Recent weeks have been overwhelmed with news of the death and destruction caused by the hurricanes and flooding through the Atlantic and earthquakes in Mexico. Americans have watched and listened to hours of media coverage of the resulting impact of these environmental events. We await in fear and anxiety to hear from loved ones regarding their safety. Those who are native to these areas feel grief witnessing the devastation of their homelands. Other Americans sit and are emotionally empathic to the despair in these places. With so many conflicting emotions and experiences, it can be difficult to figure out how to handle the affective consequences of these weather-related calamities. Below are several interventions one can utilize to help manage the emotional aftermath of the current environmental storms.
1. Lovingkindness. Mindfulness is a meditative practice of relaxation that focuses on the present moment. It is an exercise that elicits a state of awareness and has a non-judgmental approach. Jon Kabat-Zinn created a stress reduction mindfulness program and it is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). One mindfulness related exercise is called lovingkindness where one is guided in conjuring up feelings of love and kindness for others and the world. This practice can be utilized now in eliciting compassion for others around the world.
2. Balance your media intake. Unless you are using the news to obtain information related to the safety of your family members and loved ones, consider limiting your media and social media coverage of these events. It can become addictive watching and listening to news coverage and with the preponderance of technology it is easy to obtain coverage at any time of the day, multiple times of day. Continuing to watch the coverage can potentially lead to secondary traumatization and can result in post-traumatic like symptoms. Consider journaling as a stress reduction strategy with the added time you gain from limiting your engagement in watching and listening to news media coverage.
3. Reach out to others. Much of the devastation reported in the news coverage triggers a sense of a loss of connection. Consider reaching out to your social support network. Seeking support from available family and friends can be helpful during this time. Leaning on each other can help you manage more effectively. If you are finding it increasingly hard to manage your symptoms consider seeing a mental health professional to obtain additional resources and coping interventions.
4. Regain a sense of Safety and Security. Acknowledging that your feelings related to current events are causing a perception of a threat to safety and security can be helpful. Maslow’s five stage theory identifies the second stage as involving all humans needing to have a sense of safety and security. In addition, attachment theory refers to the connective behaviors we have with our loved ones and friends, but can also extend to places such as places of origin. When we experience a disruption to these connections we can also feel a sense of loss, as well as feelings of being unsafe and insecure. Consider utilizing prayer or mindfulness to help restore your balance and sense of safety and security.
5. Do something. Often times, when we experience events that feel out of our control we become even more focused on obtaining some element of control back into our lives. If you are financially able to consider sending resources to those in need or organizing large scale donations of needed supplies and priority items. Also, as discussed before, practicing lovingkindness is believed to be powerful in creating an energy that results in an increased sense of compassion and has a positive effect on the universe. Whether your gifts are financial or emotional in nature, both are needed in helping meet the needs of those affected.
6. Regain faith through acts of heroism. Many acts of heroism are also being seen in the midst of the destruction and chaos of these recent weather events. Powerful images and stories of those who put their own concerns, fears and safety to the side to help their fellow humankind is inspiring. It serves as a reminder that even in the throes of despair, compassion, kindness and courage prevail.