiety and fear you’re experiencing surrounding school shootings. The most important thing though is knowing when to get help.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, you might need professional intervention from a licensed therapist. Help is widely available and there’s no shame in asking for it. Try the following coping skills, but don’t be afraid to reach out if you need more.

Tip #1: Allow yourself to feel

It’s normal to have increased anxiety while processing disturbing, tragic news. Acknowledge and allow yourself to have those feelings. Avoiding what you’re feeling isn’t going to eliminate anxiety. Repressing emotions is a coping skill many of us use to get through difficult times, but it’s not the healthiest solution.

“Remind yourself that fear is a human emotion and you’re allowed to experience it, but also give yourself the opportunity to reflect on the possibility and the probability of an incident like this happening.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S. LCSWC, CFTP

Tip #2: Strengthen your mental health

When we’re going through something hard, it’s very common to put our mental health at the bottom of our priority list. In difficult times, especially after tragedies like the recent school shootings, do the best you can prioritize the basics for your mental health. Care and preventative maintenance like sleep, daily movement, eating well, and drinking enough water can all help you strengthen your mental health foundation.

It’s also important to avoid things that may exacerbate your feelings of fear and anxiety. For example, monitoring your news consumption and social media and how it impacts your anxiety is crucial.

Tip #3: Talk with other parents and friends

When you connect with others, you can find safety and solidarity in how you collectively feel. Finding ways to cope often involves feeling validated in the emotions you’re experiencing. Talking with other people who understand you can do just that.

“Connect with your family, friends, or community. Sharing how you feel and getting validated can make a huge difference.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S. LCSWC, CFTP

Tip #4: Focus on positive talking and thinking

When anxiety spirals and threatens to take over your thought processes, using positive mantras and self-talk can be extremely effective for combating negative thinking.

Research done on the power of self-talk with athletes found that it can help improve their psychological state. Specifically, positive effects include improved self-confidence and reduced anxiety.

Ways you can use self-talk and the power of positivity to manage anxiety include:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Using positive affirmations
  • Spending time with positive people

Tip #5: Doing something can help

For some people, feelings of vulnerability can be combated by channeling emotions into action. You might find solace by:

  • Finding an organization to work with
  • Volunteering with an outreach program
  • Writing letters to Congress and politicians demanding change
  • Donating to a community program that helps school shooting survivors

Tip #6: Ask your school about safety measures

Information can be powerful. When you know the types of things your child’s school is doing (and has done) to prepare for the unimaginable, it might offer a sense of calm.

Not only can the information be reassuring, but it can also help you prepare to discuss things with your child (like intruder drills) if they come home with questions.

Tip #7: Know when you need professional help

Any anxiety you might be feeling after hearing news of a school shooting is likely perfectly warranted. It can even be healthy. That said, there’s a difference between good stress and bad stress. There comes a point when anxiety can be detrimental to your overall mental health and well-being.

“Worrying or feeling afraid is relatively normal, but if you find yourself over-worrying or obsessed with the negative thoughts or feelings, it may be time to look for a professional.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S. LCSWC, CFTP

If you feel like your emotions are unmanageable, or your stress is too extreme for you to function, reach out for help. Your doctor or a mental health professional can provide you with self-help tools, therapy, and even, in some cases, medication, so you can learn to deal with extreme anxiety and depression in a healthy manner.

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